Progressive Design That Drives Fellowship and Powers Empirical Learning

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In recent years, there has been a growing demand for flexible, non-traditional learning environments in higher education. These spaces are vital for educators to adapt to evolving pedagogical methods, technological advancements, and societal demands because they promote social interaction between students and faculty, while enhancing the positive outcomes 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.

St. Bonaventure University Campus

Repurposing an Existing Campus Asset

Following extensive visioning sessions with SBU partners, it was concluded that our higher education team would design renovations for one of the school’s existing structures: Francis Hall, a historic, sizeable building built in 1951 that had been greatly underutilized.

To create an east side campus “hub” for students, 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.

This environmentally conscious and financially responsible design approach transforms underutilized campus spaces into revitalized assets that are poised to serve students, staff and the surrounding community in more valuable ways.

For SBU, repurposing an available space in lieu of constructing a costly, new facility allowed significant funding to be used for innovative classrooms, tech-savvy laboratories, collaborative student lounges and other learning environments essential to train future healthcare professionals. But because space was at a premium, flexibility was crucial in programming the school’s new settings.

Francis Hall Site Plan

Incorporating Flexible Program Offerings

During initial programming and design phases, our agile project team envisioned solutions for modern health professions trends including:

  • Informal Learning Spaces – areas outside the classroom that encourage small group study, peer-to-peer interactions and even independent work are necessary to support all the ways students learn and achieve.
  • Team-Based Everything – the practice of medicine has become more and more dependent on robust teams of medical professionals working together to care for complex patients with multiple chronic conditions. Health professions students must learn how to operate in high-functioning, collaborative teams.
  • Showcased Technology – creating visual transparency on what’s happening inside health professions labs or classrooms from a technology perspective helps create productive public conversations about teaching and learning.
Francis Hall Design Thoughts

These trends drove decisions to incorporate key design components such as 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.

Incorporating the latest technology was an important driver for the new school because it enables experiential learning. As such, 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.

Furthermore, the new simulated anatomy laboratory underscores SBU’s commitment to embracing emerging technologies with the inclusion of 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.

“Re-purposing the chapel as a student common area made practical sense. 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.”

— Bill Greeley, Architectural Project Manager at CPL

Conscious of green and recycled materials, SBU also requested that designs significantly mitigate environmental impact. To accomplish this, we 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.

Through creative programming, the repurposed historic campus structure is now a living-learning community with a health professions program on the lower levels and renovated residence rooms on the building’s upper floors.

Today, it stands as a cornerstone of SBU’s program offerings.