Trends in Education

A trend, defined as“the general direction in which something tends to move,” is often the motivating factor behind updating and changing the way things are made or accomplished. However we’re doing it today, the trend is that we’ll be doing it somehow differently tomorrow. Some trends can improve the process. Some — unfortunately — can make our jobs more complicated. The goal in incorporating trends should always be a move towards improvement.

College Planning & Management asked a variety of experts in various aspects of the management of the higher education campus — from landscape architects to sustainability experts and more — for information on current trends they see in their area of expertise. Their answers are included here.

Green Cleaning Initiatives

George Lohnes, vice president at UNICCO Service Company, leads UNICCO’s GreenClean environmental initiatives. When we asked him what are an institution’s next steps, once green cleaning equipment and chemicals have been implemented on campus, he says:

“In the future, we will see colleges turn to communications and community involvement in order to create more successful, comprehensive green cleaning programs. Students, faculty and staff have to be engaged to make it work. They will turn to environmental affairs steering committees that will visualize where they want to go in terms of sustainability, and that will engage all of the constituencies (planning, maintenance, facilities, energy management, food services, residential life, etc.)

Recycling programs will move beyond ‘green barrel’ initiatives and will engage the students, faculty and staff to mainstream recycling into every day activities.

Finally, we will see a more programmatic and sustained approach to on-campus environmental communications. These programs will use the traditional forms of flyers and newsletters, but we will also see new approaches using cell phones, Web pages and even blogs to publicize environmental messages.”

Promoting Safety With Landscaping

The safety and security of everyone who sets foot on campus is vital to an institution’s operation, and planning for safety doesn’t stop at doors, gates and walls. We asked Robert M. Corning, a partner at Geller DeVellis Inc. (, how school officials can create a safe, accessible and welcoming walking environment for students and faculty on growing college campuses. With offices in Boston and Wellesley, Mass., Geller DeVellis Inc. provides landscape architecture, site planning and civil engineering services to institutions nationwide. Corning recommends that schools should consider implementing the following strategies to transform existing walkways, roadways, parking lots and undefined areas into safe, appealing and pedestrian-friendly zones for their campuses.

Paving Materials — When transforming an existing walkway, road or service drive into a more pedestrian-friendly walkway, reduce pavement widths and install brick or concrete unit paving to give the area a more pedestrian feel. When a walkway is still needed for occasional vehicular access, bituminous paving can be used in the center of the walk with brick banding along the edges to scale down the width of the walk.

Reduce Pedestrian and Vehicular Conflicts — Improve pedestrian safety by eliminating or reducing situations where cars and pedestrians conflict. Ensure that pedestrian routes do not share vehicular routes, and where walkways do cross roads or parking areas, they are clearly marked with crosswalks and signage.

Lighting — Replace industrial-style parking lights with more pedestrian-scale landscape lighting to direct light more efficiently and create a safer route.

Amenities — Benches and other site furnishings lend orientation and clear boundaries for pedestrian areas, provide places for interaction and contribute to the character of the campus.

Maintaining Campus Character — Every campus exudes a unique identity. To maintain this character and campuswide consistency, new walkways should stay in line with a school’s master plan and feature materials and amenities that match the rest of the campus.

Corporate and Retail Influences on Campus Design

The corporate and education spheres are moving towards more mutual influence and cooperation for a variety of reasons, many related to funding and standardization. Catherine Minervini, vice president of Marketing for Bentley Prince Street (, a leading manufacturer of commercial broadloom and modular carpet for educational, corporate, retail and institutional interiors, had these observations on the primary corporate/retail influences on campus design today.

“As in the corporate market, it’s critical to recruit and retain faculty and students. Higher education facilities need to have the right aesthetics to attract students, faculty and donor support. With these challenges, colleges and universities are learning from the corporate world and rapidly absorbing some of the latest trends in corporate planning.

Higher education is also evolving towards the retail market; Starbucks and Barnes & Noble have had significant design influences on their public spaces. For example, changes in retail design have altered perceptions of what a lunch room or library should look like. Color palettes are becoming more sophisticated, yet functional. As blues and greens were once the most popular, neutrals are now increasingly important.

As with the corporate world, flexibility has also become essential to quickly and economically alter functions of these spaces. Classrooms are being designed to work for groups of varying sizes, similar to corporate training rooms. And classroom buildings may also include cafeterias that mimic cyber cafes. High-performing, flexible interior product characteristics mirror the same standards that are essential in design of these spaces. For example, we’re seeing more and more crossover in the types of carpet used in higher learning institutions with that used in corporate/retail spaces.”

Trends in Sustainable Design

Portland, Ore.-based Yost Grube Hall Architecture (YGH) recently completed the Kelley Engineering Center at Oregon State University, which was designed to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating and is expected to be the first LEED Gold-rated university building in the northwest. YGH’s experience with sustainable design includes the first State of Oregon building designed and constructed in accordance with an executive order, which mandates that all state projects and purchases meet certain sustainability standards. In California, the firm is currently designing a laboratory for the University of California, Davis. YGH has nearly 25 LEED accredited professionals. We asked the Nels Hall, AIA, president of YGH Architecture, what he sees as the current and coming trends in sustainable design for college campuses.

“In recent years, sustainable buildings have become less of a novelty and more of an accepted response to issues of health, operating costs and ecological stewardship. Buildings designed to meet LEED standards are now widely seen at college campuses. Colleges and universities are now expanding programs beyond individual building projects to comprehensive campus sustainability programs.

For example, The UC/CSU system has institutionalized an annual sustainability conference that promotes innovative practices and recognizes successful programs. In 2003, Humboldt State University students overwhelmingly passed a campus ballot initiative that supported sustainable practices, and these students went on to win the ‘Best Innovative Sustainability Program’ at the UC/CSU Sustainability Conference.

The fascination with isolated demonstration projects has worn off as campus communities act to improve the sustainable operations of the entire campus community. This includes choices in campus purchasing and building and landscape maintenance. Food services are investigating organically produced food, and campus printers are looking at soy-based ink products. By evaluating the many components of campus life, colleges are leading the trend in sustainability that makes sustainable practices a matter of course.”

Interior Design Trends

Finally, a compilation of responses to an e-mail query sent out to the Association of University Interior Designers (AUID) members provided a variety of noteworthy trends for interior spaces.

Sustainable Design Sustainable design has several meanings. To in-house university designers, it means placing even more emphasis on the lifecycle of a product or finish than in previous years. With tighter budgets and increased populations of students living on campuses, university designers must stretch their buying dollars even further. Instead of replacing something in five to 10 years, we must look at a 15- to 20-year lifecycle. The challenge is to design and fit out a space that not only looks fresh today, but will still look good in 15 years. Just because it’s“green” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable and will pass the college-student-away-from-home test.

LEED Design — All in-house university designers have been extremely conscientious of materials and their use; they were thinking LEED before it was a popular theme. Many LEED-type efficiency requirements have been set up and in practice on college campuses for many years by in-house design professionals. LEED provides the validation and standardization to follow through with these strategies and allows for better record keeping of the efficiencies.

Ergonomics — In-house designers are faced with a diverse age group for whom to design spaces. Resident hall student lounges must be comfortable and friendly for mobile college students to either study in or gather for their weekly Friday night video-gaming league, but also tasteful enough for parents to approve when they make campus visits. In-house designers also work with college administrators and staff to ensure that their workstations and offices do not cause strains or problems that might interfere with their work. Chairs and desk area must fit not only their bodies, but their work habits and equipment as well.

Residence Hall Living Arrangements — A growing trend for residence halls is to develop Community Living and Learning Centers. Typically, these buildings cluster a group of similar students (all freshman or all upper-level students) in the same building where they eat, sleep, go to class, study and socialize together. For many of the older, more established schools, it is a return to their roots, where students and faculty would live and hold class in the same building, either on campus or off.

Also noted is a trend to more apartment-style living arrangements. Today’s typical college freshman has, at home, his or her own private 130- to 150-sq.-ft. bedroom. Consequently, more freshmen are asking for a single, rather than sharing a room. They also bring more electronic devices to school, other than the stereo equipment that students brought in the 1990s. Computers are standard items, along with iPods, cell phones, gaming devices and skateboards. College students become extremely creative when storing all of these items in a shared 200-sq.-ft. room!

Research Spaces — A need is developing to have a shell interior space because the competition for researchers is fast and furious. That creates CIP projects that are phased, creating a complicated workload for interior designers. Projects may end up in three or four phases, creating scheduling problems for interiors. Outsourcing is out of the question, because the scope is constantly changing, can be delayed and then reenter the workflow unexpectedly. This trend is expected to continue as research institutions fight for the best-qualified and funded professors.

Finishes — In-house designers are testing the waters with these ideas; whether they will perform or fail is still undecided: The use of random carpet tiles instead of broadloom to allow carpet upgrading where staining or wear might otherwise require the whole carpet to be replaced, porcelain tiles, laminated floors, hospitality-style carpets and borders and crypton fabrics for upholstery.

The AUID ( is a non-profit organization established in 1979 to provide an information-sharing opportunity for individuals who work within institutions of higher education and to promote a higher level of professional practice with activities designed to benefit its members through education, communication and research.

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