Frequently Asked Questions - PW746

Project Development and Scope

The Institutional Master Plan approved by the city designates in which districts residences may be built; the core of campus is zoned primarily for academic purposes in an effort to retain a “10 minute walk zone” between classes.  Residential buildings are being maintained in several existing neighborhoods adjacent to dining facilities that serve those residents.

Western contracted a consultant team from Ayers Saint Gross (ASG) to gather information on housing and dining options to assist in University development and planning. Based on information gathered and the WWU Facility Conditions Index (FCI), which scores the amount of maintenance and repairs needed on particular building compared to its replacement value, ASG assessed campus residence halls to recommend whether to refresh, renovate or replace.

Replacement was recommended for Highland Hall, based on the level of deferred maintenance and the difficulty of renovating the existing building to meet new goals for the Ridgeway complex. Highland Hall was an inefficient use of footprint in an area of campus that has additional dining capacity and current zoning that supports residences. In addition, students prefer living units that have inside entry ways and more community spaces, rather than rooms accessed directly from the outside. This new residence hall is the first in a long range plan to incrementally increase bed capacity on campus.

Finally, there has long been a need to make Ridgeway more accessible – by replacing Highland Hall with a larger and longer facility to include a shared journey with ramps and elevators, the goal of accessibility can be achieved. 

As funds become available, Western does systematically renovate residence halls where such renovations make prudent sense. This past spring and summer, Western completed a two-year, $24.5 million renovation of the Buchanan Towers residence hall on south campus.  In 2011, Western opened a five-story, 105-bed addition of about 37,000 square feet to the east side of the Buchanan Towers building. The addition is not part of the recent renovation of the older part of Buchanan Towers, which was built in 1971.

Project Budget, Design and Sustainability

At their August 2019 meeting, Western’s Board of Trustees authorized the sale of Housing and Dining Revenue Bonds to fund the costs to demolish Highland Hall; build and equip a new residence hall on the Ridge; fund additional housing system renovations and to pay costs of issuance of the bonds. The total budget for the project, including design, construction, and furnishings, is estimated to be approximately $65 million.

Trees and vegetation will be retained as possible, especially along the west edge of the building where the steep grades prohibit development, helping to buffer much of the new building.  The building has several sections that step up the hill.  The one closest to the road is 97 feet in length along the northernmost portion of the street near the Y intersection. The architectural design intent for the building is to complement the surrounding natural vegetation and the natural beauty currently present on the ridge.  

The new residence hall is using a Progressive Design-Build project delivery system with a single design-build team responsible for designing and constructing the project to meet performance standards established by the university. Lydig + Mahlum Design-Build Team have been awarded the contract.

Intended to streamline project delivery and foster collaboration among university, design and construction teams, the Design-Build model includes all stakeholders from the earliest stages of the project, effectively leveraging design and construction expertise and establishing expectations for project standards across all teams.

The project is targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver rating. LEED certification is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.  To reduce waste, energy consumption, and resource use, the project will reuse on-site materials where possible, including the use of concrete from the demolished Highland Hall as ground fill for site preparation and the re-purposing of the Highland Lounge roof beams as furniture in the new building. The reuse of the concrete onsite will eliminate the need for 50-100 truck trips for hauling out rubble and bringing in dirt, while keeping the concrete out of landfills. The design will also optimize energy and water use and encourage alternative transportation methods.

Yes, the new residence hall design is intended to overcome the steep grade up from main campus at College Hall to provide ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access – through use of ramps, landings and an elevator – to and through the new residence hall. A single pathway for everyone through the residence hall, described as a “shared journey” for the community, will offer convenient access to dining, meeting and other amenities in the Ridgeway complex and on north campus.

At their August 2019 meeting, Western’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution to increase the total project budget for the new residence hall by $1.8 million to make the Ridgeway Commons dining facility accessible. The additional funding will renovate Ridgeway Commons to include ADA ramps, restrooms and elevator service. 

The new residence hall will have four stories with several sections that step up the hill. Amenities will include lounges, common kitchens, kitchenettes in some units, study and collaboration spaces, laundry and storage. Secure bicycle storage will be available indoors in a first floor bike storage room and outside with covered and uncovered bike racks. Site improvements will include pedestrian pathways and improved lighting from the north end of the Ridgeway complex to campus.  The new residence hall will have approximately 400 beds in a mix of room types, a net gain of 264 beds after accounting for the loss of beds at Highland Hall.

Construction and Project Timeline and Impacts

Work on the project began in August 2019 with the demolition of Highland Hall and Highland Lounge and the building of a new parking lot to replace 14G, which was closed to make space for the larger residence hall. Site preparation continued through the end of 2019, with construction beginning in February of 2020. Work is expected to continue through September of 2021. Students are scheduled to move into the new building in fall 2021.

The new residence hall will provide 264 new beds after accounting for the loss of beds in Highland Hall. During construction, students will be housed in existing residence halls. University Residences has planning in place for adding and removing beds based upon demand. Over the last 20 years, they have expanded and contracted beds as needed for occupancy.

Lydig Construction, the contractor for construction of the new residence hall, will be periodically using a drone to document construction progress. They are always careful to respect the privacy of residents in residence halls on the Ridge.

Based upon demand analysis, the net increase of 264 would serve students already commuting to campus who want to live on campus. It is much easier to manage vehicles of students who live full time on campus than those that commute to campus for a 2 hour class. It is anticipated that the additional cars would be moving from the commuter lots, or the adjacent neighborhood to the long term resident lots managed by parking.

Project Updates and Additional Information

Information, updates and initial renderings can be found on the project website, and web cameras at the project site will document the construction process.

The Office of Facilities Development and Capital Budget PW746 project website.

  • Construction notices posted on Western Today and sent via email to affected stakeholders
  • Construction web cams recording project progress

Contact Information

Sherrie Montgomery, Project Manager, (360) 650-6519

Jonathan Higgins, Director, University Communications, (360) 650-3350

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