New UW Rez: More Than Four Walls and a Bed

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University of Waterloo is nursing a new baby.  Not yet able to walk, UW Housing has been playing dress-up as project plans for a new residence are still in introductory limbo.

The Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I) launched the 21st Century Project in 2005, a multi-phased initiative that enables new and innovative dialogue in the re-imagination of the future of campus housing. UW is, as always, not far behind.

“Since Jan. 16 we have been working … to design the perfect residence,” Andrew Noble, project co-ordinator at UW Housing, said Feb. 28 in a blog post. “Our goal [has been] to receive quality feedback to help design a new residence.”

Parameters of the new residence project have been left to the imagination of the students for which it will serve and encourages students to dream big.  The foundation of this project has been insofar built on student preferences. With over 26,000 Twitter followers, #newUWrez has not only attracted but retained huge student engagement. And Twitter is not the only vehicle for student engagement in the ongoing project.

UW Housing has enabled students to post visual ideas for construction and design through Pinterest, provides online feedback forms on their website, promotes discussion forums on Reddit and amalgamates these on a blog through which it speaks to its audience with a combination of posts by Noble and Glen Weppler, director of housing. Weppler is also the face behind the Twitter feed.

Present themes from student feedback have included the inclusion and promotion of comfort, sustainability, style, fitness, and overall lifestyle.  The majority of requests are down-to-earth and practical, such as the inclusion of study space, composting, accessibility, gym facilities, and health and wellness support. However, more posh requests include keyless entry and a hotel-esque feel.

“The biggest impact on overall student satisfaction [is] on-campus housing’s impact on personal interactions,” Noble said Jan.29 of the results of a student satisfaction survey. “The higher the personal interaction, the higher the overall student experience.”

Further project goals and major considerations include opinions about food in terms of cost, variety, nutrition, and availability.

“Our plan is to include a community centre in the new residence; food service and dining space will figure prominently in the centre so we [intend to] put considerable thought into how we design the area,” Noble said in a blog post as he outlined the importance of creating attractive, functional space that will enhance a sense of community in the new space.

At the moment, unknown project variables include cost, location, and exact dates.

“While we need to consider [the] size of the space as well as the cost,” Noble has discouraged the focus on these elements at this point in the planning stages, as said in a blog post dated Jan. 20.
The proposal may still need drafting and approval from UW’s Board of Governors before the project blueprints can move forward.

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