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Abstract: Infrastructure Planning

Functional and non-architectural campus design  elements and the architecture of individual buildings are both important. This chapter does not  cite  best solutions in each area and is not a design handbook for working professionals; as there is no one right solution because campuses vary. The master plan is always the first step for infrastructure system development and continuity but it only contains the basic framework and guidelines. Many remaining decisions relate to sustainable design, construction, and management.

Best sustainability practices are evolving, so facilities managers must consult reference materials (e.g., NCEF) before finalizing the infrastructure plan. Sustainability factors include water quality and stormwater runoff, placement and use of alternative energy, chemical use, transportation alternatives, and lighting and security design. Planning and design consider many factors (e.g., location and environment, regional issues, emergency preparedness, cooling tower location, low- maintenance landscape).


The master plan specifies the basic circulation system concept (e.g., for vehicular, pedestrian, bicycle, or other components). Detailed daily decisions are made to implement, upgrade, expand, or redo system components. Professional assistance (e.g., traffic and parking consultants, civil engineers) should be used. (1) The campus general vehicular circulation system often is a major peripheral circulation ring for service and delivery vehicles and for mass transit vehicles, with secondary access roads onto campus and walking-time distances from major facilities. (2) The service system often uses the general vehicular system but adds designated drives and docks. (3) Mass transportation (mostly buses) often uses general vehicular circulation but also exclusive bus or pull-off lanes and campus or regional shuttle systems. Congested traffic routes can affect headway times. (4) Pedestrian flow to and from campus and between buildings uses a system of walkways that parallel the major roadways and serve interior campus areas to connect to major destinations (e.g., parking structures, major academic facilities). (5) Bicycle circulation is often combined with walkway or vehicular circulation systems via designated lanes or added right-of-way, but conflicts and rules of the road between bicycles and vehicles are key. Bicycle transportation can be treated as a separate circulation system, with designated bicycle paths.  


The parking system generates more complaints than any other physical campus area. The institution must decide on the basic system (e.g., population to be served; management system; financing mechanism; method of providing spaces; special event parking; motorcycle and nontraditional vehicles; bicycle racks, shelter, lockers).

The type of parking solution can have a major impact on the campus because of trade-offs in land use for buildings, parking, or open space and plazas.

Campus Places

Campus places are major open spaces that play a significant role in shaping campus image. (1) Open spaces are natural green areas where landscape is the dominant element, including natural areas, often left in a natural state and requiring less intense maintenance; visual areas, more formal and highly maintained green areas (e.g., quadrangles, courtyards, malls); and recreational areas (e.g., playing fields, golf course). (2) Plazas are open spaces with heavy pedestrian traffic and more extensive use of hard surfaces in areas such as  the library, student union, and major academic buildings. (3) Malls are organized along a long, linear axial pattern that provides structure on many campuses, whether the mall is a landscaped area or hard-surfaced esplanade. (4) Linkages are small spaces connecting major campus

Paving and Hard Surfaces

Professionals (e.g., planning and landscape architecture firms for design, civil engineers for technical issues) are well equipped to execute attractive and functional designs. (1) A wide variety of materials are available (e.g., stone, brick, precast pavers, concrete, asphalt, pretreated wood, gravel, and bark chips), each with specific characteristics. (2) An 8-foot walk is a minimum width for snow removal in northern areas, but wider walks often are needed for main circulation routes, based on patterns of population and movement (e.g., many students walk across campus at the same time between classes). Roads must be sized to meet vehicular demands. (3) Basic guidelines (and design professional input) for placement of walkways and streets are part of the master plan, but many minor decisions must be made (e.g., walk placement adjacent to curb or green planting strip between the walk and curb; snow removal and deposit sites). Walkways and roads affect overall maintenance and appearance. (4) Students tend to take the shortest distance between two points, so walks intersecting in sharp points and narrow angles often result in worn-off corners and maintenance problems, but design (e.g., protective curbs, seat walls) enable natural pedestrian movement and protect landscaping. (5) Scored, textured, and stamped concrete provides attractive patterns and designs and is essential to control cracking and settling. (6) Walkways and roads must be properly drained, particularly in northern climates.

Underground Utilities

When planning campus infrastructure, underground utilities routing must reflect the eventual need for repair, enlargement, or replacement. The utilities master plan lays out a logical pathway around and through a campus (the grid) to supply existing and future buildings with electrical, telecommunications, chilled water, steam, water, gas, and storm and sanitary sewer systems. Underground utilities placement planning can avoid inconvenience, high repair costs, and lost revenues. If no plan is in place, creating one can document existing locations and identify opportunities for rerouting or for future building site modifications to reorganize the utility infrastructure over time. (1) Designated utility corridors organize campus, guide decisions on building expansion or new construction, and follow streets or access drives. (2) The placement of (often non pressurized gravity-flow) sewer systems is mostly dictated by topography. Because sewers collapse or reach design capacity, manholes and collection vaults are placed where large and deep excavations are possible and least disruptive. Storm sewers often follow roadway systems and need to function in severe rainfalls. (3) Electrical systems comprise four aspects of campus electrical distribution in planning the electrical grid: cable routing, substations, step-down transformers, and emergency generators. (4) Telecommunication networks (low- voltage cable, optical fiber, wireless) were often not included in master plans, but ongoing cable upgrades enable consolidation of underground cable ducts. (5) Chilled water underground distribution systems are pressurized, but routing and elevation change influences pump sizing and system efficiency. Looping the system provides redundancy. Design considers routing, valve vault locations, piping failure disruptions, and system sizing for future growth. (6) Steam and pressurized hot water from central heating plants are common, with distribution systems often direct buried or placed in expensive utility tunnels that simplify maintenance, upgrades, and growth. Regular maintenance is needed for piping (particularly direct buried piping, condensate piping), valve pits, and surrounding insulation. (7) Gas lines can (and sometimes should) be placed under pavement (and marked). With some separation distance, they can run parallel to other pressurized lines that need excavation more often, but non pressurized mains could be a conduit for leaking gas. (8) Domestic water mains are prone to leaks because of pumping distances and large swings in pressure, so water main placement and routing are key. (9) Irrigation increasingly uses collected rain or grey water, with needed tanks, cisterns, and piping (clearly marked).


Mature trees and maintained lawns provide a sense of permanence and quality and solve design problems more easily, flexibly, and efficiently than architectural options, with low maintenance and high aesthetic value. Campus vegetation issues include maintenance (e.g., minimum care, zones), physical conditions (e.g., matching soil and climate and avoiding species prone to disease or insects), security (visual access), circulation, microclimate, aesthetics, education (e.g., arboretums), and historical context (e.g., grove remnants, mature or historically significant trees, native plants, memorials).

Use of Plant Types. Various plant types are suitable for different areas and perform specific functions. When selecting plant materials, native species offer long-term vitality and low maintenance. A related concern is avoiding the possible introduction of invasive species, diseases, and pests destructive to native plants. Common plant types are deciduous trees, evergreen trees, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, annuals and perennials, ground covers, and vines.

Institutional Versus Residential Design. Many plant species in residential design are not appropriate for a university campus because of small size, short life spans, disease susceptibility, and high maintenance. Annuals are overused on campuses; perennials are a viable alternative because of larger size and easier care. Railroad ties and barrels are too informal.

Campus Furniture

Smaller campus furniture elements (e.g., waste receptacles, benches, lighting standards, signage) are needed for campus operation but are too often acquired and placed in an uncoordinated way. The master plan is the starting point for the development of a unified system of campus furniture (e.g., materials, design, placement) based on campus climate, lifestyles, traditions, budget, and maintenance. Required performance characteristics (e.g., incremental implementation, durability, stability, cost, low maintenance, resistance to vandalism, attractiveness) are identified for the design.

Way Finding and Signage

People need to find the campus and specific destinations. A system of way-finding and signage uses freeway exit signs, trailblazer signs, arrival signs, you- are-here maps, building name signs, and subsidiary signs (e.g., visitor parking, loading zone).  Regulatory and warning signs (e.g., stop, no parking, fire zone) are often dictated by federal and state traffic control and law enforcement. Campuses must have formal and informal areas (e.g., kiosks, public bulletin boards, temporary sign sites, billboards, display boards, banners and flags) for groups to post notices of meetings, events, and activities. Legitimate information needs must be met, but haphazard appearance must be avoided. Basic signage principles include hierarchy, campus orientation, branding and consistency, visibility, placement, and message length.


Lighting fixtures affect safe campus use  after  dark, campus appearance at all times,  and  nearby  business and residential areas in the evening. Electrical engineers and lighting consultants have relevant expertise and knowledge of local utility standards. A typical  campus uses many lighting fixtures types (e.g., lighting for roadways, pedestrians, athletic fields, landscaping, architecture, and security). The security lighting philosophy has changed from lighting pathways to maintaining a minimum level of illumination throughout an entire zone, but light pollution  and  sustainability issues must be reviewed.

Refuse and Waste Removal

(1) Convenient, sturdy, and unobtrusive movable trash receptacles are placed near major walkway intersections, plazas, food centers, and building entrances. (2) Smoking urns are needed at building entrances and other sites (e.g., parking lots, major entryways) so that smokers can extinguish cigarettes, cigars, and pipes before entering. (3) Built-in trash receptacles are in heavy use areas where constant emptying of small containers is a maintenance problem. (4) Often large and unattractive, dumpsters and compactors are used across campuses to enable collection and disposal of waste  materials  from individual buildings. Whenever possible, they are designed into the building architecture or buffered by screen walls, berms, or plants. (5) Now more common, recycling containers are subject to the same design and placement guidelines used for waste collection and removal.

Art and Artifacts

Design elements mark the focal point of major campus spaces or simply embellish the campus. (1) Pools and fountains are used widely on U.S.  campuses, particularly in warmer areas. (2) Artifacts (e.g., geology department boulders, archaeology department obelisks) and memorabilia (e.g., memorial benches) can enhance campus design. (3) Memorials and plaques mark an individual, group, or event and contribute to the  character of the campus.   (4) Sculpture and fine art can  be added to individual buildings or reside in art collections. Some states have enacted a 1 percent donation for art programs, supporting fine art on campuses.


People with permanent or temporary disabilities or specials needs (most of us at one time or another) deserve considerations (e.g., accommodating physical dimensions, convenient access, sensory clues) that are systematic and comprehensive and reflect input from users.

Campus/Community Interface

The boundary between  the  campus  and  host community (important to the relationship between them and the institution’s image) depends on the origin and manner of growth (e.g., urban universities  that  started on a small parcel of land or a large initial land acquisition; land grant institutions).  The exact form of the boundary  is less important than the inviting image it conveys.

Other Concerns

Other issues that can arise on specific campuses include overhead wires, unsightly installations (e.g., pad mount transformers, cooling towers, outdoor storage), the need to protect landscaped areas  and  walkways from abuse, and preservation and enhancement of the environmental qualities created.


The design and maintenance of the campus  infrastructure must be integrated into the overall sustainability effort. The environmental impact of chemical use (pesticides, fertilizers, de-icing chemicals, etc.), traffic congestion, energy use, light pollution, invasive species, runoff, and water use, as well as many other issues, must be considered in the planning of the campus infrastructure.

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