Location Fayetteville, AR
Size 23,398 ft²
Completed 2012
Program Classrooms, playrooms, outside play area

The University of Arkansas has offered child development programs on campus for more than 70 years to serve both its students’ academic and child-care needs. Each year, enrollment has increased, and people who used the building began to feel that the separate nursery school and infant development facilities weren’t effective. When the university asked students and staff what they were most interested in improving, early childhood programs was at the top of the list.

“This sparked the chancellor’s commitment to constructing a new facility that could serve families with a full-time child-care option while benefiting our undergraduate and graduate students majoring in fields that need to observe children interacting,” explains Doug Walsh, executive director for business and operations for the Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center at the university.


Client University of Arkansas
Architect Miller Boskus Lack Architects
General Contractor Milestone Construction Services

Vernoice Baldwin, academic director for the center, adds, “The gift from the Tyson family allowed us to construct something that would fit the needs of the students as well as the children.”

The new academic and child-care building needed to meet three main objectives: first, satisfy the center’s three-prong mission of being a space for teaching, research, and service; second, architecturally fit within campus structures and a residential neighborhood; and finally, meet the university’s sustainability goals. “The selected site lies on the campus fringe and had to be a buffer between the institutional buildings of the campus and the small-scale residential neighborhood,” says Audy Lack, AIA, LEED AP, a project architect at Miller Boskus Lack Architects.

The new building provides child care for kids and learning opportunities for students studying childhood development.

The building form’s challenge was to blend into the residential and institutional environments while creating an inviting, home-like atmosphere for the children. To achieve this, the team worked to break the building down into smaller modules that represent the scale of the surrounding neighborhood. Those modules are seen as “cottages,” which exhibit a similar scale to the houses along the street. The structure was also set back from the street, and front porches on the cottages continue the street’s harmonious edge.


Certification LEED Silver (expected)
Site Near mass transit, on walkable campus, asphalt parking lot removed
Materials Stone from regional quarry, low-VOC paints and adhesives
Water Greywater collection system for toilet flushing
Energy Ground-source hydronic HVAC, high-performance glazing, foam and cellulose insulation
Landscape Native and drought-tolerant plants

Baldwin says the concept of little communities is present in early childhood education, and the design of the Tyson Child Development Study Center helped contribute to that community feel. “The idea was to give children visibility of the next age group and to have contact with the other teachers,” she says.

To meet the health and wellness goals of the center, two large rooms permit children to get exercise regardless of the weather. “A multipurpose classroom sits between the playrooms,” Walsh says. “One-way glass allows students and parents to observe the children interacting with each other.” Healthy diet is part of the children’s education. The playground design includes raised garden boxes so children can plant and harvest fruits and vegetables, and the kitchen features three large observation windows so that children can watch the cooks prepare food using the kids’ harvest, reinforcing healthful eating habits.

General contractors at Milestone Construction Company ensured the building would maximize energy efficiency with the installation of foam and cellulose insulation and high-performance glazing systems. “Fresh air and natural light were a high priority in the design of this facility and will greatly enhance the sustained health of the building,” Lack says. The center broke ground in summer 2011, and classes moved in the following year on August 1, 2012.

The building is on track to receive LEED Silver certification due to the energy-efficient systems, natural light use, low-VOC products, and rainwater collection.