High-Tech Living

O’Brien Hall—the first residence hall built on River Campus in 42 years—opened in August and welcomed 150 students just one year after its groundbreaking. Current and projected technology needs were considered during the planning and design of O’Brien Hall, creating a model of what future campus construction and renovations may bring.

The first floor houses three public spaces:  a music performance space and a conference room, each equipped with LED displays, and a dance rehearsal room with a built-in sound system. Students do not need technical knowledge to use these systems; when they plug in their devices, the room’s display will power on, switch to the appropriate input, and adjust volume to a reasonable level automatically.

Taking a cue from the popular collaborative spaces in Gleason Library, floors 2-5 each have a study room with a flat panel display that students can connect their mobile devices to for group study sessions. Each floor also has a TV lounge with a 70-inch LED display controlled by a touch panel, allowing students to easily switch between high-definition cable television and other inputs such as laptops.

A digital signage system installed at the service desk gives hall staff a modern way to communicate with residents. Part of an expanding digital signage initiative at the University, the system can incorporate user-generated content, live news feeds, and emergency notifications.

O’Brien Hall also conforms to Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) requirements, including areas of refuge with communication systems for emergencies and wide, ADA-compliant pathways throughout the building.

Mat Felthousen ’96, assistant director of classroom technology, said, “It was very rewarding to see the students’ response to the building during move-in week, as this was nothing like the dorms they were used to. Students from across campus congregate in O’Brien Hall in order to make use of the common areas and the technology.”

O’Brien Hall is the first residence hall on River Campus to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification standards for sustainability. “We designed the building’s systems to be energy efficient,” said Felthousen, “from the selection of LCD panels with LED backlighting to programming the systems to automatically power down when not in use.”

Two more buildings will soon join O’Brien Hall in a growth spurt for River Campus. Raymond F. LeChase Hall, the future home of the Warner School of Education, will open for classes in spring 2013, and Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation is scheduled to open in fall 2013. Both halls will have technology and functionality similar to O’Brien Hall.

According to Felthousen, “The designs involved in O’Brien Hall will be applied to new buildings such as LeChase and Rettner halls, as well as to renovations requiring technology-enhanced meeting or learning spaces.”