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Articles: Campus Construction

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte could well claim kinship with The University of Texas at San Antonio as a large (about 25,000 students), relatively young school on the outskirts of a growing American city, with a mission of putting itself more prominently on the regional map and building school spirit in the process. The school is building a football team of its own—and an on-campus stadium—in preparation for the 2013 season.

Map with a push pin point to Qatar

The trend of opening branch campuses overseas is cyclical. When things are good, institutions look outside their borders. When things get bad, institutions tend to retract those tentacles. However, Education City in Qatar, which opened in 2001 after six years of planning from the Qatar Foundation and now has seven higher ed institutions, is going strong.

In November, Northwestern University in Qatar broke ground on a new 32,520-square meter building to house its media, communication, and journalism school. Northwestern University (Ill.) founded its Qatar branch in 2008.

Any institution contemplating building or renovating a facility will inevitably hire an architect. The process of selecting one is often rushed or overlooked, particularly considering its long-term implications. The architectural firm you hire is coming on board to design something important, likely big, and almost certainly expensive. It better be the right one and you better like it a lot because you will be working together for a substantial amount of time. What the firm produces will become a reflection of you and your institution.

Georgia Gwinnett College's student center was completed in time for the opening of its first residential housing.

Efficiency fix

In one fell, $300 million swoop, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, nearly doubled its housing capacity in the fall of 2008. The nine-building Poly Canyon Village houses 2,600 students in apartment-style living and includes a retail core. What was good for campus life, though, raised considerable challenges for those charged with operating and maintaining it.

Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

The word “class” really doesn’t do justice to what medical students attend in the newly renovated lecture theatre at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

“It’s a production, which is so much better,” said Ed Hipditch, manager of classroom technologies with Memorial University’s Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support (DELTS) department. “Students walk in and say ‘Wow!’ ­The wow factor is important when educating someone. It’s not just someone scribbling on a chalkboard.” ­

Most colleges and universities attending EduComm send one or two, sometimes three, people to the conference. Last June, Life University (Ga.) sent seven of its administrators and faculty to learn from the breakout sessions and see the latest higher education technology on the EduComm exhibit floor.

The South Carolina Higher Education Efficiency and Administrative Policies Act, signed into law on August 3 by Gov. Nikki Haley, is a big step for transparency in South Carolina's public institutions. The twofold law requires them to post all purchasing transactions online and eliminates portions of the timely and costly process for having new facilities or major purchases approved.

Harvard University has long been known to take the lead in research, public administration, and business and law studies, so why not sustainability? The university has become the first higher education institution to have earned 50 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications for new construction or renovation to existing buildings. LEED-certified buildings save money on energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to a healthier environment.

Placed among the calm forest of its pond-side setting, Ramapo College of New Jersey has created an area for members of the campus community to quietly reflect, pray, or integrate spiritual exploration in whatever way they wish.

In higher education, sustainability and green design have moved beyond buzzwords to become real practice. Programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, and the College Sustainability Report Card are commonplace measures of an institution’s commitment to sustainability.

Electricity. It turns on the lights, powers the smart boards, and runs the computers that are all vital to a modern campus. Acquiring that electricity can be both an expensive proposition and a key part of an environmental action plan. With the size and variety of buildings on campus, some colleges and universities have their own power stations on campus to ease their dependence on public utility companies. Most have their own microgrids to distribute power generated from any source. Now campus leaders are looking into giving those microgrids an education.

It's rare to even hear about a single new campus building these days that wasn't built with sustainability principles in mind. Inevitably, institutional officials are learning not to reinvent the wheel every time a new construction project comes up. Creating a green building policy is one way of ensuring sustainability is a collective goal--a goal that will likely benefit future project design teams.

“How much does LEED cost”? University administrators and facilities directors across the country are grappling with the need to design and construct their buildings sustainably with all the obvious long-term benefits but within their “first cost” budget.

There was a time, and not all that long ago, when many organizations looked at energy costs as a fixed cost of doing business over which they had little control. But rising energy prices, coupled with a challenging economic environment and an increasing focus on carbon reduction, have grabbed American leaders by the shoulders and shaken them into a greater state of consciousness when it comes to energy.

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