ULI Washington News

Innovation Update: University of the District of Columbia Student Center

Description of the University of the District of Columbia Student Center
The University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Washington’s only public higher education institution, opened its new Student Center in January, 2016. The school’s first new building in 40 years, it acts as a gateway to the campus and source of pride for more than 5,000 students.

The Student Center is the centerpiece of a ten-year, campus-wide renovation aimed at establishing the university as a national model of sustainability while raising the school’s profile as a selective four-year university. The building is positioned to be the first LEED Platinum student union on the east coast and one of only two in the country.

4Like many urban universities, UDC has traditionally been a commuter campus. The new Student Center seeks to change that by engaging students with enriching experiences outside the classroom. The 83,000 SF facility houses areas for campus life, student government, career services and other support functions, in addition to retail, a conference center, ballroom, and a 10,000 SF fitness center. Spaces encourage students to focus on academic pursuits, as well as to socialize with peers, creating campus life experiences proven to contribute to student success.

3Why Transformative to Real Estate
When the university was first established in the mid 1970s by combining DC Teachers College with Federal City College and Washington Technical Institute, a master plan did not exist. When the time came to consider plans for a new building, more than thirty years later, the Van Ness campus site was chosen, in part due to the accessibility of public transportation and also for the opportunity to connect the heart of the campus to the urban fabric of the city. As UDC is the flagship public university of the District, it was determined that the new Student Center would not be placed in the middle of campus, as typical with most student unions, but rather at the “public front”. There, it acts as a beacon and open door, to create a sense of place and invite the community in. The new Student Center is a mediator between public realm and monumental heart of campus. It also adds to the urban placemaking of the commercial hub of this section of Connecticut Avenue, resulting in a more vibrant neighborhood, and creating a much-needed boost to the economic vitality of the neighboring Van Ness Center.

5Description of Innovation
UDC refers to its new Student Center as a “symbol of the UDC renaissance.” The project is innovative in a number of ways:

Innovation in Architecture and Urban Design With an aesthetic of metal panels and glass, the Student Center breaks away from the campus’s existing brutalist architecture, to represent where the university is headed. The placement of the Student Center, the shape, color, and texture of materials used and the form of the building itself, is representative of a new era for UDC and the surrounding community. In order to create this new urban place, a reciprocal shape of the Van Ness Center was used to help shape and define the new public square. Additionally, the Student Center now has a welcoming clock tower to mark its location and importance, and serve as an iconic symbol of pride. Innovation in Sustainability Designed to LEED Platinum standards, the Student Center’s environmentally progressive design includes the following features:

  • Urban geothermal field for heating and cooling of the Student Center (design is projected to save UDC up to 37.9% in annual energy costs)
  • Parametric models that optimize glazing and shading (glazing is high performance and includes external horizontal fins)
  • Green roof
  • Wedge-shaped rain garden resembling a small park (aiding in filtering          storm water through an underground treatment system to nourish native           planting)
  • Photovoltaic panels at top of building to convert light into electricity and enhance efficiency
  • Abundant natural light (more than 90% of the spaces receive natural light)

Innovation in Accessibility The Student Center accommodates ADA accessibility from street to heart of campus via ramp and elevator. Once inside, three-story atrium welcomes visitors and students with abundant natural light, and a glass-enclosed elevator connects all three levels, providing ADA access to every corner of the building and campus.

Innovation in Community Engagement
The Student Center will energize economic development, bringing a boost of pedestrian vitality to this stretch of Connecticut Avenue. Spaces in the Student Center are available and open to the broader community for use, including mixed use retail, conference/meeting rooms, a ballroom, and fitness/wellness center. The street-level dining hall will be open and accessible to the general public, via doors opening from Connecticut Avenue. Additionally, the design mirrors the surrounding streetscape, serving as a “front porch” to welcome the community in and serve as a gateway to the campus.

Project: University of the District of Columbia Student Center
4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Design Team:
Cannon Design (Architect Roland Lemke)
Marshall Moya Design (Architect Michael Marshall)
Contact: Chrys Sbily, Marshall Moya Design, chrys@marshallmoya.com






This entry was posted in Innovation Updates. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *