Dean’s List Dorms Across America

The factory-line model is out for student housing; in its place, thoughtful solutions for community living engender enthusiasm for higher education and respect for a greener future. As dorms from Buffalo to Seattle make the dean’s list in terms of sustainability—lighting and heating triggered by sensors, stormwater education, and recycled materials get prominent play—also expect passing marks as architects create non-institutional buildings with well-lit spaces, open community quarters, room-size choices, built-in technology, flexible uses, and thoughtful indoor-outdoor relationships. Here, we collect three shining examples.

McMurtry, Duncan, Baker, and Will Rices Colleges at Rice University
McMurtry, Duncan, Baker, and Will Rices Colleges at Rice University were designed by Hanbury Evan Vlattas Rice Company. Image courtesy of © Robert Benson Photography All Rights Reserved.

The early-model college dorm didn’t lend itself especially well to developing a strong bond between student (i.e., future alumni donor) and university, so as college officials and architects rethink the cheap boxes of old, the focus turns to what matters most: people-centered, sustainable experiences for the modern student.

Douglas Hall, Seattle University

Douglas Hall, Seattle University

While mixing housing with a student center and commercial retail in an urban environment, Seattle-based firm Hewitt added in modern materials—preformed metal, cement, reclaimed lumber, and brick—with strong interior daylighting (light is king in the Pacific Northwest) according to Built Green standards; a stormwater system serves as an educational courtyard. David Hewitt, principal, says that now more than ever, “The younger generation is more sensitive to the importance of the resources we have and want to feel like their facility is responsible.” 

The interior of a dining pavilion on Rice University campus by Hanbury Evan Vlattas Rice Company.

McMurtry and Duncan Colleges, Rice University

While playing well with the campus’s historic and tree-rich nature, Hopkins Architects with Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company created a strong tie between interior and exterior spaces with healthy swaths of light in flexible spaces and green roofs. Custom-designed prefab bathroom pods and HVAC infrared room sensors highlight the LEED Gold efforts.

William R. Greiner Hall, State University of New York at Buffalo

Greiner Hall at University of Buffalo
Greiner Hall at University of Buffalo, designed by Cannon Design, boasts floor tiling made from recycled soda bottles, man-made ponds for recycling greywater, electrical outlets that are wheelchair-height accessible, and lounge-style classrooms and meeting areas.

Cannon Architects drew in the students to the multistory glass-and-brick-clad dorm with double-room suites, a cafe, multiuse classrooms, and fireplace lounges—and then educated them about LEED Gold with Plyboo walls, tiles manufactured out of recycled bottles, building-cooling techniques, accessibility-minded features, and an intricate bioswale system.

Plywood walls in Greiner Hall
Another sustainable attribute in Greiner Hall, a dorm that houses up to 600 sophomores on campus, are the Plyboo walls throughout.

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