The university’s revitalized core campus is a progressive approach to residential housing, dining venues, and academic space.
When Clemson Univ.’s (Clemson, SC) administration launched the initiative to demolish its former Johnstone Residence Hall and replace it with the onset of a new core campus complex, there were multiple objectives, not least of which included creating a vibrant environment rife for an enhanced and modernized student experience.
University leaders had concluded it was time for the Johnstone complex, built in 1953, to be replaced. It had served the university well for nearly 60 years, however, a determination was reached that it could not be renovated to meet the needs and expectations of students. The rooms in Johnstone had inadequate infrastructure and were too small for present-day students. Furthermore, years of use led to the decision that while the design of the nearby Harcombe Dining Hall had worked well for a previous population, it no longer offered efﬁcient layouts or energy consumption.
An earlier core campus precinct study had helped assess the redevelopment of the former site, which was centrally located to campus facilities and programs. The planning study was intended to answer the question, “How might forward-looking approaches to housing, academic, dining, and student-life programs be combined into an intense, innovative, and dynamic mixed-use center for a public school poised to break into the top-twenty universities?”
Taking the university’s vision as a starting point, Stevens & Wilkinson, a full-service architecture, engineering, and interior design firm based in Atlanta and Columbia, SC, set to work with site planning as well as architectural and engineering design for the school’s new core campus housing and dining precinct improvements. In larger perspective, the completion of the facilities would mark the first step in Clemson Univ.’s redevelopment of its core campus, as envisioned in the university’s 2002 masterplan.
An internal team from Stevens & Wilkinson’s Columbia office, in association with VMDO Architects, Charlottesville, VA, and Sasaki Associates, Watertown, ME, conceptualized an integrated mega-structure to anchor the precinct on campus. Completed in 2016, the core campus complex now provides 700 student beds and 1,200 dining seats, and is the new home to the Calhoun Honors College and associated academic spaces. The project’s result represents a progressive setting, capturing and manifesting the best of what is known as the “Clemson experience” for students.
Comprising 286,000 sq. ft., with an estimated construction cost of $83 million, the campus improvements meet growing demands for housing and dining options. The new facility additionally supports Clemson Univ.’s goal of retaining more sophomore students on campus. As one of the nation’s top-20 public universities, the new precinct will enable the demolition and redevelopment of the school’s Harcombe Dining Hall and Student Union in subsequent phases.
“Beyond square footage and new construction, the project aspired to much more, including the design and development of quality campus life for students and new forms of housing that support the university’s desire for a multi-purpose, mixed-use center of living and learning,” said Ashby Gressette, AIA, president of Stevens & Wilkinson, South Carolina.
The vision for the core campus started to coalesce when Stevens & Wilkinson’s project team conceptualized the new housing spaces to provide numerous residential unit types and community options, furthering the university’s plan for student growth and on-campus retention.
Primary goals for the project included advanced coordination of future projects outlined in the campus master plan, including the creation of a facility to enable recruitment and retention of students and achieving LEED Silver Certification.
With the popularity of multiuse spaces, Stevens & Wilkinson and its collaborative partners took a hard look at imaginative possibilities for student dining. The outcome provided for creating a dining and seating destination that would be inviting and satisfying to all students.
In its completion, the dining facilities offer choices across 300 seats of retail dining and 900 seats of residential dining in a modern capacity. Retail venues with extended hours, a delicatessen and grill, national coffee and chicken sandwich chains, and a convenience store provide flexible options. Open for three meals daily, the new facility offers diverse selections of cuisine freshly prepared at open cooking venues.
“The character of the new, high-end facility offers a variety of seating areas separated by custom millwork-style seating and partition screens,” said Gressette. “Each retail dining venue has its own unique character and finishes that have been tied into the overall aesthetic of the facility.”
The dining complex has three levels, including a lower service level, main dining level, and a relaxed dining mezzanine, all of which are connected by a centrally located main circulation core.
Access was designed using control access points. Entries to the retail establishments were directed from the exterior and connect to common spaces. An afterhours connection between the residential and retail dining areas allows openings between these zones to facilitate expanded seating capacities and potential access to the mezzanine area.
In the main dining retail area, there is a two-story-height space in which the project team specified extensive amounts of glass. This space now interconnects a plaza, courtyards, and interior spaces. Visual relationships with the adjacent pedestrian pathway are afforded from these spaces.
Maximizing the original theme of student-centered experiences that underpin aesthetic design, a series of planning sessions led by Stevens & Wilkinson resulted with an arrangement strategy for the dining mezzanine. The new dining gallery was conceptualized to overlook an eastern-positioned retail dining space and the two-story, main dining space.
Three sloped-roof sections pour natural light using clerestories into the dining spaces and run the width of the building. The appeal is that of a dramatic space with visual connectivity of the dining areas.
From an interior design standpoint, polished concrete floors unify the dining areas. The mezzanine space is carpeted to provide a more comfortable feeling and relate to the change in seating types.
“To address both functional and visual parameters, wall materials were varied,” said Gressette. “White horizontal, large-format ceramic tile and charcoal-gray hexagonal ceramic tile were utilized in the food-production and beverage-station areas. Serving lines were faced with earth-toned wood laminates to relate to wood laminate planks on high-traffic wall surfaces.”
Textured wall coverings were chosen to accent recessed dining niches and seating walls. Slate walls repeat, and fixed and operable wood screens provide physical separation, visual connection, and security. Single-story dining is topped with cloud ceilings of perforated metal material, and the two-story dining spaces have ceilings of linear metal with a wood pattern to provide a sense of warmth.
Comfort and Efficacy
With an emphasis upon the fact comfort is paramount to students’ educational successes and is a chief factor in student retention, the Stevens & Wilkinson project team designed the new core campus housing with numerous residential unit types and community options.
Furthering Clemson Univ.’s plan for on-campus retention, two seven-story residence halls of 244 and 178 beds now comprise the Calhoun Honors College at the north end of the site, with academic assembly and administrative space on the first floor arranged around a raised courtyard. Common lounges connected by open stairs enhance the idea of community in close proximity to student accommodations of double and single semi-suites with semi-private baths.
To the south, a 265-bed residence hall has double-occupancy rooms with common private baths in “wet cores.” The housing design aids the college in its student recruitment for a National Scholars Program and the continued retention of students living on campus following their first year.
Circulation patterns, proximity of spaces, and flexible amenities were elements of design driven by the shift in how students live on today’s campuses. For the project team, practical livability of the space and the day-to-day culture of the on-campus student body were translated into the design of the new residences.
Exterior material selections were chosen to complement existing architecture and delineate the various components contained within the core campus facility. Two tones of brick were selected, with punched windows for the residential units. Full-height glass windows were placed on the main dining level for optimum views and to provide the interior with natural light.
“Floor-to-floor glazing panels were utilized at open stairwells, studies, and lounges to provide long-range views to the mountains and lake,” said Gressette. “Exterior porches on levels two and five on the east and west elevations provide students with exterior spaces to enjoy the surrounding views of campus.”
Along the east elevation, slate panels were incorporated to accentuate the glazed porches and provide a backdrop to the projecting two-story retail dining space. Brick pilasters provide a rhythm to define the primary dining elevation. Corners of this element are full-height curtainwall with clear and glazing panels.
All primary entrances of the residential and dining areas use the same vernacular of projecting porches to provide covered exterior dining spaces and protected entries.
Site Planning Inside Out
Implemented site planning and landscape architecture created flexible spaces for easy connectivity to and from central buildings. This began by creating the popular Clemson Walk pedestrian spine, which now acts as a unifying space for the precinct.
“The 20-ft.-wide walk features integrally colored concrete paving and is framed by an allée of trees and LED lighting elements,” said Gressette. “Pairs of benches are arranged along the walk, and the new housing, dining, and honors college are accessed from this path.”
Clemson Walk opens into multiple courtyards, providing building access. The courtyards offer lawn, deciduous canopies of trees, and concrete paver units for activities.
The south side of the main building was designed with sunny seating terraces connected by sloped walkways and steps. A lawn transitions the terraces to the sidewalk, and an “entry terrace” connects through steps and a walkway at grade, leading to the main central dining terrace.
The project team reshaped parts of the adjacent avenue to provide service and emergency vehicle access as well as emergency egress. The service road was planned to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible.
All major utilities occupying the original site had to be relocated to the perimeter of the proposed building footprint. Steam lines, chilled water lines, storm water piping, domestic water lines, and electrical duct bank infrastructure services were removed and rerouted.
Leading to the Future
When it comes to sustainability, it is essential to consider students’ desire for the green movement. Clemson Univ. and Stevens & Wilkinson embraced the initiative as an essential aspect of the residential and dining improvements.
Because many dorm suites were designed with separate toilet and shower rooms, the team specified a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) to address exhaust and associated make-up air, while reducing energy consumption. The system included a total energy wheel to recover energy from the exhaust airstream and an air-to-air plate heat exchanger to minimize the need to reheat the make-up air.
“We saw this as an opportunity to use NuClimate’s, Syracuse, NY, QLM series of Active Induction Beams,” said Eric Smith, PE, LEED AP, senior associate/senior mechanical engineer, with Stevens & Wilkinson, South Carolina. “By using an induction system, we could use the required make-up air as the primary air required by the induction unit,” he said. This allowed elimination of the fan that would have been provided for a typical fan-coil unit in each bedroom, thus, reducing overall fan-power consumption.
In dining areas, two outdoor air units with demand control ventilation (DCV) controls were used. For these units, the DCV is achieved by two methods. This first is using CO2 sensors to increase ventilation. The second is building pressurization. When a dining space is not positively pressurized due to the quantity of hood exhaust, an outdoor air system is modulated to pressurize the area, supplying added make-up air required for kitchen hoods. These strategies minimize the use of outdoor air to reduce annual energy consumption.
Among other LEED-focused materials for the core campus, curtainwall framing system material was specified to meet a minimum solar heat-gain coefficient of 0.25 as a complete system, including the actual glazing units. “Guardian Industries, Auburn Hills, MI, SunGuard glass and EFCO, Monett, MO, Series 5600 curtainwall framing systems met the required energy model performance requirements to assist in achieving LEED Silver criteria,” said Smith.
Wall Panels were specified for their relative high R-value per-inch thickness. The team used Kingspan U.S., Atlanta, Designwall Insulated Metal panels due to their inherent ability as a thermal barrier and an impervious air and moisture barrier.
In terms of these and numerous other installations geared toward LEED certification, design credits have been submitted and reviewed by the United States Green Building Council, Washington. A total of initial credits has been awarded to date, and certification is pending final review.
A demolition schedule has not yet been finalized for the remaining buildings envisioned to be removed for the final phase of the core campus precinct redevelopment. Though, all eyes are looking ahead as the campus improvements are already setting precedents of quality architecture and engineering design that equate to student successes and satisfaction.
• Architect of record: Stevens & Wilkinson, Columbia, SC (stevens-wilkinson.com)
• Civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers: Stevens & Wilkinson, Columbia SC
• Housing design: VMDO Architects, Charlottesville, VA
• Dining hall design: Sasaki Associates, Watertown, MA
• Construction observation: RMS Architecture, Clemson, SC
• Food service consultant: Ricca Design Studios, Greenwood Village, CO
• Fire protection consultant: Cromer Engineering, Greenville, SC
• Lighting, audio visual, and acoustical consultant: Newcomb & Boyd, Atlanta
• LEED Consultant: Merrick & Co., Greenwood Village, CO
• Furniture providers: Young Office Environments Inc, Greenville, SC; Miller’s Inc., Columbia, SC.