Athens, OH, USA
LSU is Louisiana’s flagship university and its largest by student enrollment, with around 26,000 undergraduate and 5,000 graduate students. Facing modest growth and funding projections over the next ten years, LSU embarked on a comprehensive and strategic campus master plan to guide capital investments on its main campus in Baton Rouge.
The plan focuses financial resources on the best use of existing campus space. Where possible, departments and programs will be co-located for greater efficiency, and underutilized classrooms will be used more frequently throughout the day, thus reducing the need for new construction. Campus improvements will center along a new “academic spine” that passes between the historic campus and more recent construction to the west and south.
Linking the age of buildings throughout the campus, along with data related to building size, function, and architecture, helped university leadership understand which facilities, nearing the end of their usable lifespan, needed to be renovated or replaced based on their functional and historic value.
A “defragmenting” tool allowed the university to better understand the implications of co-locating departments and programs. Using this tool, the team found opportunities to utilize existing buildings more efficiently, thus saving on the need for significant new construction costs.
Mapping the class schedule revealed hour-by-hour patterns of student movement. The highest concentrations of students, during the busiest times of class-scheduled days, were found along the natural campus ridgeline, revealing this north-south arc to be an important academic connector.
Mapping a host of site data, such as topography, hydrology and permeable and impermeable open spaces helped develop a flood mitigation strategy, including ideal development sites and the enhancement of existing drainage canals for more robust storm water management.
LSU is embedded, geographically and culturally, in Baton Rouge. The campus abuts an older and economically challenged neighborhood that faces increasing pressure from commercial development. The university reached across the town-gown divide to engage the surrounding community in the planning process, through on-campus meetings and a website. The community expressed a desire to heal years of neglect not only through new infrastructure, but also new programming — including a multi-purpose events center where the community and university could come together. LSU also engaged with the City of Baton Rouge, in part to investigate the opportunity for a planned tram link between downtown and the campus.
A significant portion of the campus area lies within the Mississippi River floodplain and two watersheds that drain through a larger ecosystem connecting to Lake Pontchartrain. Based on principles of “Everyday Resiliency,” the plan identifies opportunities to enhance and implement natural drainage and topography patterns as a framework for future development, as well as recommends that future buildings be designed to account for possible flooding. The larger stormwater management strategy creates a more resilient approach to on-site stormwater management by preserving and enhancing existing drainage networks.