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Princeton Planning Campus Changes

This scale model of the 2016 Princeton University campus plan shows a number of projects on the drawing board for the 250+ year-old Ivy League school.
Photo: Princeton University


Princeton University officials believe sustainability is key in plans to update a campus that has been around since the 1750s.

Ron McCoy, Princeton University's new university architect, and Mark Burstein, Princeton's executive vice president, recently offered details on Princeton's new campus plan, which will guide the renovation and construction of some 3 million square feet of space. The university worked on the plan with a number of consultants, led by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners.

Burstein said the plan deals with a series of problems and challenges on the campus: First, the approach from the south is not as attractive as it should be; second, the university is surrounded by housing and shops, and third, any expansion must be sensitive to the scale of nearby neighborhoods. In addition, like any university that has been around for more than 250 years, Princeton has a series of different architectural styles on the campus -- styles that the university now hopes to unify.

As if those weren't big enough challenges, the campus plan must also accommodate the university's new focus on sustainability, Burstein said.

"Open spaces define a campus as much as the built structures on campus, Burstein said. "How do we enhance the open spaces and densify as well?"

It turns out that greening the campus offers some solutions for the campus plan -- which calls for pushing the forest into the campus and pushing the campus into the forest. The landscape projects are meant to reduce the impact of construction on the environment, particularly in stormwater management. The New Jersey-based campus includes four tributaries that run into Lake Carnegie.

Green spaces will also help with the aesthetics of the campus. Since the 1960s, many open spaces on the campus have been marred by surface parking lots. A solution in at least one area is to push that parking underground and cover it with playing fields and green space. Greenery also helps convey a sense that the campus is built to human scale -- especially with Collegiate Gothic, a style that suffers in larger buildings.

Burstein said the university has set a goal of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and intends to do so without the use of offsets and other off-campus strategies. But at the current rate of growth the university's emissions are forecast to be much higher than 1990 levels -- even if all the new buildings and renovations are designed to be 50 percent more efficient than the building code requires.

Sources: Chronicle of Higher Education, Princeton University

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June 16, 2019, 10:35 pm PDT

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