Progressive Design That Fosters Fellowship and Powers Empirical Learning

In recent years, there has been an increase in the importance of flexible, non-traditional learning environments as they pertain to higher education facilities.

These essential spaces can help educators adapt to shifts in pedagogy, technology, healthcare demand and specialized needs; promote social interaction within and across cohorts, resulting in closer working relationships between students and faculty; and enhance the positive impact of coursework activities.

It was with this understanding that CPL approached new accommodations for the School of Health Professions at St. Bonaventure University (SBU). The administration sought programming for a 44,000 sq. ft. facility that would serve as a self-sustaining “home” for students, featuring contemporary classrooms, laboratories, lounges, residence halls and a full-service cafeteria.

Following extensive visioning sessions with SBU partners, it was concluded that CPL would design renovations for one of the school’s existing structures: Francis Hall, a historic, sizeable building that had begun to show signs of wear. The project encompassed everything from planning new classroom layouts to engineering solutions for enhanced facility operation; it also involved adaptive reuse of the building’s chapel.

Because space was at a premium, flexibility was crucial in programming the school’s new settings. CPL’s agile project team therefore envisioned adaptable, state-of-the-art workspaces that support continually evolving medical teaching pedagogies while meeting diverse student and faculty needs.

Key design components included physical diagnosis and simulated anatomy training spaces with hospital beds, exam tables and attached debrief rooms that also function as 24-hour group study spaces; a physical and occupational therapy area; numerous student breakout spaces; and several multipurpose offices.

Underscoring SBU’s commitment to embracing emerging technologies, the simulated anatomy laboratory includes two Anatomage tables that showcase life-size displays of the human body, as well as an anatomy visualization system and a virtual library of human cadavers. The sophisticated tools champion hands-on interaction and help students develop a profound understanding of pathophysiology practices and disease conditions through the dissection of 3D scans.

“Incorporating the latest technology was an important driver for the new school because it enables experiential learning,” explained Carly Owczarczak, CID, LEED AP, WELL AP, Senior Interior Designer at CPL. “We also implemented charging ports throughout the building, and the adjustable furniture, which is USB-compatible, allows for rearrangement as needed. Our goal was to ensure every layout could be modified to support future technological advancements and trends within the medical profession.”

CPL also converted the former chapel into a vibrant, multipurpose collaborative zone equipped to host seminars and student hangouts alike. To preserve some of the building’s original design elements and honor its heritage as a seminary, designers integrated lighting and furniture fixtures that complement the original stained-glass windows, and the atrium’s elegant pipe organ was kept as a reminder of the past.

“Re-purposing the chapel as a student common area made practical sense,” said Bill Greeley, Architectural Project Manager at CPL. “When these nontraditional learning spaces are paired with conventional classroom environments, they collectively foster academic success and explorative learning, and can promote activities that keep students motivated and engaged.”

Conscious of green and recycled materials, SBU also requested that designs significantly mitigate environmental impact. To accomplish this, CPL utilized the property’s natural groundwater, abstracted from aquifers beneath the building and the school’s HVAC system. A vertical, closed-loop ground source heat pump system employing the least amount of space was built into the sustainable design, providing an environmentally friendly cooling solution.

Today, the School of Health Professions is poised to enrich SBU students’ campus life and medical training experiences for decades to come.


Jenny works with the marketing team as our Senior Content Developer, collaborating with stakeholders across the firm to write and edit content that articulates key messages and project narratives. She applies her exceptional story mining skills toward developing and tactfully implementing communications strategies and features that inform, inspire and engage people across the organization and beyond.

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