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Students move into new Health and Wellness Dorm for summer semester

First new dorm in 35 years is sustainably designed, will host health services, student wellness programming

The University welcomed residents into a new 162-bed dormitory and wellness center located on 450 Brook St. May 9, marking the opening of the first new dorm in nearly 35 years. The building will also house the University’s health and wellness services. 

By locating health and wellness services inside a residence hall, the University aims to create opportunities for community building, peer education and outreach focused on mental, physical and psychological well being, according to a University webpage for the dormitory. 

This residence hall will have unique programming run by student residents in collaboration with health and wellness services. Examples of programming include students teaching yoga or active listening skills to their peers, as well as participating in mini-grant projects to implement interventions with the support of BWell Health. Students will shape what programming is offered based on areas of wellness that interest them.

The first floor of the hall is dedicated to housing health and wellness facilities: Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Services, BWell Health Promotion and Emergency Medical Services. It also hosts a large common space for students, Paul Dietel, assistant vice president of planning, design and construction, told The Herald. The upper floors are for student residence; one side of the building is suite-style living and the other contains singles. 

Each suite has four bedrooms, a common living room, a bathroom and a kitchen. Each floor of singles contains multiple single-occupancy bathrooms and common rooms. Every room has air conditioning, and water bottle filling stations are dispersed throughout each floor. 

Currently, mostly upperclassmen are residing in the residence hall for the summer semester. Health and wellness services are scheduled for a phased move-in by August 9, said Craig Barton, University architect and professor of the practice of history of art and architecture. The unique health and wellness programming will begin in Fall 2021, and prospective residents had to apply for residency by May 16. 

Current student residents have expressed excitement about living in 450 Brook St.  

“I love it. My quality of life has improved and I like how new everything is,” said Summer Residential Counselor Charles Wang ’22. “The best part is the location, as the dorm is right next to the gym, Andrews (Dining Hall) and CVS.”

SRC William Zhang ’22 agreed that the space is “super nice” and that residents are really glad to be there. “This vibe is so different as compared to other dorms,” he said. “It’s more modern, contemporary, newer, brighter and lighter.”

The construction of the building began in March 2020 — right at the onset of the pandemic — according to Dietel. The University was able to continue construction throughout the pandemic by implementing new health and safety features

“The University was committed to keeping (construction) going and it was quite remarkable,” Dietel said. “I cannot tell you how excited we are about this project. Finishing ahead of schedule and ahead of budget is something we are very proud of.”

The hall was originally set to open in August 2021, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to a tri-semester model, the University asked the construction crew to accelerate the project to complete it for the summer semester, Dietel said. In order to meet this deadline, the crew hired additional construction staff and had to work 10-hour work days six days a week.

After adhering to COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing, masking, daily symptom tracking and temperature checks, the construction team was able to complete the project in time for summer residents to move in, Dietel added. 

The construction of the building emphasizes sustainable living by using recyclable carpet tiles, floor-to-ceiling glass windows to maximize natural light, occupancy sensor lighting that harvests daylight and laminated timber flooring, which is known to sequester carbon, said Barton. 

SRC Ciara Sing ’22 said that the floor-to-ceiling windows in the building enhance the living experience. “They bring in a lot of air and light unlike typical dorms and they are a nice component of the building,” she said. “The whole building is glass so it does open the space and make it more welcoming unlike the other dorms on campus.”

Jonathan Leite ’23 described the dorm as “very clean and welcoming.” 450 Brook St. is “the nicest dorm I’ve been in on campus,” he said. “The rooms are really airy, the windows are enormous in all the rooms and the common spaces have really excellent natural light.”

The construction crew will add green roofs and a green wall by the end of the summer, Barton added. The building is not run off of fossil fuels, placing the University one step closer to achieving a carbon free campus by 2040.  

Barton explained that the design of the building, which has a balance of private rooms and gathering spaces, took into account the interests and concerns of students. “As we went through in planning and conversation with student groups, these were the kinds of options they wanted in their housing — the ability to have a private room but also to construct their own community,” he said.

He added that the building also “makes for a balance between the public and private component” through a first floor accessible to the entire Brown community and private, single rooms. Barton notes that the major difference of 450 Brook St. from other dorms on campus is its special health-centered programming, more kitchens, single occupancy bedrooms and more opportunities for public and private gatherings through lounges. 

Associate Vice President for Campus Life Koren Bakkegard agreed that the design closely supports the programmatic and experiential goals of the building. 

“Offering a combination of four-person suites and singles clustered around common spaces and shared kitchens, this upper-division residence has been designed to provide private living space and communal amenities where students will come together to share their holistic wellbeing practices in community with each other,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Student residents have largely expressed happiness and gratitude to be living at 450 Brook St., already dubbed “the Welly” by residents. 

SRC Maria Zhou ’22 said she greatly appreciates her new living space. “It’s definitely just gorgeous, and I love how everything is new from the furniture to the appliances in the kitchen.”

In the coming months, the space will continue to evolve as health and wellness services relocate and programming begins. 

“It will be interesting to see how students interact with the professional services,” Zhou said, “and I’m excited to see how that’s going to work and how those two communities will mix.”


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