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Proposed UC Santa Barbara dorm faces criticism over lack of windows

The University of California, Santa Barbara is facing backlash over a proposed dorm building that will offer housing for up to 4,500 students but leave most living in windowless rooms. 

The building, Munger Hall, was designed and funded by 97-year-old investor Charles Munger. In exchange for a $200 million donation to build the dorm, the college agreed to follow Munger's proposed blueprints, the Santa Barbara Independent reports

The building takes advantage of space by creating large, central common areas, but includes stacked rooms that would leave over 94% of occupants without windows, according to building blueprints

Dennis McFadden, an architect and member of UC Santa Barbara's design review, resigned in protest over the project. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, McFadden called the building a "misguided experiment that will affect the health and safety of multiple generations of undergraduates," highlighting its reliance on "energy-consuming artificial environmental systems" for alternate means of sunlight and ventilation.

Proposed Munger Hall. UC Santa Barbara

"It's not too late for the university and the leaders of the UC system to choose a better approach to student housing than the dangerous design of Munger Hall," McFadden wrote.

Munger has already funded and built several other buildings elsewhere. One, a dorm at the University of Michigan, also features windowless rooms, according to the New York Times.

Munger Hall is an attempt by the school to solve a massive housing crisis with what UC Santa Barbara describes as a "transformational prototype for world class student housing." 

In an interview with the New York Times on Friday, Munger said, "I'm not a bit surprised that someone looked at it and said, 'What the hell is going on here?' What's going on here is that it's going to work better than any other practical alternative."

Students aren't so sure. 

"People could get so sad," student Bryan Stafford told CBS Los Angeles. "No sunlight? Like, that's scary."

Floor plan  UC Santa Barbara

"If you want it romantic and dim, you can make it romantic and dim," Munger told the New York Times. "When in your life have you been able to change the sun? In this dorm, you can."

Following the controversy, the school said it will continue with the planned construction, which is on track to be completed by February 2025. 

"We are delighted to be moving forward with this transformational project that directly addresses the campus's great need for more student housing," the university said in a statement following the controversy. 

"All our current housing projects are guided by our Campus Plan, which was developed through an extensive campus participatory process with the assistance of Urban Design Associates with the goal of providing affordable, on-campus housing that minimizes energy consumption, and reduces the number of students living in the neighboring community of Isla Vista and beyond."

The project still needs approval from the UC Board of Regents and the California Coastal Commission, according to CBS Los Angeles.

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