Master plan: A ‘denser’ campus

By Michael McFall

Administrators plan to transform the U into a denser and more environmentally-conscious campus during the next 25 years.

The U Board of Trustees approved an updated version of the campus master plan, a blueprint for future construction at the U, at its meeting on June 9. The plan focuses on reverting the U from a commuter campus back to a pedestrian campus where students travel less. Administrators have also incorporated plans to make the campus more environmentally sustainable.

Before the U was envisioned as a commuter campus, planners laid out the buildings around Presidents’ Circle so that the average student’s walking time between classes would not exceed eight or nine minutes.

The updated plan aims to bring the old mentality back and construct buildings around and between existing buildings to fill in the present space.

“Our campus is large,” said Eric Browning, an architect with Facilities Planning. “I can’t get from Milton Bennion Hall to the engineering buildings on time without going full speed.”

The plan will reduce travel time for students by making buildings on campus closer together.

This is contrary to the plan five years ago, when it was last presented to the Board of Trustees. The aim at that time was to expand construction throughout the U’s territory, adding new buildings around upper campus and student housing.

“Going back to the way it used to be done is like we’re going ‘back to the future,'” said John McNary, director of Facilities Planning.

Now, open space on the U campus will be saved for playgrounds, Browning said.

McNary said the Tanner Humanities Building and planned Student Life Center will hopefully cut down on the time a student spends traveling between classes. These additions should give students more time to interact with peers and teachers and participate in activities, which is the second aim of the renewed master plan, he said.

Architects hope students will become more engaged in peer and campus interaction, instead of arriving for classes and then leaving when they are over, he said.

The Student Life Center, which will be built near the Huntsman Center beneath the Legacy Bridge, is another step toward encouraging students to spend more time on campus and less time commuting.

Another plan to increase student engagement is to convert the current golf course into different zoned areas, including a research complex and athletic fields.

The updated plan also incorporates new dorms and student apartments near Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Huntsman Center to accommodate the demands of a growing student population and allow students to stay close to campus. Retail stores may be added alongside the planned student housing. The proposed development near the stadium is called the Universe Project.

The new apartments near the stadium will be open to everyone at this point, but will likely be used by graduate students and married couples, McNary said.

Facilities Planning hopes to encourage use of public transit by making the planned housing and retail buildings close to TRAX stops. It will also create a more aesthetically pleasing arrival than the current parking lots, McNary said.

The new plan encourages public transit among students and faculty as part of its sustainability efforts.

The timing of the renewed plan’s sustainability focus was perfect, because it coincided with the creation of the U’s Office of Sustainability, Browning said. The plan’s sustainability initiatives can be coordinated with the office to make the most of them, he said.

Sustainability efforts also include replacing some of the current plant life with natural species that only require rainfall to survive.

The U’s water usage is about 15 percent lower than what the campus was using about five or six years ago, thanks to new technology that adjusts irrigation levels and detects pipe breaks, said Chris Atkins, director of plant operations.

Hopefully, the renewed master plan will reduce the U’s use of city water by up to 50 percent, said Cory Higgins, associate vice-president of facilities management.

The updated plan includes ideas for catching, using and processing rain water instead of letting it run away into the storm drains, as well as adjusted irrigation levels and more efficient interior systems.

The long-term goal is to reduce the amount of water used on campus to no more than what naturally falls from the sky, McNary said.

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