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Universities love to build (and capture construction in cool time-lapse)

Trinity Academic Center is taking shape in early August Northeast Washington. (Courtesy Trinity Washington University)
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This story has been updated.

Universities sure do love to build.

Online education might be trendy, but nothing quite satisfies the ambitions of university leaders like fresh brick and mortar. (And maybe some extra parking spaces to appease the faculty.) Nothing makes a campus statement more than a new dormitory, student center or high-tech laboratory. Bonus points if it’s a “LEED platinum” building.

(Even more points if you know what LEED platinum means. See * below.)

As the new school year approaches, cranes and hard hats dot the landscape at several campuses in the Washington area. This month university officials gave some updates.

At Trinity Washington University, a Catholic women’s school in Northeast Washington, ground broke in May 2014 on a new building with classrooms, nursing and science laboratories. The $40 million academic center, with 80,000 square feet and a red tile roof, is expected to open in August 2016. Officials call it a “game-changer” for the school, the first new academic building on campus since 1963.

Trinity officials are so excited about the project that they created a video through time-lapse photography to show its progress:

Trinity Washington University, a Catholic women’s school in Northeast Washington, is building a $40 million academic center that is expected to open in August 2016. (Video: Trinity Washington University/Phil Reese)

At the University of the District of Columbia‘s campus on Connecticut Avenue Northwest, a long-awaited new student center is nearing completion, with opening scheduled in November. The $45 million center, with 96,000 square feet, aims to be one of a handful of LEED platinum buildings in the city, officials said. It will have recreational and lounge areas, a ballroom, retail space and offices and meeting rooms.

*About LEED platinum: That means a building has the highest certification level in a green-building initiative called Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. The UDC project includes, for example, a rain garden to support underground storm water treatment, and a geothermal well field to support the heating and cooling system.

The student center, in the works for several years, will open as new leadership is taking over at the city’s public university. Ronald F. Mason became UDC president in July, after serving as president of the Southern University and A&M College System in Louisiana and holding several executive positions at Tulane University.

American University is building a new 8-acre East Campus directly across from its main campus on Nebraska Avenue in Northwest Washington. The new campus will have four buildings, including two connected academic buildings — the Don Myers Technology and Innovation building, named after American’s long-time CFO — and three residence halls, scheduled for completion during the summer of 2016.

American is also building a new location for its Washington College of Law, in Tenleytown. The new law school is expected to have 2,000 students and faculty and staff of 500, with 50 percent more space than its current location. Here’s an animation of the new facility:


  • Georgetown University plans to open a new residence hall in remodeled quarters this fall. Its straightforward name: the Former Jesuit Residence. With 148 beds, it is said to have stunning views. Those who live there will take part in a program called the “Spirit of Georgetown Residential Academy.”
  • George Washington University is building a new residence hall on the site of what was once known colloquially as “Superdorm.” The 880-bed residence under construction in Foggy Bottom will be called the District House, and is scheduled to be completed in 2016 (with, by the way, LEED silver certification). Project cost: $130 million.
  • George Mason University in Northern Virginia broke ground in June on a new health sciences building to be constructed with $65 million in state funding. The 160,000-square-foot building is expected to open in 2017 and will be named for the Peterson family, which also pledged $8 million to support the College of Health and Human Services.

Correction: A previous version of this report included an incorrect cost estimate for GWU’s District House project. This version has been updated.