Vibrant Campus Communities: University of California’s Expanding Student Life

Date Posted: 06.13.2016

By Brendan Connolly

Across the University of California (UC) system there is collective effort to meet the changing needs of a rapidly increasing student population, and to directly address a recent mandate from the UC Regents to increase density and student housing capacity at each campus. Administrators are under increasing pressure to consider alternative delivery methods for these capital projects, including design-build and public private partnerships, to achieve compressed schedules and maximize financial resources.

Mithun’s recent and ongoing work with undergraduate and graduate housing, and student life facilities for the UC system spans multiple campus environments (UC Irvine, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego) and delivery methods including design-build and conventional delivery. In all, these projects represent an addition of more than 4,100 beds of housing and 1,190 seats of dining capacity slated to come online by 2019.

Each campus is unique, but we have observed strong commonalities and trends across the system, including the need to introduce density at campus edges that both anticipates future growth and respects the current context. Our work has considered ultra-high-efficiency living unit design, the changing nature of campus sustainability, and transportation modalities to connect and engage these new populations. We see a pattern of investment in facilities that promotes long-term quality, durability and flexibility, including shifts from type V to type I and II construction. This trade-off accepts higher first costs for long-term operational and health benefits, and reduced campus and building maintenance.

Additionally, our integrated team has explored and implemented powerful landscape designs to leverage outdoor space as value-added program area for these students. Connecting student communities to place is a fundamental goal for all of these projects. Our work with the University of California is increasingly focused on the user experience, both as a driver of design and a measurement of success through pre- and post-occupancy evaluations. Students are not only the ultimate client, they are also part of the sustainability solution; encouraging positive behavior promotes health and building performance, with direct returns for UC operational expenses and retention.

As we help UC clients face current and future challenges with new student life facilities, we see increasing pressure to look beyond design-build to public-private partnerships and other external financial mechanisms to reduce risk and further utilize limited capital resources to deliver projects, while retaining the campus spirit and sense of place that is cherished by students and campus administrators alike. Changing demographic and economic forces will continue to influence campus development, but we are excited by the investment being made in California and across the country to develop flexible and sustainable facilities that will gracefully support growth, enrich the campus experience, and stand the test of time.

Learn more about Mithun’s student housing portfolio.