On the University of North Dakota (UND) campus, on a site that once held single-story single-family units now stands University Place, the newest quadrangle of apartment housing for this vibrant institution. Designed to encourage communication, promote healthy living, and attract new students, University Place offers 76 units of apartment-style living, along with study and social lounges, a food emporium and coffee shop, and a number of meeting rooms with high-tech equipment in an environmentally-friendly setting.
UND’s vision for University Place was created entirely with students in mind. Aesthetically, the school wanted the facility to act as a showpiece that would be attractive to young people (and their parents). Educationally, UND wanted the apartment style housing to enhance the university experience for its graduates – with public study and hangout spots. Programmatically, University Place needed to be environmentally sensitive and responsive, secure, and flexible enough to accommodate multiple development phases, including a potential future conversion into family housing if the need should arise, and Phase I completed in 13 months. Additionally, student surveys uncovered several other requests from the University’s population, including the inclusion of wireless Internet, space for musical and theatrical performances in the food emporium, and the availability of study lounges throughout.
The design team came up with three main goals for the project:
1. Provide the highest quality hall possible for the established budget;
2. Construct University Place in the time allotted;
3. Create a facility that turned UND’s vision into reality.
GOAL 1: Provide the highest quality hall possible for the established budget.
Sustainable design techniques, although popular, are often seen as too expensive for many projects. In the case of University Place, environmentally-friendly architecture proved to be both affordable and practical.
A well-structured planning process that included involvement from all user groups (students, housing staff, dining staff, law enforcement, traffic control, maintenance, and other UND administrators) meant that sustainable design was incorporated from the beginning. Various means, methods, and materials were evaluated to get the most value. Several alternates were bid, and brought the original bid $500,000 under budget. This meant that the “wish list” items would be incorporated. For the rest of the project, the team worked directly with the contractor to Value Engineer sustainable products and details.
The placement of University Place was selected to increase density, encourage walking and biking, and lessen disturbance of the trees on site. An erosion control plan included minimizing transporting soils off-site by creating landscape “mounds” and storm water retention ponds, which also provided a setting for native grasses.
Made of pre-cast concrete with brick veneer, the building was designed to last for many years. The pre-cast concrete was fabricated one-half mile from the site, and locally-manufactured bricks were purchased. Steam heat was supplied from UND’s steam plant. Materials were selected for their durability and ease of maintenance, and were often recycled. Heavy-duty, 1” low-E glazed windows and air-lock vestibules protect against the northern climate. In addition, a Commissioning Agent was used to verify that all of the HVAC equipment, including individual units for each apartment, was working at optimal levels. In the end, the most energy-efficient building on campus came in on budget.
GOAL 2: Construct University Place in the time allotted.
With the erection of University Place came the demolition of one-story single-family housing, leaving a gap in residence units for students. Therefore, the construction of the new facility had to be complete in time for the fall semester.
A communicative design and construction process led to the completion of the new apartment complex in the 13-month timeframe. The tightly-monitored schedule and tasks took into consideration winter conditions that could potentially sideline exterior construction, as well as delay material shipments. As a result, materials were ordered as soon as they were selected. The constant communication kept the project on task, and allowed the team to work ahead when possible. University Place was completed on time, and students were able to begin the school year in the new facility.
GOAL 3: Create a facility that turned UND’s vision into reality.
With University Place completed on time and within its budget, the last and most important step was to make sure that the apartments met all of the needs and desires of the University of North Dakota and its students.
Located on a prime spot at a point on campus where the architectural character changes from classical collegiate gothic to contemporary, University Place bridges the two styles by using fitting materials and colors, and also mirroring details found on the historic buildings around the school. Glass lounge areas at each corner glow at night, acting as “lanterns” for people passing by the grand apartment complex.
The design of the corridors and vertical stacking helped keep the building plan compact, and also paved the way for units to be added in future developments. A mixture of unit types provide for a variety of living arrangements, and also mae it possible to later convert University Place into family housing should demand warrant. All areas of the building are ADA accessible, and there are several more ADA units than required by code.
The specialized café/convenience store and food emporium encourage serendipitous discussions and planned meetings, as well as musical performances. Study and social recreation areas are found on every floor. And, of course, University Place has wireless access to the Internet.