Student housing often takes the form of high-rise red brick buildings with long hallways and dark stairwells. But the architecture firm CollinsWoerman ignored this unwritten rule when it designed the Bastyr University Student Housing project and, in the process, established a new model for the category.

The project called for a residence that could house at least 120 students but one that was also comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient. It was to be located on a site that would have required displacing 180 parking spots and removing a large number of trees.

CollinsWoerman moved the project to an alternate site and designed a series of “residential-style” cottages that form a student village. “The solution included not only what was built but also what was not needed,” the firm says. “Corridors, multiple stairwells, and elevators found in typical academic housing were eliminated.”

The light-filled cottages sit lightly on a site that’s designed with bioswales to filter stormwater. Each cottage features foundations with R-10 rigid foam, 2x6 exterior walls filled with R-21 insulation, radiant-heated floors, energy-efficient appliances, and zero-VOC finishes.

“The true measure of sustainability is what is given back,” the firm says. “The gardens surrounding the cottages give medicinal herbs and fruit, while the butterfly roofs and bio-filtration swales restore rainwater to the adjoining wetland.”