California State University, Northridge


Student Union Master Plan Advisory Services

The University Student Union, a student-centered non-profit organization that works to expand the campus experience at California State University, Northridge, understood the critical role the student union building plays on its campus and the impact it has on students, faculty, staff, and the general public. In 2006, the group brought in Brailsford & Dunlavey to develop a master plan for the union that led to a $15 million renovation, completed that same year. Then, in the fall of 2015, the Union group again engaged B&D to create an updated master plan — since no major infrastructure improvements had been made in the intervening years and it was critical to ensure the facility met the university’s ever-changing needs and those of the community it serves.

B&D’s master planning process involved a multi-phase effort to understand key student and campus needs, facilities improvements, and the university’s financial realities. Elements of the process included:

• Existing conditions and meeting room utilization analyses to understand current needs, demand, and impact on the facility
• B&D’s proprietary Strategic Asset Value analysis conducted with key students and stakeholders to understand the drivers for improvements
• Interviews and focus groups with students to gain qualitative information regarding the union
• A student survey and concept refinement focus groups to gain granular information on the concepts developed
• A financial model to understand the operational changes and fees needed to support the improvements

Based on information gathered in the above analyses, B&D tested and developed a variety of potential concepts to address university and community needs. The ultimate concept built upon the previous union’s approach of a “town center” and “main street” down the center of the facility, with the student recreation center at one end and the main campus core on the other. Major impacts of B&D’s master plan were:

• New and improved lounge areas and expanded study areas
• A collaborative social and study space similar to that of Google and Apple
• Expanded retail, food areas, and a sports pub
• Outdoor seating areas with power outlets
• A large, state-of-the-art event space that can hold 800 for meal events and 1,200 for lectures
• Additional meeting and conference areas and improved wayfinding
• Increased student employment opportunities and improved sustainability elements

The new space totals an additional 172,000 GSF, including 40,000 GSF of replacement spaces.