2019 Renovation & Construction Showcase: Student Union, University of Illinois–Springfield
University of Illinois–Springfield
New BuildingSubmitted by: Ann Comerford, Executive Director, Student Union
Campus type: Four-year, public
Full-time enrollment: 4,900
Project broke ground: May 2016
Project completed: January 2018
Total area: 52,000 sq. ft.
Project cost: $21.75 million
Funding source: Student fees and donations
Architects: Dewberry Architects – Peoria, Illinois; Workshop Architects – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
New FacilitiesBallroom: 2,940 sq. ft.
Dining services: 17,640 sq. ft.
Student leadership center: 4,000 sq. ft.
Starbucks: 704 sq. ft.
The University of Illinois–Springfield (UIS) had always lacked a gathering place, but seven years ago students engaged in a discussion with campus administrators about the need for a union. It took two attempts before students approved a new fee to help pay for construction costs, and donors provided over $6 million in additional funds to help create what is now the focal point for student life.
“Prior to the union, there wasn’t a sense of campus, tradition, pride, or community,” said Union Executive Director Ann Comerford. “All those things were on campus in various areas, but the union gave it all a home. When you stand on the second floor and look out on to the quad, you feel like you are part of something, a part of UIS.”
That view to the north is enabled by the building’s ground-to-roof glass windows, which also allows for the second-floor coffee shop to double as a campus overlook from the south end of the campus quad. Designed for LEED Gold certification, the student center has a green roof that bends to the south to control solar gain and a rain water reclamation system; plus, energy costs are expected to be more than 30% lower than with a traditional building model.
All campus food services are in the new building, including aStarbucks, and lunch concerts have become a new tradition after the union received a donation of a Steinway piano. The StudentLeadership Center houses offices for student life, volunteers and civic engagement, student government, and a conference room, and there is also a state-of-the-art gaming room.
Comerford said the new building is “amazing,” and added the staff stay busy.
“There are lessons learned from the process of planning and building a space. There is never enough storage, and keeping a wall of windows clean can be a challenge, no matter how amazing they are, but you just need to be sure you have a good sense of humor,” she said. “Having a new building is amazing, but just because it’s new doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its challenges. It’s best to enjoy the ride and take it as an adventure.”