Benchmarking US Campus Case Studies & The Impact on Everyday Learning


Benchmarking case studies around the world has always been common practice within the placemaking and creative industries, especially at the beginning of projects when trying to understand the right experience for a place.

At ERA-co, we like to take this service to the next level by using spatial data analytics that allow us to learn more about a place beyond the qualitative manner.

One of our senior urban analysts, Lorena Brambila, developed a quick comparative benchmarking exercise between some of the top US universities to understand beyond the academics, how the built environment of these campuses could have an impact on how students experience their everyday college life.

Can the design of campuses facilitate more diverse interaction and innovation?

In this study, we examined three universities: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. We analysed their walkability using 15-minute catchments, the density of points of interest within those catchments, which we also consider as a metric for street activation, and the total built area of the campuses within the study frame.

It is interesting to see how Harvard’s campus has a better walkability coverage, students can reach 1.4km2 more than Stanford’s campus and has almost double the number of POIs compared to MIT and Stanford. This could be driven by different factors such as the built form design and the urban context of the campus, at the same time, it starts to tell us a story about how Harvard could be a better case study when trying to prioritize walkability and activation when thinking of campus design.

We believe that places that are more walkable and active allow for more diverse interaction between students, but also within the university’s adjacent context, creating more spaces for equitable innovation.

Are there any other university campus that could be a good case study? Comment below for our team to take them on.

See formatted campus comparisons here:



Lorena Brambila, Senior Urban Analysts, Urban Strategy & Planning – ERA-co

Lorena focuses on the digital transformation of the built environment and understanding how data can help design more equitable and human-centric cities. Previously working as an architectural designer, Lorena has participated in projects ranging from master plan designs of mix-use developments to full architectural design and construction documentation. Her international work experience in addition to different sector focus and scales has allowed her to develop a holistic approach and understanding of the different built environment practices.