Undergraduate Student Residences – Phases 1 and 2

The University of Saskatchewan celebrated an important student-housing milestone in September 2011 when phase one of the College Quarter undergraduate residence was completed. These two five-storey buildings, positioned between 14th Street and College Drive immediately east of Cumberland Avenue, are the first buildings in a much larger vision as defined in the university’s “Vision 2057: University Land Use Planning” and the College Quarter Master Plan documents.

Demand for student residences is high, especially in Saskatoon where housing costs continue to escalate, but the availability of residence at the U of S is extremely low compared to peer institutions. Before this project began, the university could accommodate only about 6% of our student population. The goal is to raise that to 15%.  The demand for housing of all types conveniently located on or nearby campus is expected to increase substantially and the strategic advantage of having residences on-campus and close to campus will be a key to successful university retention and recruitment efforts.  First-year students living in on-campus residences at the University of Saskatchewan have an 8% better retention rate over first-year students not living in on-campus residences.  This is an important measure in improving retention, since 85% of undergraduate students leaving the university do so in their first year.

The undergraduate residence project is being completed in two phases. When complete, there will be 800 beds in four buildings, each named for a type of tree that grows in Saskatchewan (Pine Hall, Birch Hall, Aspen Hall, Spruce Hall).

Because the residences are located south of the main campus, the buildings have a more contemporary look that blends well with the surrounding neighbourhood. The exterior features a combination of Tyndall stone, used in random patterns that resemble fieldstone, with stucco and extensive glazing.

The entrance of each of the L-shaped buildings is at the corner, or knuckle, and a wing extends to either side. The common areas (lobby, laundry, meeting rooms, and open commons) are also found at the knuckle. This consistent design facilitates orientation inside the buildings. The entrance is defined by a vertical column of glazing that stretches up to meet concrete cantilevered canopies above the top-floor.

Eventually, there will be four mid-rise buildings framing a large courtyard. In warmer months the landscaped outdoor living areas in the central courtyard will be available for residents to lounge or entertain in. This area will also be used for both informal and formal events, recreation, and outdoor learning.

Care was taken to make the residences feel more like a home than an institution. Each of the one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom units average approximately 850 square feet in size and feature open concept living and eating areas. There will never be more than two students sharing a bathroom. Despite a restricted budget, the residence buildings were designed for maximum comfort with a contemporary look and feel. The interior finishes (flooring, paints, cabinetry) are of a higher aesthetic quality than what is usually found in a college residence.

Achieving optimal energy efficiency was also an important priority. The new residences feature a number of environmentally sustainable features. A particularly intriguing feature is the solar water-heating system—60 rooftop panels on one of the buildings will supplement the domestic hot water system.

The second phase of the Undergraduate Student Residences project basically mirror Phase 1. These second two buildings will complete the framing around the large courtyard, providing another 400 beds bringing the total beds available in the Undergraduate Student Residences to 800.