Perspectives on Campus Planning

Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates, Inc.
Issue 17 Spring 2007
computer lab 
Up to Standard?
The main article in this edition of Perspectives is about the pressure for colleges and universities to "keep up with the Joneses" as competition for students continues to play an essential role in enrollment management and as perspective students compare one institution to another. The second article is about the fact that facility space standards have not changed to reflect the enormous changes in technology, pedagogy, or research on how people learn. It is time for a fresh look.
Art's Signature
Keeping up with the Joneses or Serving Student Needs?

In our practice, we have a close view of the front lines in the competition for students, faculty, and alumni support. The Higher Education (HE) sector's remarkable vitality and drive in improving institutions' appeal for support is impressive in its scope and accomplishment.

  • undergraduate science labs that surpass cutting edge research facilities of the 80s;
  • student housing that rivals 4-star hotel accommodations;
  • small college athletics/fitness/wellness/recreation centers that the majority of national Olympic programs covet;
  • administrative and faculty office buildings that Fortune 100 executives would be proud to call their own;

student centers that are urban microcosms offering a staggering array of activities, services, and venues for entertainment.

How does all this square with HE mission statements? Do high-end facilities truly improve student learning and development of personal strengths? Or are the "palaces" merely irrelevant, costly evidence of a demented "edifice complex."

Well, Mark Hopkins's only facility requirement was a log to sit on to engage the student sitting on the other end. Good for the Hopkins student, because that's all the finest teacher of his generation needed.

What terms do today's students and faculty stipulate? Most liberal arts faculty I've asked say the most important thing in job satisfaction and their career decisions is the quality of the student body. Likewise, committed students mention the reputation of the institution (the quality of the faculty), the "feel" of the place (the facilities and grounds).

Facilities and environment create a strong pull on students. Logically, then, the more attractive the facilities the stronger the pull; the stronger the pull the more selective the institution can be; the more selective an institution is, the stronger the pull on faculty; the stronger the pull on faculty, the better the faculty is likely to be; the better the faculty is, the stronger the institution's programs and reputation; and so on in continuous improvement cycle.

While the specific characteristics of the facilities may or may not provide measurable benefits for advancing student learning, that the facilities are perceived as being effective is taken as strong evidence of the institution's commitment to its mission and its students' success. These qualities will provide the necessary traction on students and faculty, strengthening the institution.

The facilities' impact on attracting and retaining the best requires a mission-driven investment. By assembling the strongest student and faculty groups possible, HE institutions are acting vigorously to enhance learning and the impact they have on students' lives.

George's Signature 
Standards, Standards, Standards - Everybody's got Standards

 "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from."
Andres S. Tannenbaum

One of the benefits of facility standards and guidelines is that they provide a consistent measure applied in a variety of different circumstances. The use of the word "standard," however, carries the implication of having been vetted and accepted as right or appropriate. But who makes that judgment? How and when should standards change?

Most facility standards today are based directly or exactly on standards developed in the late 50s and early 60s. The early thinking of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) is evident. Some facility standards have not changed in over 50 years, even though dramatic change in technology, teaching, pedagogy, research, and our understanding about how people learn should have effected at least some of them.

An interesting example is the faculty office. In many states, the standard for a faculty office is still 120 net square feet. When that standard was set, desktop computers didn't exist - in fact, computers wouldn't show up on the desktop until 20 or 25 years later (Apple 1976 and IBM 1981).
This enduring standard shows the difficult evolution and slow response for facility standards in ever changing circumstances. It also shows a misunderstanding of the purpose and use of a faculty office. The faculty office is a personal work space as well as a teaching space, meeting place, and research area. It is a place to learn and discover. It is used to meet with students, staff, and other faculty. It is used for administrative functions. It is a dining room, a place to nap, and a space for contemplation.
In our office database of over 20,000 citations from colleges and universities, both public and private, the average office size is 145 net square feet. We have analyzed a number of faculty office sizes and configurations and recommend that a typical faculty office be in the range of 140 to 160 net square feet for most departments and institutions.
The typical college and university campus dedicates more space to offices than to classrooms.  Institutions need to recognized this office space as a critical learning environment on campus - and treat it as such.
More importantly, though, it is time for State Higher Education offices and colleges and universities to take a fresh look at facility "standards" that are being used to define space. These institutions would not use old, out-of-date building codes to construct new buildings - why use out-of-date standards to plan them?
Art's Signature
This Issue
Up to Standard?
Keeping up with the Joneses or Serving Student Needs?
Standards, Standards, Standards - Everybody's got Standards
What's New

PKAL has invited Arthur Lidsky to speak at its 2007 Summer Institute

PKAL's has announced that Arthur Lidsky will speak at two sessions during its 2007 Summer Institute in Chantilly, VA. On June 15th he will participate in a plenary session on Continued conversations - leadership in building research-rich learning environments that serve 21st century students, science and society and a breakout session on Gaining the support of skeptical or hesitant faculty colleagues, dealing with the politics of institutional change and renewal.
George Mathey to present at Society for College and University Planners Annual Conference
George Mathey, together with Peter Gorer, Facility Asset Strategies; Leith Sharp, Harvard University; and Kurt Teichert, Brown University, will present Realizing Green Campus Initiatives through Facility Programming on Monday, July 9, 2007 from 2:30-4:00 pm. The presentation describes the realization of green campus policies from their integration into capital projects through transformed institutional facility planning and programming practices.
Arthur Lidsky, together with Randolph R. Croxton of Croxton Collaborative Architects and Jose Alminana of Andropogon Associates, will present
The Sustainable Campus: Restorative Pathways of Growth on Campus on July 25th from, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. The seminar, part of the Harvard University's Graduate School of Design Executive Education program, focuses on the disciplines of campus planning, landscape architecture, and architecture.


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