Top University Construction Projects 2019-2020

By: Elizabeth Mixson

There’s a lot going on when it comes to the future of learning spaces. The following is an overview of 6 college campus construction projects that are raising the bar and breaking the mold when it comes to future learning spaces.

#1 UC Merced

A major example of this innovation is the recent reconstruction of the UC Merced campus, underlying the value of public/private partnerships as it relates to higher education space management. With the campus development initiative a year ahead of schedule, Plenary Properties Merced has undergone a 39-year contract, delivering 1.2 million gross square feet of academic facilities. Some prominent features of this renovation includes student counseling facilities, additional student housing, state-of-the-art labs, a transportation hub and even a swimming pool! This plan to expand capacity integrates private sector innovation in construction, management and design while supporting UC Merced’s sustainability goals. All in all, the UC Merced/Plenetary Properties collaboration lends to inspiring academic spaces intended for interdisciplinary activities for both faculty and staff.

#2 Bucknell University 

Bucknell University will be highlighting their ambitious new 78,000 square-foot engineering building. The space itself is a 50 percent increase, facilitating areas for faculty and students to work side-by-side on research projects. The new $37.9 million building will also serve as a home to a collection of various disciplines, including materials science, fluid mechanics, food science and even human health. In fact, a research initiative is even down the pipeline thanks to this new building—a collaboration between Bucknell and Geisinger—where they will explore some of the more recent challenges in healthcare today.

Additionally, Bucknell’s new engineering building will be a center of sustainability research thanks to an energy lab to monitor environmental data. On the whole, the new facility’s learning spaces will aim to meet the needs of both solitary learners and collaborative ones. Perhaps most impressive is the building’s ability to meet the requirements of the campus’ stakeholders while meeting the requirements for LEED Gold certification. The building will incorporate energy-saving technology and natural ventilation. Truly, Bucknell is reinventing how faculty and staff interact with land thrive in learning spaces. 

#3 Auburn University

Another institution that is pushing the boundaries of technology in learning spaces is Auburn University. With their active learning classrooms, Auburn has clearly taken student engagement to an entirely new level, enabling EASL facilities with ShareLink technology, document cameras on lecturns, touchscreen control panels, microphones and a monitor for each student pod. These innovations are intended to enhance student-to-student discussion and collaboration as well as dialogues with professors to promote truly active learning. 

#4 UMASS Amherst 

When it comes to innovation in libraries, you won’t find a better example than at UMass Amherst. In addition to setting a national example for the technological framework of 21st century campus libraries, UMass has taken it a step further to a facility that fosters more than just reading, but cutting-edge research and equipment. In terms of learning spaces, UMass has exemplified how to work within older solid frameworks while updating infrastructures to accommodate newer technologies. Naturally, expanding spaces while maintaining character and design is an important topic within updating and innovating learning spaces, which UMass has epitomized.  

#5 University of Edinburgh 

Innovation in learning spaces isn’t happening just in North America, it’s also happening across the pond. Among a number of other projects, the University of Edinburgh is also in the process of developing its new Futures Institute at Quartermile. The $156 million redeveloped building will provide 21,300 m² of floor space, 6000 of which will be new construction. The project will restore and connect six historically significant "Nightingale" wards and make use of the building’s unusually wide corridors to create space for informal encounters and break-out areas.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to check out Michelle Samura's (Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, Chapman University) session at Future Office Week on Building Belonging: Designing Inclusive Workplace Experiences.