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SCUP poster forum: Maintaining campus functionality during master plan implementation

Architects are familiar with the “cocktail napkin sketch” phenomenon – an idea whose essence can be captured with a simple, elegant scrawling of lines on a scrap of paper. In many ways, a master plan is like the older brother of the cocktail napkin sketch – a more mature capture of an idea of organization, hierarchy and design language made at a broad-brush level.

A revitalized campus was the end result of recent construction Towson University, and careful implementation of the master plan was an essential component of this success.

Architects are familiar with the “cocktail napkin sketch” phenomenon – the quick inspiration for a building project that can strike suddenly, an idea whose essence can be captured with a simple, elegant scrawling of lines on a scrap of paper. In many ways, a master plan is like the older brother of the cocktail napkin sketch – a more mature capture of an idea of organization, hierarchy and design language made at a broad-brush level.

A campus master plan is an important tool for enabling smart growth, but it’s like a map with just a destination pin – the traveler knows the end goal, but not the details of the journey. The implementation of the first part of Towson University’s master plan required careful planning of each leg – coordination with local utilities and approving agencies to align with the construction schedule; dealing with unexpected quantities of subsurface rock within the foundation; forensic tracing of underground utilities to determine the actual conditions when the as-built drawings prove to be incomplete or inaccurate.

We packed our traveling bag with essentials, which included front-loading construction activities to perform test pitting and mapping of utilities to minimize unpleasant surprises, dividing phases into multiple bid sets to streamline procurement and construction, incorporating strategic float time in the construction schedule and taking a flexible approach to packaging, sequencing and executing the work. Ultimately, having a team that consisted of the University, the Construction Manager and the Design Team that met regularly throughout the design and construction phases and was able to communicate and collaborate effectively enabled Towson to remain fully operational during major disruptions and disturbances in its academic precinct. The end result? A campus transformed.

Towson University’s Classes of 2010 and 2011 (and possibly the Class of 2012) will have spent their entire college career on a campus in the midst of dramatic upheaval, years with shifting pedestrian detours, muddy holes in the ground, and blasting. Was the inconvenience a good trade for a state-of-the-art College of Liberal Arts and a more aesthetically pleasing and accessible campus?

This is one of the projects we are presenting in poster session format at this week’s national conference for the Society for College and University Planners (SCUP) in National Harbor, Maryland. The poster sessions are an interactive forum that invites comments on the content and questions we’ve included in our piece.

We’d like to hear from SCUP attendees on the following topics:

  1. As a university administrator, are there limitations, disruptions, or other inconveniences that you are prepared to place on the students and faculty to accomplish your goal of implementing campus construction? For how long?
  2. Which is the LEAST detrimental to campus activities and student life: permitting major disruption to access and services for a semester, or stretching less severe and shorter-duration disturbances over a two-year period? Why?

At the conference, attendees will provide their responses to our poster with Post-it Notes (which we hope to share or summarize on this blog), but we invite comments here from our online community as well. Many thanks!

Authored by Kristina Vidal

 

A campus master plan is an important tool for enabling smart growth, but it’s like a map with just a destination pin – the traveler knows the end goal, but not the details of the journey.

This is one of the projects we are presenting in poster session format at this week’s national conference for the Society for College and University Planners (SCUP) in National Harbor, Maryland.

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