Decreased funding, slowing enrollment, overwhelming student debt, and higher operating costs are just some of the challenges facing higher education. Now we must also take into consideration all of the realities that will shake out on campuses following a pandemic. Recruiting and retaining students is vital. Campus housing is a valuable marketing tool to attract students and keep them living on campus. Residence hall renovations preserve campus character and eliminate costly additional land development. These critical campus updates also convert existing housing into a valuable asset while promoting sustainability.
The advent of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has opened a whole new range of possibilities for three-dimensional digital design renderings. Not so long ago, when we wanted to share a new building or renovation design concept with our clients (and often their clients), the options were limited. We could either provide a hand sketch or three-dimensional physical building model, using clay, paper, foamcore, wood or other materials. The result was often beautiful and effective for sharing the project vision. But it was also time consuming, static and, relatively speaking, a costly added expense. These realities limited the use of these methodologies.
This fall, millions of K-12 and college students headed back to school amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Determining best practices for navigating this return has been challenging for administrators, teachers, students, and families alike. Design for in-person learning during a pandemic requires both flexibility and creativity. To that end, a number of manufacturers have developed innovative furniture and other classroom products to help K-12 school, colleges and universities quickly adapt to changing conditions and social distancing needs.
Our team does not endorse any one product or manufacturer. The following is an overview of some of the products we have found while helping our clients review available options. Many of these offer benefits not only for today’s continually evolving safety priorities, but also for adaptable learning spaces beyond the current pandemic realities.
There has been a lot of buzz around University-Based Retirement Communities (UBRCs). Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry experts have predicted a rise in their number as both higher ed and senior living seek creative strategies for future vitality.
Downward trends in on-campus enrollment and revenue can be partially attributed to a declining cohort of college-age population. At the same time there has been a well-documented rise in baby boomers reaching retirement age and thus increasing demand for senior housing options. However, both groups have faced greater competition whether from similar organizations or increasingly by home-based alternatives that technology has made possible.
In the wake of a 13% drop in enrollment for 2020-2021, colleges and universities are considering new strategies to attract students. Priorities have shifted for students and staff as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sustainable design standards have likewise adapted with offerings such as the WELL Health-Safety Seal to help foster trust and encourage a return to pre-pandemic campus life.
The International WELL Building Institute is just one of several organizations to develop specialized standards to address the renewed focus on infection control and safely reopening indoor environments. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Center for Active Design, and RESET have each developed modules to help facility managers measure, improve and monitor air quality, sustainability, and/or health and wellness strategies.
The elevator lobby is often overlooked as an opportunity to reinforce your brand. Regardless of its size, this workhorse space is a prime circulation area that is accessed multiple times a day. When the elevator door opens, the lobby area beyond should provide an inviting and appropriate reference to your brand experience. With proper design consideration, the elevator lobby creates a strong first impression as well as a positive lasting impression for your building and campus brand.
Elevator Lobby Design Functionality
Typically, the elevator lobby at the main entrance of the building receives the most attention. However, common space is often at a premium for both senior living and higher education campuses. Upper level elevator lobbies provide opportunities for quieter gathering or informal study areas.
Dignity—something that is often taken for granted—is one of the most fundamental elements of the human spirit. Everyone wants to be valued and respected for who they are. Those needs do not disappear if a person is living with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. Translating this innate desire to memory support design solutions demands acknowledgement of each person’s independence and personal choice, regardless of his or her acuity level.
Supporting the needs of people living with dementia requires senior living communities and design professionals to first understand the daily living challenges that a typical congregate environment presents. By identifying these difficulties, memory support settings can be reimagined to nurture independence and meaningful experiences which will, in turn, provide a sense of purpose and personal dignity.
One of the most important outcomes of a college education is meaningful employment after graduation. However, recent graduates are seeking employment in one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. As of December 2020, about 7.2 percent of recent college graduates were unemployed in the U.S. These statistics point to the need for a career center design shift to meet students’ needs today and into the future.
Today’s job market emphasizes the importance of robust career services to help students take their first career step. Institutions need to provide students—and parents—with a tangible reminder that they offer a quality education AND critical career resources. Even before the pandemic, career services have been assuming a more prominent role on campus.
Within the team of family, caregivers and clinicians caring for someone with memory impairments is an unexpected partner – the space in which individuals live.
Throughout the history of supporting people living with cognitive impairments, environments have evolved considerably from previous iterations that were virtual lockdowns to spaces available today where people can function safely following their own daily rhythms. This evolution is a direct reflection of the importance the built environment plays in residents’ health and wellbeing.
A carefully designed memory support setting can serve as a silent partner in helping people with cognitive decline live well and potentially help to slow the disease’s progression.
A well-designed space provides cues and guides people to follow daily patterns of eating, sleeping, dressing, or participating in activities, allowing them to live fully in an environment they understand. These cues can be as simple as somewhere to lay out clothes for tomorrow to remind residents to dress in the morning. Red “H” for hot and blue “C” for cold can remind someone to wash their hands. Or, their own furniture from home can remind someone which room is their own.
Interior design for wellness spaces allows our team to encourage physical activity, especially for the older adults living in the senior living communities we serve. The benefits of physical activity are well documented, along with the fact that most people need more of it. This is especially true for older adults. A multi-year study by Mather Lifeways Institute on Aging has documented that people living in life plan communities report more healthy behaviors than other older adults, in part due to the ready availability of resources. In recent years, we have seen a number of life plan communities place renewed emphasis on resident health and well-being by expanding or updating their wellness facilities.