Repurposing Learning Spaces on College Campuses

Repurposing Learning Spaces on College Campuses

Author: Dr. Christina Counts

Repurposing Learning Spaces on College Campuses

Over the past few decades, American colleges and universities have grown their campuses and facilities exponentially, many constructing brand new, expensive buildings to attract more new students. While many of these state-of-the-art facilities add significant value to student experience and academic opportunities, universities are discovering that campus expansion at this level is not financially sustainable.

As colleges and universities realize the need to slow down the physical growth of their campuses, they are learning to pivot from their previous expansion practices to focus instead on creating more compact and better-utilized campus facilities. In order to accomplish this, university architects, planners, and administrators must begin to create new spaces by repurposing already existing spaces.

food court learning space

Which Spaces Can Be Repurposed?

Not every pre-existing space on a campus can be reimagined and repurposed for better utilization. When the need for a new space arises, university planners should consider which spaces on campus have not been accomplishing their intended goals, including furthering the campus mission, creating community, promoting student wellbeing and academic achievement, or generating revenue.

Spaces that fail to meet their intended purpose, are often underutilized and underoccupied, or can be shifted into a smaller or more practical space are all good candidates for being repurposed. Reimagining these underutilized spaces is a cost-effective and sustainable way to meet a new or growing need.

Working with a Design Team to Repurpose Spaces

Having an experienced design team is critical when designing a new layout to fit within a current space. This ensures the team’s ability to design a space that fits the specific needs of the students, faculty, and university. At MiEN Company, our designers consider every factor of the design process when making their layouts and product recommendations. Budget, materials, space mobility, flexibility, and even future adaptability and the ability to be repurposed are all key factors the design team considers when repurposing a space.

Designing for Long-Term Sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that there will always be a need for learning spaces that are flexible and adaptable for ever-changing needs. Repurposing current facilities to meet shifting needs is a cost-effective decision that keeps maintenance costs down and reduces the need for new construction in times of slower growth. And when spaces are designed with the ability to be repurposed in the future, facilities become more sustainable and cost-effective in the long term. Making the pivot to create more efficient and useful campus spaces is a long-term practice that is favorable for universities, faculty, and students alike.

Dr. Christina Counts, VP of Strategy and Development for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces to modern engaging learning environments. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space.  She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board-certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!