Many universities have begun discussions around sustainability and creating a more resilient physical campus. Defining resilience is the first, and often most difficult, step. For many campuses, resilience is defined by developing long-term strategies to respond to climate change impacts. It also may include goals to reduce reliance on precious resources and vulnerable infrastructure. Working toward these objectives is essential to the long-term survival of an institution.
We’ve seen the catastrophic impacts of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, mudslides, and wildfires within the past year. These events have been a jarring wake-up call for those of us working on campuses. Universities, in particular, are typically rooted in their locations for the very long term. It’s rare for a university campus to pick up and move somewhere else. Therefore, planning for both known and unknown future impacts is a critical survival strategy for any institution that intends to remain in place and operate effectively.
Technology has without a doubt transformed many of the methods and practices planners and designers use when approaching any project. This is particularly true on college campuses, as the field of education embraces technology to better serve and engage with students. However, there are some negative impacts from immersion in technology. The campus landscape provides an increasingly essential antidote to today’s tech-overload with its ability to facilitate social connection and provide restoration.
Technology in Campus Planning and Design
In addition to functioning as repositories for history and tradition, campuses are typically places that value innovation and creativity. Thus, technology is often embraced and incorporated into campuses more quickly than many environments. Experimentation, learning, and engagement drive the integration of technology into the built environment to test how it might best serve the campus community.
We are also increasingly seeing studies that indicate that excessive technology device use can have detrimental physical and mental health effects such as fatigue, stress, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, and others. See the Illinois News Bureau, Academic Earth, Time, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, USA Today, Harvard Health Publications, and Psychology Today for a few examples. Studies have also suggested that spending time engaging with the natural environment provides an array of benefits that may counteract the negative impacts of technology use, including improved physical fitness, vision, concentration, critical thinking, creativity, academic performance, mood, immunity, and social behavior.