Hoping to grab the attention of an increasingly distracted target market, colleges are shaping their building and renovation strategies around curriculums that help students find employment. Similarly, as new teachers and faculty graduate and enter the workforce, the likelihood of leveraging technology in the classroom is far greater than it has been in the past. Administrations are responding to this push by changing environments to support new learning methodologies.

For architects and builders, the challenge to design learning environments within high-demand education sectors requires planning for the unexpected. Let's explore some trends paving the way for educational building projects that will position schools and universities for student success and help them attract prospective students.

Single-Purpose Spaces are Extinct

(Norfolk State University Cybersecurity Lab)

The gravitational pull of science and technology on college campuses often competes with building designs intended to foster collaboration and socialization. In an effort to strategize for the changing ways students are using campus spaces, many universities are leaning into spaces that combine interdisciplinary labs, classrooms, offices and spaces wired for A/V technology where students can work together.

However, the "shelf-life" for what is considered state-of-the-art is getting smaller as technology used in learning environments continues to refine and improve. Architecture firms are being asked to add more flexibility into projects, so universities can keep astride next to technologically demands for their departments. 

The moving target of integrated technology has many programs opting to renovate existing spaces with supplemental technology as opposed to creating new buildings. 

The Evolution of Libraries

(University of Texas PCL Library)

As information becomes increasingly digitized, the functions of libraries are changing, especially at schools where the line separating them from student centers blurs. Since students are now more likely to Google a question rather than comb through the stacks, universities are looking to repurpose space in some of their largest buildings to reduce waste and create attractive and engaging learning environments.

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, for instance, is designing a building that integrates the library and student union as a means of fostering modern learning practices.

Creative methods of repurposing university libraries are already underway. North Carolina State recently renovated their D.H. Hill Library to convert book stacks to space for student services, such as academic coaching, peer tutoring and career counseling.

Attracting Prospects with Student-Centric Projects

(Greater Atlanta Christian School)

In the future, student recruitment and retention will be more important than ever for universities hoping to compete for prospects. In order to succeed, universities need to evaluate how they offer a student life experience that prepares students to be healthy and dynamic people in their lives after graduation. That means universities need to embrace sustainability and wellness as key components to campus life.

Spelman College recently differentiated itself by diverting all of its athletic funding to create a "wellness revolution," focused on promoting the health of its students.

How can You Stay Ahead of the Curve?

Do more with less. We increasingly see institutions having to get resourceful in the face of reduced public funding, the stresses of enrollment growth, a shifting focus on learning outcomes and changing demographics with increasing diversity. At the same time, students require a wider range of learning experiences which are integrated with technology.

One place to focus would be existing buildings that are outmoded and lack current technology. To help clients make strategic decisions to make the most out of existing spaces, Accelerate Built Environments' education solutions are a cost-effective way for education spaces to integrate touch screen technology, Plug'n'Play power and network solutions that adapt to changing infrastructure requirements.

We work with our clients to help improve existing facilities and when designing new, to create flexible, loose fit buildings that anticipate future needs.

Adaptive re-use is one of the most sustainable strategies available to us today. When appropriately planned, the repurposing of an existing building can support a university's sustainability goals and reduce capital costs. 

To learn more about Accelerate Built Environments' work, check out our blog to see how we incorporated touch technology at a K-12 school, or email our education solutions specialist Chase Thuente, cthuente@acceleratebe.com for more info.