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Building A Better Residence Hall
January 20, 2006

A college or university dorm room used to be four walls, a bed and some closet space. High-tech might have been a phone in every room.

That's no longer the case. The residence halls of today offer significantly more than they did even a couple of decades ago.

And the question for college administrators is what could or should the residence halls of tomorrow look like?

It's a question Calvin's Henry DeVries will consider in great detail in February when he joins other campus experts to consider the next generation of campus housing as part of The 21st Century Project.

The group has scheduled a 21st Century Project summit for February 5-8 in Chicago

The 21st Century Project is a program sponsored by the Association of College and University Housing Officers - International (ACUHO-I) that will culminate in the construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art college residential facility.

This prototype will show how better to accommodate the changing role residence halls play in the collegiate experience and in higher education institutions.

Federal agencies such as the Department of Energy, Department of Education, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will also be recruited to participate at various stages of the process.

"We are bringing together a wide variety of experts - from both the academic and professional side -- to help us approach the project from every conceivable angle," says Michael Coakley, project coordinator and assistant vice president of student life at Northern Illinois University. "The sustainability and economics of this project will be considered just as highly as sociological and educational factors. Aesthetics and pragmatism will be weighed against each other. It will epitomize all we look for in a quality residence hall."

Association members are currently collecting and synthesizing data corresponding with ongoing trends in university housing as well as the expanding technological advances within the campus environment. This data, along with the knowledge and experiences of other attendees will be shared at the February summit.

Later this spring the group will present its findings to participating college and university officials as well as to vendors, development agencies and architecture firms.

Participating firms will then begin to produce conceptual plans. From these, a committee will choose final designs or design components. That building will later be constructed on a college campus.

"This is not simply a group of people brainstorming a wish list of ideas," says Sallie Traxler, ACUHO-I executive director. When the project is complete, there will be tangible evidence of our work and we fully expect it to serve as a model for the college residence halls to be built around the world for the next generation."

For his part Calvin's DeVries is looking forward to the weekend of planning and brainstorming in Chicago and to getting ideas for what Calvin residence halls of the future might look like.

"Calvin's residence halls are over 35 years old and were designed for a different generation than today's students," he says. "I'm hoping to bring back some ideas to improve our current facilities. Also, in our long-range planning for the college, I envision that any new student housing will be significantly different from what we now have. This program will give Calvin access to the latest research and best ideas from national leaders in student housing. That will be a great asset when we plan our next student residence."

For more information about this project and the summit, go to and click the 21st Century Project button