CU Boulder’s newest dorm at Williams Village debuting to residents this year

Williams Village East will be university's largest dorm yet

Katie Theiler, associate director of communications for student affairs, left, and JT Allen, director of Facilities, take in the view from the fourth-floor student lounge at Williams Village East on Aug. Tuesday.

The newest and largest residence hall at the University of Colorado Boulder will welcome students next week.

Williams Village East, a 178,000-square-foot facility that will house 705 students on its seven floors once the year begins, boasts sustainable features, gaming equipment and a new model of bathrooms that will give students more privacy.

The university had a few goals in mind when designing the building, a process that started more than three years ago. Staff wanted to maximize the use of the site, thus leading to design for the biggest residence hall at CU Boulder, and also make the building more sustainable than nearby Williams Village North, according to Heidi Roge, project manager for housing at the university.

Roge oversaw the design and construction of the building, which finished on time in July and slightly under budget. Alm2s of Fort Collins and KWK Architects of St. Louis, were the lead architects for the building.

While the dormitory was originally slated to house 550 freshmen and cost $60 million, the final proposal to the university system’s Board of Regents was $96.7 million for the building to house 705.

Windows that react to the sun and automatically dim to keep heating and cooling costs low are part of the design at the University of Colorado’s Williams Village East.

The additional space will let CU Boulder convert Athens North residence hall back to graduate student housing, which is something graduate students sought.

The CU Independent previously reported that students who live at Williams Village are less likely to graduate than those who don’t, but the university said the latest retention information shows a promising trend.

While it will take time to get more recent four-year graduation data, the retention rate for freshmen returning for a second fall semester has increased by 5 percentage points since 2014, nearly closing the gap with retention rates on the main campus, according to university spokesman Ryan Huff.

“We are proud of the programs we offer at Williams Village and they continue to grow,” Huff said, adding that the university has added a dining complex, a satellite office for Health & Wellness Services, the Startup Hub and Academic Success & Achievement Program to increase retention. “We are bringing services to our residents, and that will become increasingly important because our Williams Village population will grow this fall to about 3,600 students.”

Four first-year seminars since 2018 also have been located at Williams Village, he said, with the goal ofincreasing “a sense of belonging and feeling welcome.”

“We believe these additional services, as well as other factors, have contributed to better retention rates for Williams Village residents,” Huff said.

Focus on gaming, new bathroom design

The building is divided into color-coded wings to make it easier for students to find their way. The wings also designate the group of about 35 students who will fall under the same resident advisor. Students can request several different room styles, and the costs fall within the range of other residence halls at the university, from $7,389 to $8,393 per semester..

“We design with cost in mind, to try to keep costs down,” Roge said.

Williams Village East also debuts a new design for bathrooms. Community bathrooms are now designed to have private stalls, which each include a shower, toilet and sink. They also are now open for all genders.

While the new model is more expensive, Roge said, students had been requesting more privacy.

The main level space features a community center that will be staffed by students who will greet other students round the clock, creating a sense of community, Roge said. It also includes a student kitchen for those who want to cook, and a living room area.

It also features a gaming area, complete with large televisions that will be hooked up to a Sony PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, and an area where students will be able to connect computers to monitors and compete against each other in e-gaming tournaments. There also are some “analog” games, such as table tennis.

The goal is to get students out of their rooms and doing things with the community, Roge said.

Katie Theiler, associate director of communications for student affairs, said some research shows that e-gaming can have a positive effect on students’ learning abilities.

A 2017 study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin found that playing video games can increase cognition and attention, among other things.

The east courtyard is designed to be more like a park, with poles for hammock hanging and proximity to Bear Creek and a bike path. There are covered vertical bike racks, which can hold 50% more bikes, and Wi-Fi for students who want to study outside.

Sustainable design

One feature Roge highlighted again and again was the numerous windows placed around the residence hall to add more natural light to the space. Many of the windows also have electrochromic glazing, which means the panes are electrified and adjust the shading depending on the time of day and year. This saves energy by either reducing or allowing in more heat depending on the season.

The east courtyard also features a pond that doubles as a sustainable way to get water for the Williams Village Campus. Until 2011, CU Boulder irrigated with potable water. Now, it uses ditch water, which comes from snowmelt, saving 13 million gallons of water per year, according to Roge.

“This could’ve been very austere, just this ugly place where ditch water sat,” said JT Allen, director of facilities for Housing and Dining Services.

But, with the work of the design committee, Allen said, it’s a beautiful area accessible to students.

The dormitory rooms also have sustainable features. When students open their windows, it releases a magnet that turns off the heating or cooling systems, which should save about $80,000 annually, Roge said. There also is a vacancy sensor that turns off lights when students leave and turns down the heating or cooling levels, she said.

A black switch also serves to turn off “phantom loads,” or electronics that are left plugged in even when not in use and consume electricity. The building will have a competition in October that teaches students about phantom loads and challenges them to reduce use from September levels. In other buildings, Roge said they’ve seen a 30% reduction in energy usage during the competition, and an additional 20% reduction throughout the year.

Roge’s favorite feature is a two-story student lounge, which will connect the fourth and fifth floors and hopefully “build community” between them, she said. The windows have sunshades, which are designed to block heat in the summer and welcome it in the winter.

Williams Village East features a common area with a student kitchen.

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