October 25, 2018
Blog

Building for the Next Generation

The name for the next generation is still being debated, but whether they are called the iGen or Gen Z, the classes of 2022 and beyond arrive to college campuses with a different perspective from millennials. This generation doesn’t remember a time before the Internet; they are technology-centric, socially aware, and value their well-being.

Meanwhile, trends in academia are emphasizing active learning environments and collaborative projects over traditional classroom learning of the past. Technology also has become an essential--not ancillary--part of the classroom. Across the country, Clark is leveraging its construction expertise, extensive higher education portfolio, and relationships with AEC industry partners to provide colleges and universities facilities tailored for the next generation of students. 

An Immersive Educational Experience

Higher education is increasingly emphasizing learning environments that extend beyond the confines of the classroom. The focus on active learning and interdisciplinary studies requires spaces that encourage hands-on experience and increased interaction among students and faculty.

Vanderbilt Engineering and Science Building is an example of both principles. Connected to the existing School of Engineering via a two-story atrium, the 240,000 square-foot building fosters innovation and teamwork across disciplines.

Cafes and flexible social spaces like the Undergraduate Commons promote spontaneous conversations with peers and faculty, while group work spaces allow for increased collaboration. The Innovation Pavilion–a space dedicated to intellectual property creation and entrepreneurship–is designed to connect students and faculty with industry mentors.

At San Diego State University, the new Interdisciplinary Sciences Complex is guided by the vision that intellectual “collisions” are essential for today’s critical research. The complex is designed to spark creativity with its teaching labs and flexible research space. An entrepreneurship center helps student entrepreneurs develop real-world applications for research discoveries and bring products to market.

With an open, modular floor plan, workspaces flow seamlessly between labs, offices and common space. Mobile furniture, glass walls, a coffee shop and communal whiteboards in the hallways allow for spur-of-the-moment brainstorming. The Thomas B. Day Quad tie these elements together by providing a place for students and researchers to gather and bump into one another — a literal collision course for igniting innovation.

Interaction is not just essential to the sciences, however. Collisions spaces are a key design element in the Academic Building Replacement Project for the University of California Hastings College of Law. Currently under construction, this new facility will feature a monumental stairwell as its centerpiece. This space will allow for incidental interactions that often birth new ideas.

Taking campus interaction to a new level, the vision for the University of California San Diego North Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood is an integrated neighborhood that will provide students with an education experience that inspires collaboration, leadership, and innovation. Scheduled for completion in August 2020, the 1.5-million square-foot project co-locates undergraduate housing, student activity space, and academic facilities in a central living and learning community. It also will create areas for departmental collaboration, research, and experimentation between students and faculty across various disciplines.


The University of Kansas Central District Development, which received public-private financing with assistance from Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, is a massive 40-acre site. At its heart is the 285,000 square-foot academic integrated science facility, which gives undergraduates closer access to cutting-edge research in chemistry, physics, and related fields. The Central District Development also features a 26,500 square-foot student union and student housing totaling 1,200 beds across three buildings.

State-of-the-Art Facilities for Evolving Technologies

Technology is mission critical to universities’ dual missions of research and education. Looking for solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges requires complex tools and access to evolving technologies. Educational spaces also have changed as digital native students demand more connectivity and engagement; distance learning programs mean many students may never even step foot on campus.

Still, technology today is not the technology of tomorrow, and Clark works with clients to ensure their facilities do not have a short shelf life. By building more flexibility into projects, campuses can keep pace with the technological changes and remain state-of-the-art, even when tech is advancing on a seemingly daily basis. 

Washington State University’s Digital Classroom Building, also referred to as ‘The Spark,’ is a high-performance academic facility that provides robust systems, as well as flexible infrastructure to accommodate rapidly evolving technology. Spaces easily can be reconfigured for different academic needs and technologies.

The four-story, 83,000 square-foot facility also features a 250-seat active learning hall with curved LED televisions surrounding the space. This immersive learning environment engages students in shared storytelling and provide screen-sharing capabilities essential for a collaborative learning experience.

Contemporary engineering challenges are at the intersection of information and biological technologies. UCLA’s Engineering IV Phase II,  serves as the, state-of-the-art home for the Computer Science Department. It brings together two engineering fields to fuel innovative research and immersive learning. The 90,000 square-foot facility provides a collaborative research computer laboratory, as well as an incubation lab space, to advance scientific discoveries. The technology-enabled learning center better supports distance learning and accommodates the continued expansion of the school’s Master of Science Online program.

On the east coast, the University of Maryland­ A. James Clark Hall provides research and engineering space for the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. Designed with the future in mind, the facility features flexible classrooms and laboratories, including wet and dry spaces and a vivarium. There are also new, state-of-the-art optical laser laboratories and imaging laboratories equipped with 3-D printing capabilities, laser devices, and magnetic resonance imagers. 

Combining active learning methods with the newest technology, the Bowie State University Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Nursing, also in Maryland, was constructed to facilitate student engagement and flexibility. Home to the departments of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Nursing, the Center gives nursing students hands-on experience with cutting-edge, life-saving technologies. The state-of-the-art nursing suite is complete with a nursing skill laboratory, patient simulators and nursing beds, control spaces, exam rooms, and debrief rooms to teach the next generation of health-care workers. 

A Holistic Approach to Sustainability

Whether increasing daylighting or incorporating rooftop gardens, universities are continuing to incorporate innovative LEED features.

At the Bowie State University Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Nursing, the dynamic curtainwall system reduces energy costs while providing a comfortable atmosphere to enhance students’ productivity and sense of well-being. The 25,000 square-foot glass skin system features an energy-efficient dynamic glazing system that responds to the sunlight. As the sunlight changes, the tinting on the glass adjusts to control light levels and the heat entering the building. The system also can tint on demand in each classroom.

The LEED Gold certified UCLA Engineering IV Phase II also utilizes high performance building strategies to provide a better research environment. Passive systems in the building include daylighting and natural ventilation, and active systems include active chilled beams, displacement ventilation and sophisticated controls. Additionally, solar renewable and water recycling technologies optimize the energy and water consumption of the building.

Living spaces also require a holistic understanding to sustainability: environmental features impact student comfort and health. The University of California San Diego North Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood is targeting LEED® Platinum certification. The design is centered around the concept of an open, pedestrian and bike-friendly layout. Buildings will include indoor-outdoor spaces, decks, and terraces set within drought-resistant landscaping. The neighborhood’s dining hall will include an anaerobic digester system to convert leftovers into fertilizers and renewable green energy.

Immersive learning experiences, physical and virtual connectedness, cutting-edge technologies, and healthy environments are all components in the evolution of college campuses. We can't wait to see what the future holds for the students that are learning, creating, and innovating at these state-of-the-art institutions.