4 Tips for Adaptive Reuse in Higher Education

How to successfully expand your campus by repurposing old buildings


ISU Adaptive Reuse building

Former Post Office and Courthouse turned into the ISU Scott College of Business


Whether you have a building on campus that is sitting vacant, or you’re looking for a new space to expand into, adaptive reuse is an effective option for many higher education construction projects.

“Adaptive reuse” refers to giving an existing building—often a fairly old, historic one—a new purpose. It involves taking a space that used to serve one function, recycling it, and reusing it to serve a new function.


Why Reuse Old Buildings?


You can’t build new forever, which is why adaptive reuse is becoming increasingly popular—not only in higher education, but across all sectors. In fact, more than 90 percent of the future building inventory in the United States in 2025 already exists, according to the American Institute of Architecture. This means buildings we have today will need to be reused and repurposed in the future.

Adaptive reuse is a smart way to expand a campus for many reasons. It can reduce costs by using existing facilities instead of building brand new construction. It’s also the environmentally responsible choice, as it allows you to recycle structures and materials and avoid developing on new land.

If you’re repurposing a building already on your campus, adaptive reuse also helps preserve the heritage of your university or college by retaining original architecture. This ensures new spaces remain visually cohesive with the rest of campus.

Learn more about why adaptive reuse is important in today’s world. 


Successful Adaptive Reuse


While reusing old buildings has a lot of benefits, it also has its challenges. Unlike new construction, there will likely be unique hiccups that arise when opening up old buildings. If you go into the project for the right reasons and with the right mindset, the result will be a more meaningful space with historic charm.

Prepare for the process by keeping these keys to a successful adaptive reuse in mind:

1. Take advantage of the opportunities the building gives you.

The fun part of an adaptive reuse is figuring out how to reinvent the space for the needs of today. The obstacles of existing construction are what prompts innovative solutions. The building will give you natural opportunities to design creatively and think outside the box.

Can a leftover corner be turned into a study nook? Can an awkwardly placed stairwell be opened and made into an interesting new focal point? Take those opportunities to make the building memorable and unique to your campus.

2. Highlight historic character.

Not every old building is ornate and beautiful. If you are lucky enough to be adapting one that is, be careful not to erase those details that made the building what it was. As you revamp flow and function, look for characteristics you can preserve and blend with your new design.

When we transformed an old post office and courthouse into the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University, we reconfigured and adapted the building to the needs of a modern business program, but we retained the historic details that gave it character. We kept the post office’s old mailboxes, made the bank teller windows peer into the new classrooms, and rewired and fully restored the two-story federal courtroom to its original glory for large group functions.

ISU Adaptive Reuse

ISU Scott College of Business

3. Be honest about what you need.

Adaptive reuse requires you to reimagine what your space could be. This often means tossing out old ideas of what you think you need. It also means carefully integrating modern amenities and building systems that don’t compete with the historic architecture.

However, the ultimate goal is to create a space that functions well for your program. Be honest about what that means. Some spaces may not work for a specific function, no matter how hard you try. This doesn’t mean you have to demolish the building. You might just need to think outside its four walls.

When we transformed the old St. Vincent Hospital into the Ivy Tech Illinois Fall Creek Center, we knew retaining the recognizable patient wings and their facades would be important. They were iconic to the surrounding community. However, those wings weren’t an appropriate size for classrooms. Instead, we made them into administrative offices and built additions for the new learning spaces. We carefully juxtaposed the 1913 architecture with new modern lines, and a one-of-a-kind education facility was born.

Old St. Vincent turned into Ivy Tech Fall Creek

Before and After of Ivy Tech Illinois Fall Creek Center

4. Involve the right stakeholders.

One of the most important parts of successful adaptive reuse has nothing to do with the building. The project can only work if the right people are at the table.

Think about everyone who is tied to the space:

  • If the building was not previously part of one of your campuses, make sure you talk with the surrounding community. Understand what the building means to them, and what their hopes are for it.
  • Get insights from the building’s previous tenant/owner; they know it best.
  • If necessary, involve the Historic Preservation Office early.
  • Make sure key faculty and student groups have a say in the process.

When everyone understands the goal of rejuvenating an old space—and can help inform the end product—the result is a more integrated, effective design.


Want to know more about pursuing an adaptive reuse project? Contact our architects and engineers.

What are the Roles of a Design/Build Team?

Typically there are three primary team members on a design/build project. They include the Owner, the criteria developer, and the design/build (D/B) contractor. Each one is explained in more detail below:

1. Owner

•  Work with criteria developer to capture needs and desires in criteria documents/contract documents
•  Implement a process to select D/B contractor
•  Work with D/B contractor to finalize design and construction (sometimes through criteria developer/project manager)
•  Communicate changing needs to D/B contractor
•  Participate in punch list process
•  Move in and enjoy the new facility

2. Criteria Developer

•  Work with Owner personnel and stakeholders to draft criteria documents/contract documents
•  Sometimes hired to represent the Owner throughout construction and review design/construction/completion activities
•  May review pay applications and change orders and assist Owner in the punch list process
•  Advise Owner on contractual matters and D/B contractor compliance with contract
•  Assist Owner to maintain budget integrity

3. Design/Build Contractor 

•  Provide qualifications proposal and initial renderings to demonstrate their vision of compliance with the criteria documents
•  Confirm pricing with subcontractors that meets design criteria
•  Provide scope compliance information and agree on cost with Owner
•  Design the project using qualified design professionals and obtain Owner approval of code- compliant design that meets the criteria documents
•  Design team maintains engagement in project throughout construction
•  Construct the project, draft changes, punch out and complete the facility
•  Maintain budget and schedule throughout the duration of the project
•  Provide clear and regular communication with Owner on project status and any changes
•  Obtain good reference from satisfied Owner

So, why should an Owner select design/build?

  1. Single source of accountability – this goes for design and construction
  2. Budget management – discussing budget throughout the duration of design
  3. Enhanced communication – early and ongoing communications between Owner, design contractor, and subcontractor(s)
  4. Faster project completion – can shorten overall schedule since construction starts while design is being completed

If you have more questions or want to get started on your next project with us, reach out!


How Can Architecture & Design Affect Higher Education?

Butler University College of Education

Butler University – College of Education at CTS

If you’ve spent any amount of time on a well-designed, beautifully constructed university campus, then you understand the importance of architecture when it comes to influencing higher education. Not only can architecture inspire imagination and creativity, but it can unite students, teachers, and the community to create a space that feels energized, organic, and magnetic.

There are several ways architects can influence the way a higher education building is interpreted by the people who will use it every day. Considering there are more than 21,000 universities across the globe (and hundreds more currently being constructed), this specific design niche makes a notable footprint in the world’s landscape.

Can a design help make students more successful? Can architecture unite people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs?

We think so.

Here are a few ways that architecture and design directly affect higher education:

Vertical Spaces. Because many higher education campuses and their buildings are so large, it’s easy for designs to focus on the outward, horizontal sprawl. And, while often beautiful to look at, there’s a feeling of being “lost in a crowd” that can make these types of buildings and spaces less than conducive to interaction and collaboration. Instead, higher education facilities can look to find ways to build up – not out. These vertical spaces, when designed for students and staff in particular, become a powerful magnet for interaction, allowing individuals on campus to feel less “lost” and more as part of the crowd.

Cross-Pollination. Traditionally, most higher education campuses were divided into “schools”, separating one group of students and its professors from another. However, new facilities or those undergoing renovation and restoration are re-thinking this concept. Rather than sectioning people away from each other, as if some sort of quarantine is in place, new buildings and spaces are being designed so that students and staff from different disciplines have an opportunity to interact. This can take shape in many ways, but some of the most interesting are a sort of tunnel-bridge concept that connect buildings on multiple levels.

Natural Light. The more light you let in, the more successful you will be. Or, at least, that’s what many studies are confirming. In addition to more success, natural light is said to make people happier, reduce stress, and combat illness as well. By finding ways to allow more natural light in, higher education facilities can improve the environment for everyone working and learning on campus. In addition to natural light, which can be let in by windows and skylights, creating spaces that are truly light-filled, such as a wall of windows or clear walls, can help make studying and meetings more enjoyable.

Student-Centric. Students want to feel like they belong at their university or college – and that’s something that great design can accomplish. When creating a space, architects should look at developing areas that are convenient for students to enjoy. Places to safely store laptops and personal items in between lectures, attractive lobbies with comfortable and adaptable furniture, as well as large seating areas where bigger study or friend groups can meet will help to bolster the attitude and loyalty of students on campus.

Skip-Stop Strategy. In order to create healthy, vibrant spaces on higher ed campuses, architects should look for ways to incorporate the “skip-stop” strategy. The idea behind this concept is to help students and staff circulate easily, offering more opportunities for exercise as well as those chance encounters with friends and acquaintances. A notable innovation are skip-stop elevators, which only stop on certain floors, encouraging individuals to use the stairs. In cases where the stairs are designed in conjunction with this strategy, you can develop staircases that are grand, wide, filled with light, and a natural place to stop and chat. In order to be ADA compliant and for employee convenience, there must be a secondary elevator option which does stop on each floor.

Outdoor Strips. Acting as gateways to campus, large outdoor strips can be an inviting way to welcome students and visitors. They’re also the perfect place to host sports activities and large gatherings. Beautiful to walk through, these strips are also another way to bring the campus community together on a daily basis.

When designed and built with the intention to inspire the next generation, there’s no limit to how beneficial architecture can be on higher education campuses.

Hands-On Healthcare Education

What makes a successful learning environment for training much-needed healthcare providers? Facilities geared toward experiential learning! Students today must learn differently while new information is being generate faster than ever before. Designers of healthcare teaching facilities are tasked with creating flexible, experiential learning environments to fulfill this need, and Schmidt Associates has worked with many collegiate partners to create facilities to train future healthcare providers.

Experiential learning requires flexible, hi-tech classrooms and laboratories, as well as unstructured learning spaces.

Classrooms must accommodate:

  • state-of-the art technology for technical medical equipment and information,
  • distance learning
  • digital display
  • flexible furniture for collaborative and varied learning
  • enough wireless data capacity for 4-6 devices per student

Marian University COM Classroom

Laboratories must address the many needs of simulation equipment, including technology to run high-fidelity mannequins, adequate space for medical furnishings and equipment, and appropriate infrastructure for simulated gasses and utilities.

Labs also need multiple support spaces: storage for equipment and supplies, information, display and set up space, and potentially small group meeting space. All of these may double the space need for laboratories.

Ivy Tech Franklin

Unstructured spaces are the “accidental” learning spaces that allow students to continue a learning moment with faculty, study in peer social groups, and study on their own while still feeling part of a larger learning group. Breakout spaces, extra large corridors, coffee bars, and lobby areas all provide space for enhanced learning and positive community building.

Marian COM Lounge


Schmidt Associates truly understands these varied learning environments and has expertise in uniting them into cohesive facilities. From the recently opened Marian University Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences (housing the first Catholic College of Osteopathic Medicine in the country), the Ivy Tech Dental Lab in Anderson that serves its community through free and reduced-cost dental care, the Marchant School of Nursing in Bloomington, and the IU Student Health Clinic, hands-on health science facilities are critical to addressing our healthcare crisis.

Ivy Tech Anderson Dental Clinic

As our population continues to grow and age, healthcare education is increasingly important to remedy the shortage of personnel to serve unique and changing healthcare needs. Higher education institutions have stepped up to fill this gap, and collaborative, hands-on training has become the standard pedagogy for medical, nursing and dental school programs.

If we can help transform your facility into an interactive environment for future healthcare professionals, reach out!

Designing Residence Halls Specifically for the Student

Integrating specific academic environments into five Ball State University Residence Halls was a key early design consideration for the combined $144+ million projects. There was an opportunity to create an interplay between pre-millennial student lifestyle, academic, and career interests while also optimizing for energy efficiency. By adding the latest technologies, new amenities, and flexible design elements into the residence halls, a new sense of camaraderie and function can be seen throughout.

Here’s a synopsis for each:

Botsford/Swinford Residence Hall – Emerging Media Center

Size: 164,000 square feet
Cost: $27,800,000

  • Audio and video production studios
  • New lounge spaces
  • Demonstration kitchen—enables guest chefs to demonstrate food skills including healthy eating and unique cooking styles
  • Original structure was demolished to its concrete frame and foundation
  • It was designed for LEED Silver certification and received LEED Gold certification.



Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall – A Living-Learning Community for Dance, Theatre, and Design Students

Size: 154,000 square feet
Cost: $33,000,000

  • Two-story lounge spaces and central lounge with a performance area
  • Dance studio, black box theatre, computer lab, fitness room, and drawing room
  • Strong sense of collaboration and camaraderie
  • The new facility re-images the entry into campus where students are center stage
  • Currently in review for LEED certification.



Studebaker East Residence Hall – Creating A Home-Away-From-Home For International Students

Size: 109,750 square feet
Cost: $18,450,000

  • Student collaboration is enhanced through a new multi-purpose room and three two-story lounge spaces
  • Lounges are equipped with kitchens so students can share cultural foods
  • Provided a sense of community for present and future students
  • New highly-efficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and technology systems throughout the building resulted in LEED Gold Certification.

Studebaker East


DeHority Residence Complex – Collaborative Spaces for Honors College Students

Size: 131,070 square feet
Cost: $21,920,000

  • Integrating social, learning, and living space so dedicated honor students can combine interests and ambitions
  • Semi-private restrooms with lockers. Each room has stackable furniture and adjustable wardrobe closets
  • Students can take advantage of the exhibition hall for meetings and presentations
  • Ball State’s first LEED Silver certified building on campus.



New Residence Hall 1 – Construction is underway for the third living/learning community developed from the North Campus Master Plan.

Size: 137,700 square feet
Cost: $43,600,000

  • Built for S.T.M. students and equipped with a makerspace, fabrication lab with 3D printing capabilities, and a virtual reality pod.
  • New campus neighborhood
  • Living/Learning Community
  • Site amenities include a fire pit and hammocks
  • LEED Certification anticipated

New Residence Hall 1


Like what we did? Need someone for your next project? Let’s Talk!


Synthetic Turf Fields 101

It always pays to know the advantages and disadvantages before making a big change for your facility. Deciding to switch from natural to synthetic turf is a good example of that. Synthetic turf fields are gaining popularity among sporting and recreational venues because of the lower maintenance costs and the perk of year-round use. However, natural turf is still here to compete with it’s lower upfront costs. So which is right for your facility?

Kyle Miller, Principal, Project Manager, and our expert on the topic, breaks it all down for you.

Also, check out our infographic comparing synthetic and natural turf


Getting Real About Value Engineering

“Value engineering” is perhaps the most overused and under-realized term in the design/construction industry today. It has become the catch bucket for any exercise that involves reducing costs.

By definition, value is the ratio of function to cost. Value is increased by improving function or reducing cost. A great example: the benefit analysis of solar shading provided by extending the overhang of a roof. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) and special software programs, we can determine the optimum energy savings obtained from shading by applying the most cost-effective roof extension (the ratio of function to cost). Our analysis identifies the point of diminishing return – the point when the increased cost of the roof begins to yield lower shading benefit. This is value engineering.

In contrast, most references to a “value-engineering exercise” are in reality a “cost-reduction exercise.” It involves compiling a list of items (or functions) to eliminate from the project, thereby reducing cost. This is not necessarily a bad thing to do. In fact, it is often an unavoidable part of any project since needs and wants are almost always greater than budgets. However, calling it “value engineering” is a misnomer because the function is eliminated along with the cost.

It is important to recognize that value can be lost with the cost reduction. This often occurs when a function that yields a long-term benefit (reduced energy or operational cost) is eliminated to provide an initial cost reduction. A clear understanding of the difference between “value engineering” and “cost reduction” helps avoid decisions with unintended consequences or “de-value engineering.”

Making Art a Priority

How do you balance two priorities for a new building: a need for high-tech learning and the desire for a beautiful and inspiring space? It’s working at the new Evans Center for Health Sciences at Marian University. The building was recognized at the Monumental Affair with an Achievement Award in the Public Art category in 2013.

Rain Garden Walkway

It was natural to include the latest in learning and medical technology for the home of a new osteopathic medical school and Marian’s School of Nursing. But Marian University also chose to make the building an artistic expression of Catholic values and holistic, nurturing medical care. The art will be a permanent part of the structure, long after the technology has been replaced by the next generation.

It was great fun for us to create a space that is both high-tech and inspiring.  And as advocates of sustainability, we love that the Chapel furniture was crafted from walnut trees cleared from the site to make room for construction. Weberding’s Carving Shop created custom walnut chairs, candle stands and other furniture pieces from these trees.


We invite you to notice the facility’s distinctive features as you drive by 30th Street and Cold Spring Road. Better yet, walk inside to get an up-close view. Take your time. Soak it in. Enjoy the work of local artists.

Here’s a mini-tour of what to look for:

  • The San Damiano Cross – Stained glass panels on the southeast corner’s “lantern” represent the San Damiano Cross. The mix of color and translucent panels washes color throughout the space and allows people in the building to see outside, and people outside to glimpse what’s going on inside, linking students with their environment.

Board Room

  • DNA representations – A DNA strand is represented in the terrazzo pattern of the curvilinear circulation path; the donor wall and a wood feature wall that anchors a centralized open staircase were conceptualized from DNA markers and are key focal points in the open commons.
  • Relief Mural – A cast stone relief mural by artist Jay Tschetter of Nebraska conveys the Biblical story of St. Francis and the lepers.

St. Francis and the Lepers Artwork

  • Stations of the Cross – Fourteen bronze reliefs mounted on walnut panels fabricated by Nick Ring Studio of Jasper, IN, describe the crucifixion story, a key part of the Catholic faith.
  • Stained Glass Windows – The Chapel’s stained glass windows by Der Glass Werks of Indianapolis depict images of Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
Stained Glass in Chapel

Stained Glass in Chapel

  • Commons Art Niches – Artist Karen Glanders from Nashville, IN created five mosaic art works that reflect the institutional values of prayer, dignity of the individual, responsible stewardship, peace/justice, and reconciliation.

If you’re up for walking the inner campus, look back toward the chapel’s exterior cone shape.  Enhanced with zinc shingles and a lighted cross, the cone shape creates a unique and highly visible termination for the pedestrian corridor.

If you can’t get to the Evans Center for Health Sciences at Marian University in person, check out photos here.

College Attendance. Don’t Drop Out. Do Tune In!

40 years ago that forerunner of virtual learning, the correspondence course, was mostly the preserve of those either struggling to gain acceptance to college, unable to attend for financial reasons, or looking to gain very precise professional qualifications while working fulltime. Today, the choices and access points for remote education are growing exponentially. The social “acceptability” of those choices is less of an issue than the practical career advantages they bestow. And the extraordinary face value for money offered is more and more attractive to financially hard-pressed students.

So how can the campus built environment actively contribute to motivating prospective students to turn up, as opposed to simply turning on their computer and staying at home to study? It’s a valid question and one that farsighted strategists within higher education have been asking themselves for some time now. And while it is true that so far there has been no total abandonment of the campus for the coffee shop and the laptop, the idea of remote learning is no longer remote from the experience of America’s student population.

One research report, a collaboration between the Center for Digital Education and Converge, suggests that if current trends continue, by 2018 there will be more fulltime online post-secondary students than students who take all their classes in a physical location. So-called MOOCS, Massive Open Online Courses, are hugely attractive, in principle at least, to students hesitating at the likelihood of substantial debt incurred as a result of choosing a college education. The rising tide of technology and communications-led change that has transformed so many other workplaces beyond recognition has now lapped up against the foundations of traditionally administered higher education.

However, at Schmidt Associates, we do not view the role of architects, designers, and built environment technologists as being to assist higher education leaders in a resistance to the tide of change. Rather, our ideal function is to help lend three-dimensional appeal to the prospect of a campus based education in an increasingly “disintermediated” world. That’s the high vision. What can we do in practice?

The first important recognition is that there do not need to be dogmatic distinctions made, and irreversible positions adopted, in some notional pitched battle between “real” and “virtual” styles of education. A far more likely, and desirable outcome is the notion of “blended” education styles. In the blended approach, the campus does what it does best: providing a home and focus for human interaction, face-to-face. Meanwhile, virtual learning opens up channels to a range of resources that no physical building, or even an entire city, could ever hope to hold.

This blended approach is already gaining traction with courses of study that at one time were only considered valid, “respectable” even, when students attended every day, all day, in person, and in classrooms that would have been familiar to their predecessors 150 years ago. (In one University Dental School, applications have gone up by more than seven percent since the Faculty started loading lectures online shortly after they are given. Students value the flexibility and increased knowledge access offered by this blend of live learning and online resource.)

Those of us whose profession it is to think about how the campus built environment can best respond to these changes have to do some practical thinking. Spaces will need to change, sometimes radically, in the face of evolving demands made upon them.

The library is an excellent example. Blended learning will inevitably increase the proportion of student time spent on highly personalized study courses. Course resources will much more likely be located online than along lines of textbooks. One of our roles as designers will be to reinterpret the library space.

Where do the real books go in an eBook world? How will we physically accommodate new styles of collaborative, small group learning without disturbing the hallowed “hush” of a place of study?  What kind of technology infrastructure will we need to install to accommodate permanent, exponential growth in demand for speed and variety of information access? What will make the library of the future a worthwhile destination for students? And how will we create it without damaging or discarding the dignities of the past?

Another challenge is the lecture theatre. As the old model of one presenter on “transmit” to a large room full of students on “receive” gives way to distributed information and anytime access, what do we do with the space where people used to sit and listen? How do we adapt it so that, for example, they can arrive having already accessed the lecture on their preferred remote device and then use the physical space, and the presence of their peers, to do the real work of discussion and debate of the material?

In reality, the cycle of reinterpretation and repurposing of campus space has only just begun. The challenges will continue. And they will grow. Yet so too will the opportunities. We believe that the ideal of “university” – in the sense of a collection of human minds and personalities that encompasses the diversity needed to engage with our great issues – can only grow in value over the next forty years. As designers, our task is to create the best spaces possible for that growth.

I’m Considering Your Offer

40 years ago, most undergraduates were delighted to gain acceptance to their college of choice. The “honor gradient” ran from the institution, at the notional “top”, down to the individual undergraduate, very much at the “bottom”. Today, the situation could not be more different with fierce competition for prospective students. With roles reversed, and the other party now on the “college catwalk”, what contribution can the built environment make to ensuring your institution remains top dog?

As designers with an extensive practice in the higher education sector, we believe it is important for us to understand something of the influences and the pressures that operate on our clients at a strategic level within the university and college communities. It is easy from our perspective, and we also happen to believe it passionately, that the campus built environment truly matters as a success factor for both attracting and retaining students. But it is only right that we should keep ourselves informed about the issues that really influence today’s higher education scene. So we did a little research.

What we found out strengthens our own conviction that the built environment matters a lot on campus. But it also opened up a rather different perspective. First, in the interests of balance, we do need to acknowledge that architectural aesthetics are very far from the only issue swaying student choices. The student’s home state remains a crucial factor. One survey carried out by the National Association for College Admission Counselling showed that 72% percent of students attend college in their home state, with just 16% percent enrolling beyond either their home or a bordering state. Recent (2013) findings from the Higher Education Research Institute affirm that some 48% percent of college students identify “financial aid” as a “very important” factor when they are choosing an institution. This importance had increased from 33% percent back in 2004.

The role and influence of financial considerations is neither surprising nor a one-of finding. The respected Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory, for Fall 2011 at colleges and universities nationwide, found that financial aid was the dominant reason to enroll for some 82% of first-year students, followed closely by cost of the education on offer, at 81% percent of students surveyed. So does it really all come down just to money and home state? We believe it does not. (And even if it did, one of our arguments remains that the built environment still has a major if somewhat different role to play.)

But for now, it’s back to those selection factors. The Noel Levitz Inventory includes several that are not directly related to fees and financial support. Two of them excite our particular interest and they are: geographic setting and campus appearance. The Inventory uses the following definitions:

  • Geographic setting: Addresses campus location as a factor because of distance from home as well as the setting of the school (urban, rural, etc.).
  • Campus appearance: Considers how the campus looks to the student and may also reflect perceptions of campus maintenance.

Some 62% percent of students cite the geographic setting as a key influencing factor. That may arguably be an extension of the “home state factor” explored above. But campus appearance and its associated issues affect 63% of students when they make their choice of college. So it does matter. Of course, there is nothing counter intuitive about the proposition that an attractive or impressive campus is going to exert a positive influence. It certainly is interesting from our perspective however to see just how directly the quality of built environment is tied to student choice.

There is however a strategic debate to be had that sits apart from the aesthetics. In the face of the data, many higher education strategists might be tempted to forsake the built environment in favor of maximizing financial support and minimizing fees. This, their logic might run, would play more strongly to the predominantly home and adjacent state student crowd, positioning them competitively against local and regional rivals. The logic may well be sound, but it does not automatically demand they relegate the built estate.

In reality, campus buildings have a significant role to play, not simply in looking good on the day when a prospective student visits college, but on making the education they offer more financially affordable too. Now, that may seem counter-intuitive. How can visibly high-quality buildings and an impressive environment translate into lower fees and higher levels of student financial support? The answer lies in the ability of architects and engineers to create high-performance as well as high-impact buildings.

“Smart” renovation, maintenance, and construction projects are not just making a marginal impact on daily campus running costs. The energy and materials savings they enable are stripping billions of dollars out of institutional running costs, as well as attracting “green” investment and endowment. Costing less to keep the lights on contributes directly to keeping the doors open to those many students for whom financial considerations matter. At the same time, building a sustainable campus means growing a positive profile as well as making monetary sense.

Strategically enlightened leadership in higher education is embracing the fact that, going forward, being competitive means a college education “at the right price” – to the student, to the institution, and to the environment. The campus built environment has a major role to play in making right price education a reality.