Penn State East Halls Case Study

A Huge Undertaking

The Opportunity: Transforming the East Halls, a large residence hall campus at Pennsylvania State University. Penn State developed an RFP based on a master plan study and they chose the design-build delivery method to ensure the success of the ambitious and complicated long-term project.

During the project, East Halls will receive significant upgrades to surrounding outdoor spaces, construction of a new 360-bed residence hall, and renovation of five existing halls, which were built in the 1960’s.

Team Collaboration

The Clayco design-build team was selected for the project from a field of 10 other teams, 6 of which were already working on Penn State’s campus. Penn State was impressed by Clayco’s ability to integrate with the design team and that the team reached out to another contractor they would be sharing some logistic overlaps with on one of the adjacent projects. Clayco was the only company to preemptively collaborate with local contractors which made for a smoother project launch.

The team worked closely with Penn State to ensure East Halls was rebuilt as a refreshed and cohesive community. As with all Clayco projects, the team identified the best local partners (MEP, Civil and Structural Engineers and Diversity Consultant) that knew the community, the university, and understood the design-build delivery model.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with several architectural and construction firms and design-build teams. What I find to be unique about this project and Clayco is the way they’ve come together to support us as a client. When we’re meeting, it’s not about who is working for each entity; it’s about the project and how we can all make it the best it can be. What I see is one team with everyone contributing, regardless of their specific function or expertise. It is remarkable to experience the cohesiveness of the group.”

– Gail Hurley, Associate Vice President for Auxilary and Business Services, Penn State

Putting the Plan into Action

Analyzing the Master Plan

When Clayco entered the scene, Penn State already had a master plan. We were tasked to evaluate the master plan in light of the East Halls Campus project.

Working hand in hand with the design architect, we were part of the design conversations which informed the overall update of the master plan for the East Halls Campus. We programmed the site design to be multi-functional and to promote student life, engagement with the community and overall interaction with the campus.

Branded Connections to the East Halls and Existing Campus

From a campus planning perspective, outdoor and indoor spaces are being linked by a convenient and inviting network of pathways within the East Halls Campus and clearly connected to the rest of the campus. The ground plan is being viewed as a continuous sequence of inviting and welcoming spaces… outdoor “rooms” of varying sizes and qualities that exist harmoniously with the ground floors of each of the buildings, envisioned to be visually transparent with clearly marked entrances.

Communal Spaces

Each building features communal spaces enclosed with large expanses of glass to preserve visible transparency. At night, the effect will be that of a necklace of glowing lanterns throughout the East Halls as an inviting way to welcome students back to their home at all times of the day. Each building’s ground floor common area will be part of a consistent overall assemblage with a relationship to one another.


The theme for the community common spaces (study rooms, lounges) is connectivity. It is expressed on each floor by large expanses of glass to create views of the beautiful campus environs. Vertical circulation nodes increase interaction, sociability and overall sense of community. This strategy takes advantage of daylight and views from within to the rest of the campus and connects students to the larger community. Students who are outside are also able to see the activity going on within.

“Clayco has helped to ensure a challenging project, with multiple phases and stakeholders involved, remained on schedule and on budget. We have thoroughly enjoyed this process and appreciate Clayco’s passion and commitment to our mission, vision and goals. They have exceeded our expectations and have my full recommendation.”

– Conal F. Carr, Director, Housing Operations, Penn State

Success Breeds Success

As a result of the successful team performance, Penn State asked the team to conduct an acceleration study to explore ways to bring more beds on line faster. The study showed the accelerated plan would be able to complete the projects three years earlier saving millions of dollars. As a result of this, Penn State decided to add an additional residence hall and is reviewing options to accelerate the renovations in the upcoming phases.

Phase 1 Completion

As of the summer of 2019, there are now a total of 2,482 new and renovated beds at East Halls. With the successful completion of Phase One, Clayco and the design-build team will begin to renovate the remaining nine existing buildings as part of Phase Two of the project, which will result in a total of 4,570 new and renovated beds. The project is envisioned as a comprehensive transformation of the student residential experience.