There’s no doubt that university students, staff and faculty were put through the 2020 wringer.
Campuses that once bustled with hurried footsteps, chatter about yesterday’s exam, and the sensation of drive and determination so thick you could cut it, became ghost towns overnight. Though many classrooms and buildings sat unused, frozen in time from that fateful day in March 2020, universities across the country are taking strides to welcome students back in-person for the Fall 2021 semester.
However, campus facilities may look very different.
During the strenuous 20-21 academic year, demand for large lecture halls and student service offices dramatically decreased as schools learned how well those offerings translate to online platforms. We’ve seen growing trends in blended curriculum and programs that support the need for flexibility in students and faculty. And, we’ve now learned, campuses must have comprehensive protocol and space design developed to implement emergency action for, well, anything.
A proactive university makes a productive campus
Gen Z is a collaborative, technology-oriented, information-hungry generation. As the current generation entering higher education, these students’ values and experiences will lead a heavy influence in post-pandemic institutional design. With an inclination towards technology and active learning, institutional environments will need to facilitate flexibility and communication, both face-to-face and digitally.
Multifunctional lobbies, layered pavilions and “Next Gen” libraries will become the heart of campuses. These spaces offer tech-friendly, social areas where students can collaborate, learn, relax and have fun. Gen Z students are forward-thinking and overwhelmingly entrepreneurial. A proactive university will harness current students’ ingenuity to design spaces that promote creativity and success in future generations.
Picking up the pieces of universities’ past
In the aftermath of COVID-19, it is more common to redesign existing spaces than build new. Feedback technology exists to measure space utilization and satisfaction. Facility planners will use that qualitative and quantitative data to create actionable goals and intentional choices in space design. Modifying existing areas to fit safety standards and appeal to student values is crucial in recruiting and retaining student bodies.