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Once administrators decide to focus on adding more group study areas to campus, a key question to answer is this: Should the spaces be out in the open or behind closed doors? "Rooms can be big and open, or they can be private rooms, which can be very modest," says Michael Prifti, managing principal of BLT Associates.

Colleges and universities are competing to build the most green, sustainably designed facilities. But some projects, by nature alone, have end uses, or are constructed with materials, that make it nearly impossible to secure U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED certification. Single-use, standalone parking structures are one such genre of building, and parking design consultants have struggled for years to crack this green building code.

The renovation of an historic building in downtown Portland, formerly owned by the University of Oregon, has brought Portland Community College (Ore.) administrators together.

As high school, college, and NBA basketball seasons power up, we hearken back to one of the best sports movie of all time: Hoosiers. In the film, the small-town Hickory High basketball team is about to do battle with the behemoth South Bend squad for the 1952 Indiana High School State Title. Hickory player Merle Webb famously declares, "Let's win this one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here."

Over the past few decades, colleges and universities have engaged in a kind of facilities arms race to build new, state-of-the-art dormitories, dining halls, classrooms, athletic complexes, and fine arts centers. Higher ed institutions face enormous competitive pressures to build buildings that rival what's on their peers' campuses. For many, cutting-edge means new.

"We're the new U." The tag-line is fitting for The University of North Texas at Dallas, which, in September became its own independent four-year university after a decade of being considered a branch campus of UNT in Denton. The just-opened second building on its campus creates a physical presence to complement the separate identity UNT Dallas officials have been building for themselves.

Future Shock

So, what do the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, the State University of New York at Binghamton and Berkshire Community College have in common? If you are searching for an answer, just consider the role higher learning has played in the transformation of America's river mill cities into contemporary collegetowns.

For many campus building projects, the period following schematic design is critical to the project's future. With the proposed design illustrating the building's significant forms, program, functional relationships and scale, the project enters the fundraising phase. Design work on higher education cultural projects—such as museums, studio-arts buildings, performance halls and affiliated classrooms, as well as sports facilities, alumni centers, and science buildings—often pauses following schematic design so that university leaders can raise funds for construction.

More than 300 students from five Kirkwood Community College (Iowa) programs study in state-of-the-art kitchens and classrooms, working alongside a 70-person professional staff.

What was originally supposed to be a renovation of the University Center at The University of Memphis (Tenn.) became a much bigger project.