Why Build New University Buildings When You Can Renovate Them?

Student enrollment in universities is on the rise. In January 2013, a report by the Institute of Education Sciences' National Center for Educational Statistics found that total enrollment is expected to increase 15 percent between 2010 and 2021. Such growth can pose considerable financial challenges to universities that need to physically support increased enrollment; but the correct answer isn't always new construction.


Becoming Wiser Stewards of Space and Improving Sustainable Return on Investment

As campuses invest in new buildings specifically designed to support the modern teaching requirements, older buildings fall into disrepair, and the valuable space they provide is either underutilized or is operated inefficiently.

A good business case for renovating an older building instead of constructing a new one involves understanding the building's "real" replacement cost. Preserving the natural resources required to build new facilities is crucial, and by considering an existing structure's embodied energy, we begin to understand this real cost. Embodied energy is the sum of the energy needed to extract, transport, and assemble raw materials, which are then assembled and installed at the construction site. Preserving this embodied energy has the potential to yield a higher sustainable return on investment than building new while saving the university valuable money in operating costs. Why spend more money powering additional square feet of new space when you can potentially spend less by utilizing current space more intelligently?


Preservation and Sustainability

Preservation and reuse go hand-in-hand with sustainability, and both themes now have an additional emphasis in the new LEED® Version 4. By using existing buildings more wisely, creating flexible space, and adding select green features, universities can provide students with a better learning experience and modern amenities. Renovating existing buildings can accommodate a growing student population while preserving that university's unique character.

We always get excited when presented with a university project that requires both the artful preservation of historical buildings and important sustainability goals. In the case of Bradley University's Westlake Hall, we were able to preserve the hall as the heart of the universities' culture, while also capitalizing on a number of sustainable strategies. This beautiful facility is certified LEED Gold, and was also recognized by American School and University for outstanding design in adaptive reuse.

Instead of leveling a building, consider restoring it. It's a growing theme that architects, engineers, and educators continue to embrace.

To read "Green Schools Create New Meaning of Sustainability," click here.

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