Case Study: California Lutheran University

In Blog, case study, Design Resource, Occupancy by Morgan Dix

Summary: CLU wanted to upgrade their design standard across campus. At the same time, Cal Lutheran housing needed to increase occupancy and develop a solution for tripling rooms because housing demand on campus kept rising.

Case Study: California Lutheran University

Name: Cal Lutheran

Location: Thousand Oaks, CA

Size: 280 Beds

Building Type: Residence Hall

Project Team: CLU & DCI

Product List: Jr. Loft, Adjustable/Bunkable Bed, Wardrobe, 3-Drawer Chest, Guardrail, 6-Drawer Underbed

Cal Lutheran

California Lutheran University is a small liberal arts university founded in 1959 on 225 acres of picturesque land in Thousand Oaks California.

With 3000 undergrads and close to 1300 graduate students, CLU is a nonsectarian university and one among 26 that are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In 2012 U.S. News & World Report ranked Cal Lutheran 14th among regional universities in the Western United States. On top of that, the school was included in the 2015 “America’s Top Colleges” by Forbes and Time Magazine’s “Best Colleges For Your Money 2017.”

CLU’s current endowment is $98.5million.

Students represent 45 countries and can choose from among 37 majors and 41 minors with an average class size of 15. The graduate programs are housed in four major schools including: the Graduate School of Education, the School of Management, the Graduate School of Psychology, and the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.

Within these branches of graduate study, students are awarded doctorates in educational leadership, higher education leadership, clinical psychology and theology and master’s degrees in education, psychology, business, economics, information technology, public policy and administration, divinity, and theological studies.

Process & Approach

DCI and Cal Lutheran housing have a long-standing partnership, and we’ve worked together on numerous projects in the last decade.

In Fall 2016, the CLU housing team contacted us with a new project that presented some unique challenges and opportunities.

Updating Design and Increasing Occupancy

As we’ve documented here, with rising tuition rates across the country, students and parents have higher expectations when it comes to the overall quality of residence halls.

And that makes sense.

Did you know, for example, that nearly half of student budgets go to housing costs.

With this in mind, CLU wanted to upgrade their design standard across campus, starting with their Pederson and Thompson residence halls.

At the same time, Cal Lutheran housing needed to increase occupancy overall thanks to increasing popularity and heightened enrollment at the school.

Design Consultation

In October 2016, our interior designer and account manager toured Pederson and Thompson Halls with representatives from Cal Lutheran housing and Residence Life.

With similar layouts, both buildings are comprised of 5-person Suites and together amount to 280 Bed spaces.

During our initial walk-through with the Housing Team, we gathered input and learned more about the project goals.

In essence, CLU wanted to update the furniture in both halls and develop a viable solution for tripling rooms because housing demand on campus keeps increasing.

Space Challenges

Cal Lutheran housing

Each 5-Resident suite had two bedrooms and a shared living space. CLU asked us to design the first bedroom as a triple and the second bedroom as a double.

After reviewing CLU’s initial design concepts, we gathered detailed room measurements and began plotting different floor layouts.

Tripling the first bedroom presented some unique challenges based on the limited floor space. It required us to completely optimize the space.

We had one big factor working in our favor. The study desks were stationed in the shared living space and not in the bedrooms.

increasing occupancy with Cal Lutheran housingOver the next few weeks, we started collaborating with CLU’s Housing Team and presented them with a series of 3D renderings showing different options based on our room measurements.

Crafting A Collaborative Solution

We hit on two key concepts that made the tripling viable. And it’s important to note that we didn’t come up with these solutions in isolation. It was a creative process where CLU helped define the solution in some fundamental ways.

First, we bunked two of the beds and placed a horizontal 6-drawer unit under the lower sleep surface. Each of the three residents would have access to two of the drawers.

Second, we made the third bed in the triple a Jr. Loft, with a wardrobe and 3-drawer chest under the sleep surface. The CLU team chose the Jr. Loft for two reasons: to decrease overall mass in the room and to differentiate the level of each sleep surface.

Another key consideration centred around optimizing the following three factors: ceiling height, the height of the university’s existing mattresses, and the height of the 6-Drawer dresser.


To make the most of the limited room space, we wanted to build the 6-drawer unit under the bunk bed as tall as possible. This approach allowed us to maximize drawer storage while leaving adequate space above both sleep surfaces.

With 97.5” high ceilings, we calculated the max height of the 6-drawer’s height could be 20” and still leave both sleep surfaces with 30” of clearance.

With dimensions of 79W x 24D x 20”H, the 6-drawer unit integrated perfectly with our Quick Lock 3900 Bed to create a seamless look.

The Storage Solution

All the triple rooms would feature a large closet shared by two residents. Each closet would have two, Campus 3-Drawer Chests.

Cal Lutheran housing installation processThe third resident, sleeping on the Jr. Loft, would have a wardrobe. The Campus Wardrobe was designed so the hanging and storage space roughly equalled a closet. The custom dimensions of the wardrobe were 36W x 25D x 48H”.

The way it worked out in the Triples is that each student had their own hanging and storage area, a 3-Drawer Chest, and 2 bonus drawers from the horizontal 6-drawer underbed unit.

Cutting Costs

During the quoting phase of the project we wanted to deliver the most cost effective solution. One area we identified for cost savings was installation.

To lower installation costs, the Cal Lutheran housing team suggested that we use the University’s summer housing staff (many of them football players) to assist with the installation.

Here’s how it played out.

DCI provided a foreman and one experienced installer to oversee CLU’s crew of young, strong, hard-working students. In the end, they did much of the heavy lifting and moving.

CLU’s point person in the facilities department managed the 10-14 student workers, and they did an amazing job, stayed motivated, and worked as a team.

By the end of the project, the students were all well-seasoned installers. In fact, we wished we could have taken them to our next job!

In the end, all the careful planning on the front end of the project paid dividends when it came time to install the project. The furniture fit perfectly and functions well in the space while meeting all the project specific requirements. And a bonus…we had fun to boot.

(Photos: ELS.eduJmhart07NewKKWikiDouglas)