With students away on summer break, now is the time for schools and universities to update and renovate their classrooms and laboratories. We take a look at what’s involved in making your school or university renovation project a success.
Does graduation day mark the end of the busiest part of the academic calendar?
For many, such as students and teachers who take the summer months off, the answer may be yes. But for those working in school administration or in facility management roles, it’s a definite no.
In fact, the day that diplomas are handed out to graduating seniors and they toss their mortarboards high in the air, it is also kickoff day for the construction season, one of the busiest times of year on many academic campuses.
Construction season is the ideal time to renovate laboratories and classrooms, thanks to fewer people and less vehicular traffic on campus, not to mention fewer construction delays due to inclement weather.
But while conditions for renovations may be ideal, the project deadlines aren’t any less forgiving.
The fall academic calendar will begin again soon, so the logistics of classroom or lab renovation projects (including planning, designing, manufacturing, and installation) have to planned and executed carefully (typically during an accelerated 30 – 60 day period) before students begin to return in autumn.
Let’s look at what it takes to make your school renovation project a success.
University Renovations: Updating Existing Lab Designs
To keep pace with today’s collaborative teaching styles, many academic institutions are updating their classroom laboratories with either a furniture refresh or full renovation.
The trend is to create versatile lab teaching environments (based on flexible furniture designs) that provide ample space for students to work together in small, group-based lab projects.
At the same time, renovations and refreshes provide an opportunity to update the technology in the classroom. For example, it’s become more common to configure areas where students can make computer-based presentations to the instructor (using flat screen monitors) or to the entire class (using theater style projection screens).
A laboratory refresh or full renovation also allows you to bring your lab up to current safety standards.
Safety starts with everything in its place and a place for everything. That’s why Formaspace recommends custom storage for all your equipment as well as chemical consumables, etc. You can also avoid accidents from sharp and broken fragile glassware by providing save disposal stations and specialized equipment, such as custom lab drying racks to keep glassware safe.
Modern fume hoods are also an important item to consider during renovation projects. Many of the newer designs are quieter and more efficient, making them an ideal choice for reducing energy costs in the lab.
If the timescale for your project is tight, choose modular furniture designs from Formaspace. Our full line of modular workbenches, custom storage, and wet/dry lab installations can help you meet tighter deadlines. Our modular FabWall solution is an example of this type of collaborative, flexible furniture. Modular designs are also easily modified for future expansion. You can also easily disassemble modular furniture when moving (using simple hand tools) then reassemble the components in a new location. (This also protects your investment.)
On the other hand, you may want to choose fixed casework from Formaspace to match existing installations or for projects where traditional design language is important. Just be aware that the lead times are longer to get the product manufactured and installed on site.
School Renovations: Updating the Classroom and Library Experience
As we all know, students, professors, teachers, and administrators come in all sizes. That’s why many schools and universities are investing in height-adjustable desks and workstations. Using push-button controls (or manual cranks if you prefer), you can set the correct ergonomic height for different sized individuals. Formaspace height-adjustable desks and tables can also lift the entire worksurface up so that you can work comfortably while standing.
Recent research indicates that changing from a seated to a standing position and back again throughout the day can increase blood circulation and help minimize the long-term health risks associated with sitting too long during the day.
Classrooms and laboratories are not the only locations on campus that can benefit from height-adjustable desks. Library workers and patrons who spend long hours working at tables or desks can also benefit from using height-adjustable furniture as well.
For example, Formaspace recently provided height-adjustable worktables for the newly remodeled library at Duke University. These are used in the preservation department of the library’s museum where preservationists spend many hours cleaning and preserving old books and other museum artifacts. The ability to move the work surface up and down throughout the day can help reduce back strain while encouraging healthy movement throughout the day.
Students and staff working in classrooms and libraries will benefit from the latest ergonomic furniture designs, such as height-adjustable desks and workstations for group projects.
Custom mobile furniture provides additional flexibility at your facility.
University Renovations: Formaspace Installations at the Cornell and Harvard University
When it was time for Cornell University to renovate their Graduate School of Design, they turned to Formaspace to manufacture and install a new set of modular desk furniture.
Cornell was pleased with the results, so when facility planners at Harvard University’s own Graduate School of Design began planning their own renovation, they asked their colleagues in Ithaca for a recommendation. They said, “Call Formaspace.”
So thanks to this word-of-mouth recommendation from one university to another, we created custom-built modular furniture for the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
The renovated building, Gundt Hall in Cambridge, is where architectural students work during their final academic year to create models of buildings, mood boards, and other presentation materials. After manufacturing the modular furniture components in our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas, Formaspace installed the new furniture in just three weeks. Some of the challenges came from Gundt Hall itself. As an older structure, it suffers from temperature and humidity shifts, which meant that we had to allow for extra wide gaps in the acrylic privacy panels. The floors are not level either, which necessitated additional adjustments, in some extreme areas there was a 1” discrepancy within a 6’ distance.
In total, the project incorporates more than 450 individual furniture products from Formaspace, including work desks, divider panels, and custom, secure storage carts. The aforementioned acrylic privacy panels are translucent, which helps increase the amount of natural light distributed within the interior of the building.
New furniture installations in an older building can help make the facility look like new again.
School Renovations: Makerspaces Provide Hands-On Learning for STEM Students
Secondary school systems and universities are placing increased emphasis on teaching classes in science, technology, engineering, and math — collectively known as the STEM curriculum.
Many of the most successful academic systems are taking these efforts one step further, by creating Makerspaces, where students can apply what they learn in class by creating hands-on projects using a variety of tools, ranging from desktop-based CAD / CAM machining systems to laser cutters and 3D printers.
Here at Formaspace, we have a lot of experience creating highly durable yet flexible furniture designed to withstand years of heavy use in academic Makerspaces.
All our furniture is manufactured in the USA at our Austin, Texas factory headquarters; it’s backed by a full twelve-year, no-questions-asked guarantee.
Watch the video to see our latest featured Makerspace at Arizona Science Center.
Talk with your Formaspace Design Consultant to learn more about how to design and build a successful Makerspace at your academic institution.
School Renovations: Refresh or Renovate Your Cafeteria and Lounge Areas
You might be surprised to hear this, cafeterias and lounge areas for students and faculty are having an influence on our culture that goes far beyond the academic setting.
Increasingly, work campuses in Corporate America are copying the design language of academic campuses.
As young Gen Z and Millennial graduates enter the workforce, they are bringing with them their ideas for how to work in the corporate environment (answer: from anywhere, from the cafeteria to the library), ones that they internalized during their college years.
And, since so many businesses face a talent shortage of tech-savvy employees, they are building the types of casual seating and eating areas found in campus cafeterias, coffee shops, student lounges, and library settings.
Architects and space planners working in academic settings might want to investigate how corporate offices are incorporating campus design elements in today’s work environments.
Formaspace is Your Classroom and Lab Renovation Partner
Now that the summer construction season is upon us, the time is here for campus renovations
Remember, if you can imagine it, we can build it.
We can provide top quality, American-made furniture — with quick delivery times — direct to you from our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Join our list of prestigious academic clients, including:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Cornell University
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- New York University
- Northwestern University
- Princeton University
- Stanford University
- Texas Tech University
- University of California Berkeley
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Texas
- Yale University
Take the next step, contact your Formaspace Design Consultant today.