Piney Woods Hall

Sam Houston State University
Architectural Design, Interior Design
Higher Education
Huntsville, TX
Project type
New construction

A modern learning-living residence hall that promotes student growth

The southern district of Sam Houston State University’s campus needed new housing that would provide a safe, affordable living-learning environment supporting students’ academic success. Piney Woods Hall serves as a gateway to campus with a design that reflects the mission of the university and residence life. The 700-bed complex provides high quality, affordable housing while developing a strong sense of community, encouraging human connections and enhancing the student experience. This safe, highly active environment supports diversity and promotes student growth in an engaging living-learning setting. The design is functional, flexible, and energy efficient.

Providing academic support, inside and out

As the residential hub in the southern district, Piney Woods Hall provides amenities for all students in the district. The community learning center (CLC), along with the faculty-in-residence office and apartment, energize the complex in ways not previously experienced at Sam Houston State University. The academic support spaces, lounge and study spaces are porous, breaking the boundary between interior and exterior spaces leading to the courtyard.

The dramatic elevation changes create a multi-level interactive courtyard space which supports and enhances interaction among students. The courtyard opens to the northwest to invite a visual and physical connection to the new dining facility.

[Treanor] intuitively understood what we needed, made suggestions rooted in extensive research, held our hands during the process, and gave us a beautiful and highly interactive building that is definitely a showplace for our campus.

Joellen Newman Tipton, Executive Director of Residence Life at Sam Houston State University

A hall for all: how a CLC becomes a campus resource

The community learning center in Piney Woods Hall serves as a thriving academic resource center. Spaces include individual and group study spaces, current technology promoting collaboration, semi-private group meeting rooms, computer workstations loaded with specialized software and free printing, and more. An on-site faculty office and apartment places resources right within reach of students needing assistance and academic support. Our team completed IRB-approved primary research of the CLC in this facility post-occupancy. We found that users reported the CLC space contributing to their overall student success in several ways.

CLC research findings


Users perceive the CLC to be a place where seeing others engaged in studying serves as motivation, driving them to study more and remain focused on their own academics. Some students report needing surrounding activity, chatter, and bustling in order to reduce distractions, while others prefer using the furniture that provides privacy, moving pieces together to create their own ideal study space.


A common remark from newer students was that the larger library facilities on campus were intimidating. The size, location, and number of people at the library during peak exam times could create anxiety, discouraging students from using those spaces. The CLC is intentionally scaled for human comfort, with a variety of furniture to select from and move around as needed. Large windows with curtains and views to the interior and exterior support comfort, safety, and wellness.


Our study showed a connection between student wellbeing and access to the CLC. Recognized as a convenient place to study and work, easy access reduces anxiety over scheduling, booking, and wait times to find a desirable study space, get settled in, and complete their work.

Peer support

The larger community of Piney Woods and the presence of learning communities is acknowledged as providing a built-in information support network for residents. Users and staff perceive the learning communities as a body of knowledge for everyone in the hall and having the CLC as a study space provides opportunity for residents and users to network with this knowledge through peer support, mutual studying, and peer-to-peer tutoring.

96% of CLC users in our primary research study indicated they would recommend living in a hall with a CLC.


  • 2018 Grand Prize for New Construction, Learning By Design Magazine
  • 2018 Regional Golden Trowel Award, Texas Masonry Council

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