Sustainability is a high priority for Des Moines University’s new 88-acre campus for health sciences education in West Des Moines, Iowa, which will include 350,000 sf of spaces for classrooms, labs, a fitness center, admin offices, and parking.
IMEG Corp. is providing engineering designs and services for this $105 million project, which is scheduled for completion next year. (RDG Planning & Design and Turner Construction are on the building team.) The designs for the campus include a 700-well geothermal system for heating and cooling. The campus’s central utility plant will include a 1.0 mW generator with an option to add a second plant. Water-to-water heat pumps connected to the geothermal well field will provide 1,300 tons of cooling and 10,300 MBH (1,000 Btu/h) of heating.
Sustainability and design flexibility are what higher education clients are seeking consistently, according to the dozen AEC Giants contacted for this article. “University campuses across North America are commissioning new construction projects designed to make existing buildings and energy systems more sustainable, and are building new flexible learning space that bridge the gap between remote and in-person learning,” say Patrick McCafferty, Arup’s Education Business Leader–Americas East region, and Matt Humphries, Education Business Leader in Canada region.
Humphries points specifically to the University of Toronto at Mississauga’s Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, which will be the most energy efficient lab ever constructed in ASHRAE Climate Zone 5. The university expects the building to achieve a 60% reduction in energy use compared to ASHRAE 90.1.
McCafferty singles out three recent projects—the University of Virginia’s Data Science Center, Northeastern University’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, and Harvard’s Treehouse Conference and Convening space—as examples that meet demand for flexible yet complex spaces. He adds, too, that every higher ed project now “aims to reduce the overall carbon footprint of campuses.”
Both Buro Happold and RMF Engineering had a hand in Harvard University’s latest campus in Allston, Mass. RMF was involved in the installation of a 54,000-sf district energy facility that provides chilled water, low-temperature hot water, and electrical power to the campus’s buildings. The facility includes a heat-recovery chiller and a 1.34-million-gallon thermal energy storage tank. Buro Happold provided integrated structural and geotechnical engineering services for the campus’s 544,000-sf, eight-story LEED-Platinum certified Science and Engineering complex that offers an adaptable, innovative environment “while showcasing sustainability,” says Susan Sachs, a Partner with Buro Happold.
That firm’s higher ed consultancy, brightspot, was the planner for Smith College’s Neilson Library in Northampton, Mass., which the college touts as “one of the most sustainable libraries in the U.S.” It includes a central oculus for daylighting, a window-to-wall ratio optimized for high performance, sun louvers, and double-pane glass. It uses recycled materials, and its interior is red-list chemical free.
Libraries accounted for 12 of brightspot’s 32 higher ed sector projects in the 12 months ending June 2022. “A lot of libraries are planning for their post-pandemic futures,” says Buro Happold Marketing Manager Sinead O’Connor.
Planning sets stage for robust activity
In collaboration with the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), brightspot recently released a Campus Facilities Inventory Report, which found that 84% of institutions planned to update or adapt existing facilities over the next year, 80% planned to make major updates to campus infrastructure, and 88% intended to update meeting room technologies for more virtual learning engagements.
Project demand appears to be cutting across building types and learning disciplines. And for most of the AEC firms contacted for this article, science, engineering, and health sciences comprise the bulk of their higher ed new construction or renovation.
The SmithGroup-designed, 175,210-sf Anne Arundel Community College Health and Life Science Building now provides a shared home for the school’s life sciences and biology programs. Its features include Sim-City, medical simulation rooms with operable partitions to allow group events; a white-box theatre with projection and whiteboards that can function as a classroom; a 360-degree simulation theater; and a biology super lab with motorized partitions. The LEED Gold building also has a 160-seat lecture hall, a greenhouse, classrooms and computer labs, study and meeting rooms, and offices.
“Resilience, flexibility, and adaptability are fundamental guiding principles” for designing academic spaces, says Chris Purdy, AIA, LEED AP, SmithGroup’s Vice President–Higher Ed Practice Director. The firm has been seeing more demand for projects with health science programming that addresses regional needs for increased care providers and community health, such as physical therapy.
In May, Colorado State University opened the 80,000-sf Nutrien Agricultural Sciences building that centers the school’s College of Agricultural Sciences at the heart of its campus. Designed by CannonDesign, the Nutrien building features labs and studios on its upper floors, a 180-seat in-the-round auditorium, a student-focused mall that creates storefronts for the building’s programming, and an Innovation Gym for collaboration.
Building college facilities for a return to normal
DPR Construction has seen a steady increase in capital planning activities for renovations, modernizations, and new construction, says Greg Fraikor, the firm’s Higher Education Core Market Leader. “The continued demand for general classrooms, sports facilities, and student housing is being driven by the momentum of students likely returning to a more ‘normal’ on-campus community lifestyle,” he explains. One recent example is the 160,000-sf addition to and renovation of the University of Georgia’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, which Fraikor claims enhances the student-athlete experience as one of the largest sports medicine and strength and conditioning facilities in the country for a Division 1 team.
Athletics and kinesiology, along with STEM, housing, and renovations are the kinds of higher ed projects that HMC Architects has been engaging lately. “Academic buildings and affordable housing are the priorities in California,” says Sean R. Rosebrugh, AIA, LEED BD+C, HMC’s Principal in Charge–Higher Education. At California State University, Fullerton, one such project is expanding that campus’s housing options by demolishing older buildings, eliminating a parking lot, and extending the campus footprint. The new $120 million, six-story building with 600 beds, which HMC designed and Sundt is constructing, is organized so that its three wings, while connected as a cohesive “community,” can also operate autonomously, depending on resident or conference needs. The building is scheduled for completion in August.
The trend toward student “normalcy” might also explain the demand on some campuses for new performing arts centers. At Brown University in Rhode Island, Shawmut Design and Construction has been completing the 94,000-sf Lindemann Performing Arts Center, which is set to open next year and will anchor a future campus arts district, says Ron Simoneau, Shawmut’s Executive Vice President of Education.
SmithGroup is also seeing demand from universities and colleges for multicultural projects that address inclusion, says Purdy. These include a Multicultural Center at Michigan State University, and the College of DuPage’s Student Success Center encompassing a multicultural space.
Demand for higher education building construction still ambivalent
SmithGroup’s higher ed practice enjoyed an increase in business last year, “with students at the core of institutions’ decision-making more than ever before,” says Purdy.
“Coming out of the pandemic, campuses are in a period of reflection, to be prepared for the future,” observes John Holbert, IMEG Corp.’s National Director of Education. Consequently, his firm has been receiving “a tremendous number of proposals” from institutions across the U.S., with focuses on academic health and industrial technology. “Right now, the balance is getting the supply chain and budget to align with designs,” says Holbert.
For some AEC firms, though, demand from the university sector has been mixed. Over the past year, HMC Architects saw a decrease in demand, possibly due to reduced enrollments and lack of reliable funding from California, suggests Ken Salyer, AIA, HMC’s Principal and Higher Ed Practice Leader. LF Driscoll, the construction management firm, also has experienced a slowdown in RFPs across the higher ed sector, and some projects put on hold “indefinitely,” says Trish Mitchell, the firm’s Director of Business Development.
Conversely, Buro Happold saw “a welcomed increase” in demand, says Sachs. And brightspot had around 10 more university projects between June 2021 and June 2022, compared to the previous 12-month period, says O’Connor.
During the past year, architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox saw a slight uptick in higher ed project demand, with a “continued focus” on research and innovation districts, says Jill Lerner, FAIA, Principal.
One of her firm’s latest endeavors is the Detroit Center for Innovation, to be located on four acres in The District Detroit, a mixed-use sports and entertainment district between the Motor City’s downtown and midtown. With groundbreaking scheduled for 2023, this $250 million innovation project—whose clients include the University of Michigan and the developers Related Companies and Olympia Development—will feature 200,000 sf of research and graduate education space for UM students in mobility, AI, data science, entrepreneurship, cybersecurity, and financial technology. The initial phase will also include incubator and startup services, residential units, a hotel/conference center, and event space.
Sports and Recreational Facilities | Mar 15, 2023
Georgia State University Convocation Center revitalizes long-neglected Atlanta neighborhood
Georgia State University’s new Convocation Center doubles the arena it replaces and is expected to give a shot in the arm to a long-neglected Atlanta neighborhood. The new 200,000 sf multi-use venue in the Summerhill area of Atlanta is the new home for the university’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and will also be used for large-scale academic and community events.
Sponsored | Cladding and Facade Systems | Mar 15, 2023
Metal cladding trends and innovations
Metal cladding is on a growth trajectory globally. This is reflected in rising demand for rainscreen cladding and architectural metal coatings. This course covers the latest trends and innovations in the metal cladding market.
Student Housing | Mar 13, 2023
University of Oklahoma, Missouri S&T add storm-safe spaces in student housing buildings for tornado protection
More universities are incorporating reinforced rooms in student housing designs to provide an extra layer of protection for students. Storm shelters have been included in recent KWK Architects-designed university projects in the Great Plains where there is a high incidence of tornadoes. Projects include Headington and Dunham Residential Colleges at the University of Oklahoma and the University Commons residential complex at Missouri S&T.
Virtual Reality | Feb 27, 2023
Surfing the Metaversity: The future of online learning?
SmithGroup's tour of the Metaversity gives us insight on bringing together physical and virtual campuses to create a cohesive institution.
University Buildings | Feb 23, 2023
Johns Hopkins shares design for new medical campus building named in honor of Henrietta Lacks
In November, Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine shared the initial design plans for a campus building project named in honor of Henrietta Lacks, the Baltimore County woman whose cells have advanced medicine around the world. Diagnosed with cervical cancer, Lacks, an African-American mother of five, sought treatment at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the early 1950s. Named HeLa cells, the cell line that began with Lacks has contributed to numerous medical breakthroughs.
Sustainability | Feb 9, 2023
University of Southern California's sustainability guidelines emphasize embodied carbon
A Buro Happold-led team recently completed work on the USC Sustainable Design & Construction Guidelines for the University of Southern California. The document sets out sustainable strategies for the design and construction of new buildings, renovations, and asset renewal projects.
University Buildings | Feb 9, 2023
3 ways building design can elevate bold thinking and entrepreneurial cultures
Mehrdad Yazdani of CannonDesign shares how the visionary design of a University of Utah building can be applied to other building types.
Giants 400 | Feb 9, 2023
New Giants 400 download: Get the complete at-a-glance 2022 Giants 400 rankings in Excel
See how your architecture, engineering, or construction firm stacks up against the nation's AEC Giants. For more than 45 years, the editors of Building Design+Construction have surveyed the largest AEC firms in the U.S./Canada to create the annual Giants 400 report. This year, a record 519 firms participated in the Giants 400 report. The final report includes 137 rankings across 25 building sectors and specialty categories.
University Buildings | Feb 8, 2023
STEM-focused Kettering University opens Stantec-designed Learning Commons
In Flint, Mich., Kettering University opened its new $63 million Learning Commons, designed by Stantec. The new facility will support collaboration, ideation, and digital technology for the STEM-focused higher learning institution.
University Buildings | Feb 7, 2023
Kansas City University's Center for Medical Education Innovation can adapt to changes in medical curriculum
The Center for Medical Education Innovation (CMEI) at Kansas City University was designed to adapt to changes in medical curriculum and pedagogy. The project program supported the mission of training leaders in osteopathic medicine with a state-of-the-art facility that leverages active-learning and simulation-based training.