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What is a Campus Master Plan and what can it do for RRC?

March 21, 2013

Newly designed learning space for Culinary Arts students at the Patterson GlobalFoods Institute

What makes a great campus?  For some, a great campus is defined by the quality of the learning spaces – including the way the space is designed, the availability of learning technology, and the overall functionality of the space.  For others, the quality of one’s workspace is key, as many people want (need) a safe and ergonomically designed environment, with sufficient spaces to interact with others and/or to work without distraction.
Of course there are many other components that contribute to a great campus environment, ranging from the spaces where we support students, to campus services like cafeterias, retail spaces, and parking lots.  Internal and external public spaces also come into play, from the ability to meet and interact in hallways or to gather in other social spaces with students or colleagues.  At some campuses, the green spaces outside are also vitally important, as is the connection to the local community of shops, businesses, and industry.
The Campus Master Plan
The “document” that helps a college plan tasks like designing quality learning and workspaces, creating new buildings, making the campus easy to navigate, planning for transportation services, and attending to the greenspaces is called a Campus Master Plan. The consultation process that led to the development of the current Strategic Plan (2012-2015) recognized campus planning as a vital task for addressing these issues, and as a result, identified it as a strategic action.

The “atrium” at the Roblin Centre – Exchange District Campus (EDC)

As noted above, a Campus Master Plan needs to consider many things. It needs to take into account the communities and neighborhoods that surround the College, the transportation systems that serve the College, the infrastructure (for example, water and electrical), the landscape, how the buildings are located, the likely growth of the College, how the College community interacts, and where new buildings should go. It also needs to consider sustainability issues – social, economic, and environmental – in the use of materials and design of spaces.  This is continuing with the tradition set in the design of other recent RRC buildings such as HETC and the Patterson GlobalFoods Institute. The theme of diversity and community are also important, as the College spaces need to appeal to a very diverse student body who literally make the campus their “home” while they are studying.

The Campus Planning process has been guided by a steering committee, headed by David Rew (VP Student Services and Planning).  Research and Planning has assisted the Campus Master Plan process in a number of ways, including participating on the Committee as well as using the Staff Survey to get feedback on a numbers of campus planning issues.

For example, the May and June staff surveys (2012) asked staff to rate different aspects of the campus in terms of how “ideal” they are, using a 10 point rating scale. As you can see from the chart below, external public spaces are rated relatively higher at the Notre Dame Campus (NDC) compared to the Exchange District Campus (EDC), while the ratings for the learning environment is relatively low at NDC compared to EDC.

Staff Survey – May and June 2012 – Rating the “ideal” quality of the campus environment. N=105 respondents.

After the rating of each section, staff were asked to describe what the ideal environment for each would be. To illustrate, one person described their ideal learning environment as follows:

“An ideal learning environment should; a) be visually appealing, b) should allow for student instructor interaction, c) should have few physical disruptions (noise, cold draughts), d) should have IT equipment that works, e) Wi Fi internet accessibility for all that need it; f) a library that has the capacity to connect to a wide variety of journals and online resources.  …  RRC does have committed faculty which is another aspect of an ideal learning environment.”

Gathered together and combined with other results, these ratings and responses help provide a good foundation for understanding how staff see their current environment, as well as providing a vision for the type of campus that staff consider “ideal”.

Following a thorough RFP process, the firm of Sasaski Associates Inc. was hired to develop the Campus Master Plan.  In addition to all the data collecting and fact finding, Sasaki plans to consult with the College directly, and produce a Master Plan by the end of the summer 2013.  In fact, Sasaki will begin the research phase starting next week.

Of course, the plan won’t change things immediately, but it will begin to change how capital is spent, how funds are raised, and where new buildings, such as the new Skilled Trades and Technology Centre will be built. Based on the experiences of other colleges, having a robust campus master plan makes it easier to understand how the College will develop and start to reduce the frictions caused by historic itches.

The Roblin Centre – Exchange District Campus (EDC)