These 30 Colleges Have Had The Best Renovations. See How A Modern Campus Means A Great Learning Experience

Updated November 29, 2022

By BVS Staff July 2018 Each college has its own unique character. And this means that each college only suits certain types of student. You need to recognize which colleges best reflect your personality before applying. Some colleges are very new and focused on innovation, and others are centuries old institutions that have a classical ... is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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By BVS Staff
July 2020

Each college has its own unique character. And this means that each college only suits certain types of student. You need to recognize which colleges best reflect your personality before applying. Some colleges are very new and focused on innovation, and others are centuries old institutions that have a classical teaching approach. And of course, many lie somewhere in between these two extremes.

There are several things that you can look at to gauge a college's character. One of the most prominent is its infrastructure. Often, colleges construct their buildings from scratch. Even if a college is choosing to occupy a previously created building, they've made a conscious decision to be in that building for a reason. And once they're there, the college's staff members will customize it to reflect how the college wants to be perceived.

But the most important detail that you need to consider with college campus buildings is whether they're modern enough. Every college building needs renovating, improving and updating after several years. These updates also feed into a college's character, as every college is attempting to pride itself on its ability to provide for future careers and the demands of an evolving job market. But only some colleges achieve that goal.

Basically, every single job in the world is going to be affected by modernization. That means that college campuses need to have the facilities in place to prepare their students for this. You may not have considered the importance of a modern campus up until now, but it will greatly impact your years of study. Some colleges have outdated facilities, while others are undergoing disruptive building work that can be detrimental to its current cohort. However, many colleges have completed their updates and are providing students and faculty alike with buildings and facilities that allow them to learn, relax and become highly productive people.

This list will show you which colleges have undergone the best campus renovations and revamps in recent years and how they benefit students in the most constructive ways.


Producing this list has involved combining a range of respectable online articles and conducting our own dedicated research. Due to the very nature of college renovations, only recent articles suffice. After compiling the college renovations from these sources, we've then looked into other websites and statements to ensure that the buildings are actually incredible. We've done this because the colleges need to prove that their buildings are actually providing students with the value that the articles claim they are.

We haven't selected any one subject of study above another. Some buildings are geared to the arts, while others are scientific in nature. Some even combine areas of study into one place. We think that it's important to show you this range of subject area because then you'll get a strong idea of what colleges can provide. And if you're considering colleges that aren't on this list, then you can still use our selections to see how their facilities and buildings compare to your choices.

The articles that we're referencing are as follows:

University Business, Building a better college campus:

University Business, How colleges manage inner space:

University Business, How Higher Education is learning to grow:

The Atlantic, The Paradox of New Buildings on Campus:

Architectural Digest, The 9 Best New University Buildings Around the World:

New York Times, The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas

Building Design + Construction: 5 ways universities use new buildings to stay competitive:

The above articles are a mixture of mainstream publications and specialist journals that focus on universities or architecture. That means that we've been able to find colleges that have gained prominence on a national level and impressed people that focus on college building design.

In compiling our own rankings, we've used a range of criteria. The most important criterion to this list is the demonstrated impact that a renovation project has had on student learning and studying. After this, we've factored in the total expenditure of the project. By sorting our rankings in this manner, we've ensured that we're selecting buildings that not only look impressive and are expensive but are ones that actually focus on what really counts: student education. Other selection factors include the number of students aided and physical appearance.

The list, from 30 to one, is here:

#1 University of Chicago Chicago, IL
#2 Northeastern University Boston, MA
#3 Columbia University New York City, NY
#4 Cornell Tech Ithaca, NY
#5 Duke University Durham, NC
#6 Wayne State University Detroit, MI
#7 Stanford University Stanford, CA
#8 Carroll University Waukesha, WI
#9 Coppin State University Baltimore, MD
#10 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA

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  1. University of Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    From 2011 to 2016, University of Chicago spent almost $1.7 billion on construction and renovation. This huge sum means that this college a world leader in almost every field of study. With so much money spent on a range of projects, it's hard to pick any one building, but the William Eckhardt Research Center stands out. Overall, the building is 277,000 square foot and features five above-ground floors with two basement levels. It features some of the most incredible astronomy and astrophysics equipment in the world. The building was completed in 2015, and its inhabiting professors have lofty ambitions. The building means the faculty and students, "will find Earth-like planets and maybe signs of life from these planets," predicted Angela Olinto, University of Chicago's chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The final cost of this center stood at $225 million.

  2. Northeastern University

    Boston, MA

    Northeastern University is now home to a 220,000 square foot innovation ecosystem. It's dedicated to helping great minds collaborate on improving humanity and preserving the Earth and many other noble educational causes. Within this building, the subjects of brain and cognitive health; cybersecurity and privacy; human-centered robotics; drug delivery and structural biology; molecular, cellular and tissue engineering; translational biophotonics; and synthetic chemistry are taught in a way that sees high levels of crossover between student specialisms. Additionally, it hosts global industry leaders who discuss future innovation and practices. The building opened in 2017 and cost $225 million.

  3. Columbia University

    New York City, NY

    In August 2016, Columbia University's medical and graduate students moved to a new NYC home. It was the 100,000 square feet, 14 floor, state of the art building called the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center. This building took three years to complete and features everything a training medical practitioner could need, in both a professional and leisure capacity. This includes a sky lounge for study groups, active learning classrooms, student commons, an anatomy quad, a multi-purpose auditorium, a study bar, a garden and more. The entire project cost $185 million.

  4. Cornell Tech

    Ithaca, NY

    Located on Roosevelt Island, New York City, The Bloomberg Center opened in 2017 and is remarkable for a number of reasons. As the name suggests, the building was funded by businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who provided $100 million for its construction. The Center is powered entirely by energy generated on campus and is one of the most environmentally friendly buildings on the planet. It also ensures that its students are happy through offering relaxing, non-tech-related activities, such as its art program.

  5. Duke University

    Durham, NC

    In 2016, Duke University opened a radical redesign of one of the college's older buildings, the West Campus Union Building, which originally opened in 1931. The building was transformed from looking like its neighboring brick clad buildings and into a futuristic glass cube. Some are not fans of how the original, locally quarried Duke Stone was replaced with modern glass, fundamentally changing the appearance of the building and surrounding campus. But many appreciate the way that it has updated the campus to reflect 21st-century thinking. Now the college has an area where students, faculty, and alumni meet, study, present, rehearse, perform and more. The renovation cost $90 million in total.

  6. Wayne State University

    Detroit, MI

    In 2015, Wayne University's Integrative Biosciences Center opened in Detroit, Michigan. This 200,000 square foot, $90 million building later won R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design's 2017 Renovated Laboratory of the Year Award. Its main purpose is for students and faculty to discover new ways to solve urban health issues. It has a 40-foot high concourse, meeting rooms, laboratories and cutting-edge scientific equipment. The center encourages a collaborative approach, and not just within its walls. Wayne State University deliberately placed it near TechTown, the college's business incubator, so the scientific team can work with business people in gearing their solutions to the world.

  7. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Stanford University has invested heavily in its art department over the last decade. It has opened three new buildings dedicated to the arts, with the latest and most impressive being 2015's McMurtry Building for the Department of Art & Art History. This new building cost $85 million overall, and its interior is 96,000 square feet. Additionally, there is 24,000 square feet of courtyard space. This space houses a range of courses and classes dedicated to art study and practice. Features include flexible presentation spaces, indoor and outdoor performance spaces with acoustical walls, a gallery, a sculpture studio, faculty offices, darkrooms, computer labs and film editing rooms.

  8. Carroll University

    Waukesha, WI

    In the last decade, Carroll University has spent over $130 million in renovations. Perhaps the most impressive of all of these constructions is the Michael and Mary Jaharis Science Laboratories. This building cost $24 million and is almost 42,000 square foot in total. It includes a cadaver lab where students can focus on dissections, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, an aquatic suite and much more. Since opening in 2016, it has become a vital resource for Carroll University's science students.

  9. Coppin State University

    Baltimore, MD

    Since 2015, the Science and Technology Center at Coppin State University has benefited students and the wider community. Coppin State University's specialism is STEM, and the new facility is really helping to make the college a world leader in training for these careers. The total cost of the building was $83 million, and it brought innovative new classrooms, learning environments, research laboratories, a greenhouse and a data center to the college. It's a highly sustainable building and has been awarded the GOLD Certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

  10. University of Iowa

    Iowa City, IA

    Anyone who likes the video game Tetris will immediately see the appeal of University of Iowa's the Visual Arts Building. A 2008 flood damaging the college's former visual arts building necessitated this new construction. The Visual Arts Building began construction in 2013, was completed in 2017 and cost $77 million overall. The finished structure offers art students over 126,000 square feet of space to create masterpieces and collaborate within. In fact, the building is designed to not just facilitate but encourage this activity. It has multiple centers of light, allowing creative people to view projects in different ways, and is designed so that corridors can also serve as meeting spaces and foster discussion.

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