AIA LEED AP and lead designer at EYP Architecture & Engineering
New green space, equitable design and a strong approach to sustainability distinguish Framingham State’s newest Student Housing.
Framingham State University, a public institution approximately 20 miles from Boston with 6,415 students, has a residence life philosophy based on fostering student development through mentorship. So when it was time to build a new residence hall on the edge of campus, the students themselves were invited to shape the design of the building. The 410-bed, 127,500-square-foot North Hall is the result of ideas gathered during “charettes,” which are quickly assembled groups offering feedback on architectural and design projects.
From the charettes, the design architect, EYP Architecture & Engineering, was able to extract two of the most important final features of the building: A design that encouraged student mixing, and a more aggressive concept of sustainability. The team at EYP, along with executive architect Pfeufer Richardson Architects and Consigli Construction, were able to deliver what the students and faculty asked for. SHB spoke with Paul King, lead designer at EYP, about how this building advances the university’s educational mission.
SHB: In your view, what are some of the most unique features of this building?
King: There were a lot of things that were at the top of the minds of students and faculty administration when it came to sustainability, and we tried to push the envelope on the sustainable features. One of the most unique things is that the building is not air conditioned, almost at all. There is approximately 5 percent of the building that has air conditioning. That’s unusual these days when a typical residence hall is built.
They chose not to air condition it because they have another building they use for summer programming, and it seems to have a large enough capacity, so they elected for this building to be more sustainable.
We installed a geo-thermal loop to provide the cooling medium for those spaces that are air conditioned. It’s a loop of tubing that fits in the earth underneath the green space. So the cooling medium is a liquid that runs through the cooler earth as opposed to the warmer air. This was the first time we installed a geothermal loop on a residence hall.
The other thing that’s most significant that we did from a sustainable viewpoint was to capture the storm or rainwater that falls on the roof and in some places on the landscape and bring that through a filtration system and storage tank and use it to irrigate the landscape. We’ve added a significant green space to campus.
SHB: What was important to university leadership when it came to North Hall?
King: We always try to understand how the design fits with the university’s concept of student development and student life, asking the question, how is it that they like to set up a building to foster social growth? There were two things they put out right from the beginning. The first was there was a very limited supply of options on campus, so they wanted to sway a student’s decision when choosing between living on or off campus. The desire for unit mix really drove the design of predominantly suites. Point two was they really wanted every floor to be a mix, so the seniors could act as mentors to the underclassmen.
So that led to a program that includes semi-suites and full suites. Juniors and seniors would get full suites, but they both then needed to be mixed within any given floor. This led to having neighborhoods associated with an RA cohort of approximately 35 to 40 students.
The other thing that came out of a charette was one student said, you have some units that have living rooms and bay windows and you’ve got some units that don’t have that living space. Wouldn’t it be more equitable from a real estate point of view to put all the units that have their own living space on the outside facing the city, and all the units that don’t have the benefit of living space will get a great view on the greenspace side? We thought that was a brilliant idea. That led to the vast majority of the semi suites facing the green space.
SHB: When building student housing, how often do you host charettes?
King: We do it as a matter of course on every project. Sometimes it happens once, sometimes it happens several times. It all depends on the level of interest from the university.
SHB: Does the building have a LEED rating?
King: The client, Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA) requires the building to meet Mass LEED Plus quality, which is more or less equivalent to LEED silver. Right now we’re at the cusp between LEED silver and gold. We’re confident we’ll be able to get gold.