Designed to LEED Platinum standards, the new building is set to become one of the “greenest” student unions in the country.

The University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Washington’s only public higher education institution, will open its new Student Center today, with a celebration that features a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. Located at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street, the building acts as a gateway to the UDC campus and new source of pride for more than 5,000 students. Designed by our Arlington office in association with DC-based Marshall Moya Design, the building is the centerpiece of a ten-year, campus-wide renovation aimed at establishing the university as a national model of sustainability while raising the school’s profile as a selective four-year university.

“This building is a symbol of where we want to be and what we want to represent in terms of our role with the District,” said UDC president, Ronald Mason Jr.

It’s state of the art. It’s attractive. It’s sustainable. And it’s in a location that gives us a face into the broader community.

The design goal for the student center was to create a building that serves as a figural place-maker to identify the university as well as adhere to the university’s high standards for sustainability. The architectural design is composed of a combination of masonry, glass and bronze metal that modulates between the institutional nature of the campus and the pedestrian nature of the street. A clock tower rises high above the building, marking a new urban square soon to be teaming with students.

Sustainable design features are woven throughout the student center, including a 14,000 SF green roof; photovoltaic panels; an expansive rain garden; toilets that flush with captured rain water; and locally sourced, reclaimed and recycled materials. The building is positioned to be the the first LEED Platinum student union on the east coast and only one of two in the entire country.

Inside, the 96,000 SF project houses areas for campus life, student government, career services and other student support functions, in addition to mixed-use retail, a conference center and ballroom, and a 10,000 SF fitness and wellness center. Spaces are designed to encourage students to plug in and focus on academics, as well as to interact with peers they might not otherwise get the chance to meet.

Like many urban universities, UDC has traditionally been a commuter campus—meaning students went to class and then went home

said Roland Lemke, design leader in our Arlington office. “The new student center seeks to change that by giving students a reason to stay and linger and engage with the university outside of the classroom. These campus life experiences have proven to be key contributors to a student’s academic success.”

A UDC alumnus, project co-designer Michael Marshall said,

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to help shape the future of this important institution in our nation’s capital for today’s students and for future generations who deserve a public university of the highest caliber.” Marshall began his studies at UDC in 1975, when it was a two-year institution, before going on to finish his studies at Catholic University and Yale.

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