As we move through the fall semester, colleges and universities are seeking ways to stay connected (or, in many cases, reconnect) with students, despite the myriad of challenges created by Coronavirus.
One way higher ed institutions can retain (or renew) a sense of community on campus is through landscaping and campus beautification.
What are the goals of campus beautification?
Any campus team planning to upgrade its outdoor spaces should agree on the following goals:
- Focus on projects that deliver maximum impact for relatively minimal investment
- Build an environment that promotes a sense of ease while moving through campus
- Ensure pedestrians can maintain a 6-foot distance on main pathways while moving through campus
- Prioritize accessibility and mobility needs when upgrading any outdoor space
What are the benefits of campus beautification?
By incorporating those goals into campus beautification plans, administrators can reap a number of benefits, including:
- Support for current students – emotional as well as practical – as they adapt to the “new normal”
- A heightened “wow” factor, that all-important first impression that helps attract new students
- A cherished space for staff, students, and visitors to connect while still maintaining social distancing
- A sense of confidence, demonstrating that your campus is managed with the goal of health as well as appearances
This last point is of particular importance. As colleges and universities cope with evolving COVID-19 mitigation strategies, it’s vitally important to impart a sense of safety to the campus community. Upgrading your outdoor spaces not only encourages student usage, but can simultaneously reduce the risk of disease transmission.
Six ways colleges can upgrade outdoor spaces
Because each campus is unique, there are endless variations and possibilities for outdoor improvements. Climate, terrain, campus area, existing amenities, and the size of your on-campus population are all important factors.
Regardless of the particulars, the most effective upgrades include:
Tented study and dining areas
Large tents can be installed on campus lawns to serve as dining locations for the campus community. You can install additional tents to support special events, too.
If your campus chooses to use tents for dining or study areas, ask your facility management team to coordinate fire code compliance and safety; evacuation due to inclement or severe weather; and general safety and security.
Painted social distancing circles
In addition to tents, your facility services partner can help make your outdoor spaces more attractive by installing painted circles on lawns throughout campus. The painted circles identify areas for outdoor dining, studying, or relaxing, all with appropriate social distancing. The addition of social distancing circles should be integrated into your existing mowing and lawn maintenance.
Upgrades to walking paths
It’s no secret that social distancing is a best practice according to the CDC. It’s also required on many, if not most, campuses, in order to slow its spread of COVID-19.
One amenity that keeps social distancing front-and-center is a walking path through campus. Walking paths not only give students a chance to recharge between classes, they can help promote social distancing and reduce congestion in existing pedestrian areas. Consider either adding new pathways throughout your campus, or widening existing ones.
Increased outdoor seating with additional greenery
Don’t underestimate the positive effect of greenery on your campus. Healthy, attractive plantings can foster a sense of calm, so students see your campus as an oasis in what has become a stressful world. Water features can be particularly soothing, with their ability to tamp down ambient noise.
New walkway signage
Along with beautification projects, consider adding outdoor signage that is aligned with CDC and ACHA guidance to direct pedestrian flow and discourage crowding. Placed along campus pathways, directional signage promotes safety by guiding students into new, less crowded circulation patterns.
Consider not just the beauty of your campus, but the practical features it offers. Pair outdoor seating with Wi-Fi hotspots or charging stations, and you’ve all but guaranteed students will use the space.
What to consider before your campus beautification project
Be sure to consider these three important factors before you start any outdoor improvement project: drainage, slope, and shade.
For example, if you want to create an outdoor space with socially distanced seating for studying or quiet reflection, look for a spot that already has some shade, if possible. This can save on the expense and ongoing maintenance of shade sails or umbrellas.
Choose an area that is relatively flat, to save on up-front costs related to grading or building retention walls.
Perhaps most importantly, make sure the area you’re considering has good natural drainage. The effort you put into an outdoor space can be for naught if it ends up underwater after a rainstorm.
And always take your time. A campus beautification project can involve a number of big decisions; you don’t want to skimp on the planning process. Without a carefully constructed plan, your brand-new space could end up too noisy, waterlogged, or otherwise inconvenient to fully enjoy.
How to ensure a successful project
The best way to ensure a successful project is by choosing a facilities management partner that has extensive experience with landscaping, turf management, and grounds improvement. Bring in experts who will take your unique environment into consideration and offer a range of options tailored to your campus.
To explore your options for a more beautiful, practical campus, contact our team of professionals anytime at [email protected].