New suite style dorms to be built for 2017

The college will build new suite-style housing alongside the baseball fields next to PPR, scheduled to be open in the Fall 2017 semester. The new residential building, tentatively called NPPR (or New PPR), will ensure that there will be a sufficient amount of on-campus housing to accommodate the anticipated growth in student body over the coming years.

The planning process for the new residential hall began one and a half years ago with the combination of the input from students, a committee and the Dean’s office. Studies were conducted on possible dorm sites, taking into account how construction would affect the layout of campus and student population density. One of the driving factors in the decision to construct NPPR was to adhere to the college’s plan to increase the size of the student body by creating more bed space.

“As part of the college’s strategic plan, the college will see a small increase in total student enrollment,” said Dean Rachel Head. “The opening of New PPR in the Fall of 2017 will allow us to comfortably house all students who would like to live in campus housing.”

The suite style housing will be built as an expansion on the PPR Cluster, which is currently made up of Palmer, Pittinger and Roberts Halls. The NPPR will have a total of 21 suites, containing an average of five people each, for a total capacity of 121 residents. The new hall will back up against the baseball fields, and an intentional quad space will be formed between the new building and the existing halls of Palmer, Pittinger and Roberts.

“We want to create a vibrant outdoor space and provide for a mass of people around the same size as Danawell, AP or DK, [of] about 300 students,” said Susan Smythe, ADA Program Coordinator. “This will make up a good sized community so that students won’t feel marooned, but more energized.”

Students have expressed scepticism about the ability of suite-style housing to increase the social dynamic on campus. “From what I’ve seen of suite living at Yale, it’s not very conducive for hall life,” said Jacky Ye ‘19. “They’re great for throwing parties and for social gatherings, if you get along with your suitemates, but don’t encourage you to leave your suite to get to know the people living next to you.”

In addition to creating more living space, the suite-style housing will provide a more independent and apartment-style atmosphere than most campus dorms. According to Head, many students, especially upperclassmen, expressed their desire to have alternative on-campus housing to the usual dorm buildings. NPPR will provide a more apartment-style living space and will likely include the option for students to opt-out of the meal plan, as part of the college’s intended changes to the meal plan in the future.

“I can imagine that the option to be on a reduced meal plan, or no meal plan, might appeal to students for a variety of different reasons, [such as] religious needs, dietary restrictions, scheduling issues, etc.,” said Dean Head. “For example, we have heard from seniors who are student teaching that having greater freedom on when and how they eat would be appreciated.”

The suite style housing, which includes kitchen facilities, and the proposed changes in the meal plan would allow students more independence and flexibility in how and when they have meals.

“We shouldn’t be forced by the school to buy their meal plan just on principle,” said Colin Salama ‘19. “There is significant pressure to eat with other people in Sharples, and Essies doesn’t even open until 8 for dinner meal swipes. If there were no meal plans, you could eat whenever without feeling pressured to do so and choose to cook for yourself or get take-out.”

One main focus throughout the design process has been the need to adhere to high environmental standards and create a sustainable building. According to Smythe, the design of the building was repeatedly compared to similar residential buildings to make it as efficient and sustainable as possible.

“[Environmental standards] are exceptionally important and the planning process can’t happen without taking those standards into account,” said Dean Head. “Last year, the College hosted a planning meeting to talk about environmental standards and sustainability; a number of students, faculty, and staff met with the architects and design firms working on the building.”

Photovoltaic roofing will be incorporated into the building design to provide electricity. The building will also use geothermal ground source heating implement a rain-water collection system to gather water for toilets. Shower water meters will be put in place to promote awareness on water usage. Composting bins will be available, as will guidance on what and how to compost. The small bedrooms and lack of lounges will also reduce NPPR’s carbon footprint. Research may also be conducted using NPPR to see how much energy is saved by incorporating sustainable elements.

Construction is set to begin later on in the spring semester, but many of the details are still being worked out. Questions such as those of sustainability continue to be under discussion, and student input is being weighed in the planning of future buildings and projects.

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