In 2009 IDS was invited to participate in a project that would result in the renovation of four buildings on the campus of Michigan State University. The University wanted to make life easier for their first year students who lived on-campus. The basic goal was to create a model for student engagement within the common areas of the campus residence halls with a mandate that the space be exciting. IDS became involved in the project at a time when MSU realized their students were not taking advantage of many of the academic and non-academic services available to them because most were located up to a mile away from their dorm buildings.
The 37,800-square-foot renovation of Holden Hall—a seven-story building with over 1,200 students, started the process followed by Hubbard Hall—52,070-square-feet, 12 stories and 1,100 students. It was Hubbard which solidified the template for a world-class residential experience engaging students with vibrant spaces equipped with the latest high-tech tools and gadgets inviting all to meet, socialize, connect and grow. This same student engagement model was then applied to the public spaces in McDonel Hall and The Union building establishing a full campus paradigm shift in the way students functioned.
This was a complicated project for the IDS architectural team. MSU had not finalized their vision for the student engagement center and asked IDS to remain flexible in their design—which is an unusual request. Plus they were given only seven months to complete the project—start to finish! “If there’s an impossible project with an impossible deadline they call IDS,” architect Jeff Johnson commented. “We know how to work with outside teams to make it happen and we understood what MSU was up against.” So IDS took off running and never looked back. Within this time frame, IDS was successful in creating a standard template for cool lounge space, office space, meeting rooms, classrooms, health clinics, dining halls, convenience stores, coffee shops…even an arcade.
Today each building features colorful modern materials creating space where students want to hang out, where they can easily seek any of the University-provided enhanced benefits such as food venues, health & wellness services, financial aid support, academic support services and more. They can have a great meal in a comfortable dining area, grab a snack from Sparty’s café, study in a collaboration cube, or play video games all in the comfort of their own “home.” In Holden, the community kitchen is a special feature that allows students to prepare home-cooked meals and eat with their friends. Today this kitchen is in great demand with advance sign-up as the only way to get in. Technology was also an important element that helped define the social spaces. To get the students out of their rooms, flat panel monitors and A/V hookups were made available allowing them to bring their own gaming equipment and congregate rather than isolate.
The structures were originally built in the 1960s with very few updates. IDS engineer Mike Barden explains some of the challenges. “From a mechanical engineering standpoint, the building systems needed to be completely rerouted and reconfigured,” Barden said. “The overall power consumption was reduced by installing occupancy sensors and low wattage LED lighting which helped maintain the MSU commitment to sustainability.” In Hubbard Hall the ceiling height was an issue making it difficult to manage both existing ductwork and in adding new systems. It was due to great collaboration between IDS, MSU Housing, Physical Plant and expert contractors that resulted in quick solutions.
The University sees this template as the ultimate realization of a space that will mentor students through all aspects of college life. The final results of the project are evidenced by the fact the space doesn’t remotely look the way it has in the past. “I was at Hubbard doing final inspection and I was walking behind a student during move-in,” Barden explained. “He opened the door and said ‘where am I’ and I had to tell him he was in the right place!”
The proof is in the pudding. “After the renovation, 67% of the students wanted to come back,” Johnson noted. “When you think of engaging and then retaining students all because of the architecture, it has a tremendous impact on how we feel about the work we do.”