6 considerations for rehabbing student union buildings

Most colleges and universities feel pressure to offer the latest amenities in order to attract and retain the best and brightest students. While hauling in the bulldozer to create modern facilities is attractive in some regards, deciding to renovate can be just as effective and, in some cases, even preferable to new construction.

January 31, 2014 |
Sasaki Ideas

Methodist University's 1960s student union was originally built for a student population of 600. The school now has over 2,000 students.

Most colleges and universities feel pressure to offer the latest amenities in order to attract and retain the best and brightest students.

And while hauling in the bulldozer to create modern facilities is attractive in some regards, deciding to renovate can be just as effective and, in some cases, even preferable to new construction. Renovations can be more sustainable, and communicate a unique sense of place.

The student union is one building type where contemporary needs are often far from met. The modern student union is a one-stop shop that merges student life and curricular needs, providing space for student organizations, career advancement, events, entertainment, dining, study, and more. A tall order for the cramped, concrete 1960s student unions commonplace on many U.S. campuses.

Before you bulldoze, here are six factors to consider:

1. Site. Is the building in the best location on campus? Is there room to expand the current facility?

2. Structure. Does the building have good bones?

More Posts From the Sasaki Ideas Blog



Audi Urban Future Initiative 

Lessons in Contemporary Architecture

Talking Resilience

3. Adaptability. Can the building be adapted to accommodate current and future programming to meet students' changing needs?

4. Cost. Can you repurpose the space in a cost effective way? Could the mechanical systems be upgraded within your budget?

5. Opportunity. Can a renovation communicate fresh vision? Can we honor history while creating the future?

6. Sustainability. Could renovation be more sustainable than new construction?

At Methodist University, where we are currently planning a student union renovation, the answers to almost all these questions were yes. Their 1960s student union was originally built for a student population of 600. The school now has over 2,000 students. 

Aside from the sheer increase in students, the role of the student union has expanded and diversified. But the building was in relatively good shape, and in the perfect location at the heart of campus.

 



Methodist University student union, existing conditions

 



Methodist University student union, planned renovation

 

By making strategic additions and surgical removals, we are able to maximize the value of new construction and enhance the character of the existing building. Our design accommodates more students and new programs, as well as infrastructure for new mechanical systems and building technology. 

A renovated multipurpose space refreshes the interior, and a large volume dining room with glass facades ties the student center to the landscape. The design also provides new indoor-outdoor connections, creating an integrated environment with the rest of the campus core.

The building transforms the image of the campus and supports a new progressive outlook for the university. By marrying legacy, stewardship, and innovation, the student union will support the next generations of students at Methodist.

 



Methodist University student union, planned renovation interior

 

About the author

Stephen Lacker, AIA, LEED AP, is a Senior Associate and architect with extensive experience in the design and construction of academic and cultural institutions. With wide-ranging expertise, he pursues simple and elegant solutions to complex problems. More.

Sasaki Ideas | Sasaki Ideas
Sasaki Associates
Sasaki Ideas

Collaboration is one of today's biggest buzzwords—but at Sasaki, it's at the core of what we do. We see it not just as a working style, but as one of the fundamentals of innovation. We think and work beyond boundaries to make new discoveries. On our blog, we’re writing about what inspires us, and sharing insights from our work in architecture, interior design, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and civil engineering, as well as financial planning and software development. Visit http://www.sasaki.com/blog

Related Blogs

Image: Sasaki Associates

October 08, 2014

Too often, members of a community are put into a reactive position, asked for their input only when a major...

read more

Image: Sasaki Associates

September 10, 2014

Nearly 32 million people, or 28% of the East Coast's population, live in areas lying within a mile of a sho...

read more

Photo: courtesy Sasaki Associates

June 09, 2014

Higher education is rapidly evolving. As we use planning and design to help our clients navigate major shif...

read more

Collaboration areas at Arnold Worldwide.

February 27, 2014

Open layouts are grabbing headlines as a hallmark of the new workplace—think the Google campus or Facebook'...

read more
February 13, 2014

As part of its ongoing ZNE buildings research project, Sasaki Associates, in collaboration with Buro Happol...

read more

Add new comment

Your Information
Your Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Overlay Init