Designing for College Campuses – Listening to Culture and Location

By Elaine Chan posted 04-01-2014 14:07

From speaking with a few Principals at past AIA SF events who specialize in the education sector, I started formulating a general approach towards designing for college campuses. I noticed that there were 5 commonalities that arose. I went over these points in length with my firm, Kwan Henmi Architecture & Planning, and came away with the following main components:

Overall Approach:

Communication – Maintaining a successful outreach between the district, college, and community. A forum could be formed to generate constructive comments on what the shared community envisions. Creating an identity is crucial to the end product. Success can only be achieved if the users are able to proceed with the operational needs, feel a level of attachment to the campus, and accept the space as their own. With the power of technology upon us, firms are able to post and update design content, meeting notes, and other materials on an interactive project website. Social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter are good indicators of how the project is going.  

Management – Development of a clear work plan with defined milestone goals is important to maintain the momentum of the project within the academic calendar. The design team is obligated to fully enforce the construction documents once all materials and quality standards are agreed upon by all parties. The architect must be diligent when reviewing submittals to ensure that the design intent is being followed by the selected contractor. Substitutions are often offered, and the design team needs to be well-aware of market conditions and availability of products to avoid compromising the design.

Balance – Recognize the need to balance innovative thought and planning insights with practical strategies to meet programmatic, fiscal, and WSCH requirements.  Most stakeholders for educational projects, with the exception of facilities official are not experienced in large, complex projects with multiple phases, diverse programs, and design decisions that involve millions of dollars. During the programming phase, the architecture firm should solicit input in areas where they are knowledgeable. There are multiple consensus building exercises to utilize in stakeholder meetings to elicit everyone’s opinions and ideas. They range from bringing a “sketcher” to note all the ideas in a graphic format that engenders excitement from the audience, to ways of prioritizing ideas based on a number of metrics, from cost to space allotment.

Knowledge – Define and understand state guidelines, DSA standards, awareness of constructability requirements, and sensitivity to campus infrastructure (parking, traffic, and accessibility) helps ensure achievable planning solutions and meet the needs of students and the college.

Operational Costs -- This aspect can easily be connected with sustainable practices. Integration of sustainable design respects the costs of ownership. For example, as a case study with College of Marin’s PE Complex project, Kwan Henmi Architecture & Planning was able to supply 65% of the electrical needs of the building and grounds through a combination of geothermal power, PV solar “trees” in the parking lot, and solar hot water panels on the roof. This saves tens of thousands of dollars each year in utilities cost.


#CommitteeonArchitectureforEducation #Conferences