Case Study: UCLA University Apartments

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

Summary: UCLA wanted to upgrade the design standard for their off-campus housing. Working with UCLA’s Director of University Apartments, we tailored an elegant solution that blends sustainability, durability, modern design, and a sense of space. The UCLA University Apartments project also featured a unique solution to help manage a surge in occupancy.

Project Name: UCLA University Apartments Off-Campus Housing

Project Location: Westwood, Los Angeles

Dates: 2014 & 2017

Project Size: 500 fully furnished studio apartments

Building Type: Multi-purpose Graduate Student Housing

Project Team: UCLA, Studios Architects, Rick Pulley

Product List: Bed with Underbed Storage, Desk with floating pedestal, Chair, Nesting Tables, SideTable/bookshelf


UCLA Founded in 1919UCLA was founded in 1919 as the southern and second campus in the University of California system. Occupying a 419-acre urban campus with 163 buildings, UCLA receives more applications per year than any other school registering 119,000 in 2017.

UCLA is a top-ranked public research university with an endowment of $2.06b and an annual budget of $6.7b which funds six undergraduate colleges, seven professional schools, and four professional health science schools and a thriving profile of NCAA division one athletic teams.

With 31,000 undergrads and 13,000 postgrads, the school offers 337 degree programs. It was ranked by US News & World Report as the #1 public university in the United States in 2017-2018. It was also ranked 15th in the world for academics by the The Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

In terms of distinctions among faculty, students, and alumni, they are legion and include 24 Nobel laureates, 3 Fields Medalists, and 5 Turing Award winners to list a few. The accounting of distinguished graduates and their accomplishments, contributions, and awards is simply too great to list.

Equal to UCLA’s academic prowess is it’s storied athletic program. According to Wikipedia:

The Bruins have won 126 national championships, including 114 NCAA team championships, more than any other university except Stanford. UCLA student-athletes, coaches and staff won 251 Olympic medals: 126 gold, 65 silver and 60 bronze. UCLA student-athletes competed in every Olympics since 1920 with one exception (1924), and won a gold medal in every Olympics that the United States participated in since 1932.

Sustainability At UCLA

Finally, UCLA cultivates a robust commitment to sustainability. Each year, the school’s student-led Sustainability Action Research—part of their Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES)—pairs students with a campus stakeholder to “research, rethink, investigate, and tackle UCLA’s greatest sustainability issues.”

And the school maintains and measures progress against a comprehensive sustainable policy with respect to all green practices.

The Sustainable Practices Policy establishes goals in nine areas of sustainable practices: green building, clean energy, transportation, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, sustainable food service, sustainable water systems.

UCLA University Apartments Off-Campus Housing

bedroom furniture UCLA University ApartmentsAfter a very successful partnership with UCLA on their Weyburn Terrace & Paseo Project (Read the full Case Study here), we started working with the University to design furniture for their graduate and undergraduate off-campus apartments.

As we mentioned above, UCLA has an active sustainability mission and that also extends to their complex of off-campus apartments.

To begin with, the school provides all its University Apartments residents with a helpful and in-depth Guide to Green Living.

Here are just a few of the green initiatives within UCLA University Apartments:

  • Low flow showers and faucets
  • Dual flush toilets
  • Beverage container recycling
  • Sustainability topics and recycling in newsletters
  • Quarterly “green issue” educational flyers
  • Green workshops (composting, gardening, recycling, etc.)
  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • LEED construction

Their Residents’ Association also promotes sustainability via a Green Coordinator, who hosts programs and furnishes resources on sustainability within University Apartments South.

(In this picture, you can see the drought tolerant plants on the roof at UCLA’s Landfair University Apartments.)

Process and Approach

When we started working with UCLA University Apartments team, we had a few goals for this project.

First, we worked directly with Shirley Wong, the Head of University of Apartments, to develop a fresh design standard for graduate and undergraduate housing.

Second, the university had an enrollment surge and needed a solution to manage high-density occupancy.

1. Establishing A New Design Standard

lounge furniture UCLA University ApartmentsWe tailored a completely custom set of furniture for University Apartments. The genesis for the design came from furniture samples which Shirley Wong had seen in a retail showroom.

From this inspiration, we worked to design a contemporary collection with super clean lines blending sustainable solid maple hardwood with recycled steel.

The striking new designed formed the basis of a new off-campus minimalist standard and yielded two of our most popular collections: Landfair and Breeze.

We worked very closely with the UCLA team to establish this new design standard for all of their furniture. In time, this new style would become UCLA’s standard for a huge number of apartments.

Here are some of the specifics.

bed, desk, storage, chair in ucla university apartmentsFor the lounge furniture, we crafted coffee tables, end tables, and tv stands featuring metal sled bases and solid maple wood tops.

In the bedroom we fashioned a simple desk with metal legs and a mobile pedestal to maximize storage and flexibility. The bed, with solid wood bed ends, featured an inverted tubular rail which allowed capacious hardwood stackable storage cabinets underneath.

Both the mobile pedestal and the storage cabinets had cut out drawer fronts to minimize hardware.

With regular renovations, new apartments, and annual turnover, we install a few hundred sets of this sustainable furniture ensemble every year at UCLA.

2. Creating Space In High Density

In 2017, University Apartments approached us with a unique dilemma. Because of an unexpected surge in enrollment, their units were cramped and they needed more space.

Could we design a solution to help them make more room in the unit?

We custom designed a drop-lid desk, which was multi functional. On one hand, it provided ample storage while also serving as a fold down desk.

The desktop could fold up to minimize it’s overall footprint and then fold down during study time. And it was lockable.

(Photos via: Studios Architecture)