B.E.S.T. Offers Better Student Housing Idea for Rutgers

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, unveiled the first new student residence hall to open on its campus since 1994.

Piscataway, N.J.—In late August, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, unveiled the first new student residence hall to open on its campus since 1994. The occasion was the debut of its new 501-bed Busch Engineering, Science and Technology (B.E.S.T.) student residence hall on its Busch Campus in Piscataway, N.J.

Niles Bolton Associates provided architectural, interior and landscape design services for the $57 million, 153,996-square-foot student residence hall. Approximately 90 percent of the beds will be earmarked for freshmen.

The community incorporates a number of features designed to foster interaction between students and faculty. “The school was very interested in that concept,” Atlanta-based Niles Bolton Associates senior project manager Jeff Smith tells MHN. “The way it manifested itself was through incorporation of a facility accommodating 300 that can be used for lectures, recreation and classes, and can be subdivided into two separate classroom arrangements.”

Also spurring student-faculty exchanges are a computer laboratory that can morph into a computer classroom during the day, a second-floor study room accommodating 100 people, including non-residents, and at least one atrium, lounge or other small gathering space for residents to meet on every floor.

B.E.S.T. incorporates three residential buildings, as well as a separate central energy plant. “The major outdoor space sitting between the three residential buildings was designed for special events and speakers,” Smith says.

The new residence hall was much needed. “Rutgers manages the second largest on-campus housing program in the country, but had not built any new housing since the early 1990s,” Smith says. “So starting in the middle of last decade, the school was faced with putting more and more students in off-campus housing, leaving the university concerned. The Board of Governors approved a quarter billion dollars in new residential housing, and the first housing to result is B.E.S.T. Another development will open in fall, 2012.”

The biggest hurdle involved in the development, as it often is in student housing, was time. The project was authorized in late spring of 2009, with completion slated for 27 months later. “From the construction side, we made the decision early on to use a structural system that would allow more progress to be made during the winter,” Smith says.

“The reason the project got done is because the school put people in place who were motivated, highly competent and able to make decisions, which they did.”

Chief among them was records program manager Joan Sitler, Smith says. He adds other key contributors included Turner Construction and owner’s representative Structure Tone. “Both Turner and Structure Tone performed very well; the project would not have been completed without them,” Smith says.

One of Rutgers’ goals in this project, Smith says, was to have B.E.S.T. “knit together this portion of campus, and make sure it facilitated pedestrian flow from the residential portion to the academic portion of campus. They wanted us to create outdoor space and exterior facades that were sensitive to surrounding buildings, and drew students from those areas into the new area. It’s only been open a month, but the reports we hear is there is good interaction.”