“Middle Earth” Student Housing Property Completes $98M Expansion

Named in honor of J.R.R. Tolkien's book series Lord of the Rings, the Irvine, Calif., property has a focus on sustainability.
Middle Earth Towers. Image courtesy of Hansel Phelps Construction

A student housing community on the campus of the University of California, Irvine recently opened after expanding to add a new addition with a focus on sustainability. The 215,000-square-foot housing and student life center at UCI originally opened in the 1960s and was dubbed Middle Earth in a nod to the home of the Hobbits in the J.R.R. Tolkien book series “The Lord of the Rings.”


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Design firm Mithun, along with Hensel Phelps Construction, teamed up on a $98 million design-build partnership to expand the existing housing community, adding two residential towers with space for 495 students. Constructed above a mixed-use podium, the LEED-Platinum and energy-efficient buildings tie into the university’s goal of having a carbon-neutral campus by 2025.

“UC Irvine continues to push the limits for state-of-the-art sustainable design and construction on their campus,” Vitas Rugienius, Hensel Phelps operations manager, told Multi-Housing News. “As sustainability and building green intensifies, we see student housing across the nation investing heavily in energy-saving buildings.”

Student suites within the Middle Earth Towers, located on Ring Road in the heart of the campus, connect on each level via a “Link Lounge” amenity space that features community kitchens, a media room and laundry facilities. The podium component also includes a 750-seat dining hall that serves the entire student population at the campus and includes an amenity space for student socializing, multi-purpose classrooms and a new headquarters for the housing administration.

Hensel Phelps and Mithun have partnered in several design-build student housing projects totaling 5,000 units. The duo teamed up previously at the UCI campus to build Mesa Court Towers, a freshman student housing property.