June 14, 2021

Designing for Safe, Clean, and Flexible College Campuses

Designing for Safe, Clean, and Flexible College Campuses

Posted by CMBA Architects on Jul 15, 2020 8:00:00 AM


So much uncertainty remains as colleges and universities reopen or plan for the reopening of their buildings to students and educators. This has us thinking a lot about design strategies that create a balance between the facilitation of a quality education, and the safety of students and faculty.

Different is Good

To ensure the safety of students, educators and staff, things must change. From classrooms and cafeterias, to commons and social spaces – COVID-19 has changed campus design forever. However, while some see this in a negative light, we see it as an opportunity to leverage what we’ve learned and rethink learning experiences for the better!

As we navigate what’s next, we'll have to consider ways of leveraging technology and physical classroom spaces in a way that elevates safety without sacrificing the education of students.

Immediate Response

In the short-term, the biggest priority will be welcoming students and educators back to an environment that keeps them as safe as possible. Colleges may bring staff and students back with staggered daily and weekly schedules for classes and activities – with a combination of in-person and remote learning.

Consider the difference between reading and music, or a science lab and a psychology lecture for higher education. Small changes to these physical spaces will be necessary to allow for physical distancing. One great way to achieve this is through the strategic placement of flexible furniture.

More specific strategies may include limiting classroom and meeting room capacity, repurposing larger unused spaces for classes, adding barriers, changing the configuration and placement of desks and/or furniture, as well as frequent cleaning and more support for those still learning remotely.

Long-Term Strategies

There will soon be an urgency to move from “good enough” to excellence. As we look toward the future of higher education design, we believe that learning spaces will need to be reinvented to enhance the benefits that face-to-face educational experiences can offer. Pedagogies and calendars will consider which activities are best online and in-person, and our spaces will need to quickly reflect those new priorities. There will be a greater emphasis on safely supporting social and spontaneous learning in addition to finding new ways to enhance a scholarly atmosphere and energy in the physical environment that can’t be replicated online.

Many parents and student supporters now realize the incredible value of great educators and educational systems during the pandemic. The institutions that have been most successful have had a robust blended learning platform, student-led educational experiences and have created a community of support for all students. Those who try to hold too tightly to the past may fail to excel as they try to navigate what’s next. In the future, schools and campuses will be more important than ever.

Topics: Higher-Ed-General