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New LTU dorm to have sense of community

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published October 5, 2011

 Architects at Lawrence Technological University hope to construct a 51,614-square-foot, two-story student housing facility at Circle Drive and 10 Mile.

Architects at Lawrence Technological University hope to construct a 51,614-square-foot, two-story student housing facility at Circle Drive and 10 Mile.

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Technological University


SOUTHFIELD — It’s designed to bring students together. To encourage a sense of community.

A proposed new residence hall at Lawrence Technological University is still pending approval by the school’s board of trustees, but the plans presented to the Southfield City Council over the last several weeks are fresh and forward-thinking, according to architects.

The Southfield City Council gave the go-ahead Sept. 26 to amend the university’s master plan and rezone the location from residential to education, research and office to allow for the construction of the 51,614-square-foot, two-story student housing facility at Circle Drive and 10 Mile, which will accommodate 151 new students.

Currently, 250 students live on campus in two existing residence halls, according to Kevin Finn, dean of students.

When planning the design, architects had certain “salient issues to deal with in the preparation and design of this project,” said Joe Veryser, associate dean and university architect of the College of Architecture and Design at LTU.

“First and foremost was to create the environment for new students entering the university to have a sense of community on campus,” Veryser said, adding that the housing will be dedicated to entering students — freshmen and transfers — to help acclimate them to life at LTU.

Architects have designed five “pods” to house the students. Each pod will be two stories, with easy communication between the floors, and a central living space in the middle of the pod. Each room opens up into that central space, promoting interaction among the students. Thirty students will live in each pod.

“The more we can pull them out of their shell and get them to interact with others, the better for them and the better the learning environment,” Veryser said of the psychology behind the design.

Additionally, the plan calls for the building to be orientated in such a way that the traffic in and out sort of “spills out” onto campus.

“To orientate the building any other way would make it a world of its own,” Veryser said, adding that traffic will be directed toward campus, toward the parking lot and toward walking paths.

The plans also aim to preserve the character of the residential area.

Of the 29 homes on Circle Drive, 18 are currently owned by Lawrence Tech as part of a plan begun in the 1960s to eventually own the entire street. Eleven of the houses are still occupied by Southfield residents, who expressed concern during City Council meetings about the value of their homes, as well as the noise and litter they say they deal with.

“We don’t want to impose on (the residents),” Veryser said. “We don’t want to be a bad neighbor. It was our concern from the start.”

Sustainability is a big factor for Lawrence Tech architects when creating new designs.

“How we build the building —how we construct it, what it’s made of and energy consumption, the environment in which it exists, storm water management, replacement of landscaping that has to come out,” Veryser listed as all areas planners have taken into consideration. “We want to return it to as natural an environment as we can around that building. So we have detention areas for control of storm water management. We’ve done preservation of the major trees — 36-inch diameter trees — and we’ll build around those in a way that preserves the root structure. We did everything we could to preserve what nature we could and replace (those we couldn’t) with natural matching plantings and even improve upon some of it. So we have done as much as we could in terms of sustainability.”

That means they’re no longer aiming to reach Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards in their design; rather, it’s now a criteria with the plans.

“Because we are an architecture school and an engineering school, we want to stop treating LEED as frosting on the cake,” Veryser said. “We want it to be the batter in the cake: This is how it’s done. This is how you construct.”

In plans to council, the university was hoping to break ground in November, with completion due in time for students to occupy the dormitory next August.

“The timetable for construction of the new student housing is dependent upon action by our board of trustees,” said Bruce Annett, executive director of marketing and public affairs for LTU. “We hope to have construction completed in 2012.”