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The Glaring Mistake Student Housing Developers Might Be Making

Student Housing Mistakes

Today’s students keep using more devices. How important is it to design to keep those devices free of sunlight?

When U.S. Residential’s Executive Vice President of Client Services Laurie Lyons visits the common areas in student housing developments, she notices in an interesting phenomenon.

Nestled in the dark corners of these rooms sit students surfing, communicating, snapchatting, tweeting and watching on their devices.

“They want it to be dark all the time,” Lyons says. “They want darkness while they are sleeping and no glare during the day so they can better operate their cell phones and other devices.”

For veteran developers and managers this is a brave new world, forcing them to essentially reprogram how they think of designing their common areas.

Student housing operators are adjusting living spaces to accommodate their student residents’ preference.

Lyons says recent design intentions were to design apartments that featured light from the moment the student entered. But seeing that students gravitate toward interior spaces that have the least glare makes her rethink that approach.

“They all used to hang out in the kitchen, where there were no windows,” she says. “Now, I could see us developing our living space area to not include windows, and perhaps locating the kitchen where it is against the glass.”

She also is considering smaller, square windows that are “architecturally pleasing to the eye” or slotted glass windows in different shapes. “There could be just small pieces of glass on the wall,” she says.

Lyons also is focused on choosing window coverings that keep sunlight and glare out while also allowing the students to see outside.

Lyons says windowless rooms could potentially bring a premium in rents.

Those rooms used to be a tough sell, she says, but today there is a high demand for rooms without windows. “They are typically the first ones that students want because there is no glare.”

But others do not see a major threat with glare. Javier Esteban, an architect with KWK Architects, says new lighting technology such as LED bulbs and lenses are very effective in reducing hot spots and concentrated light spots that can cause screen glare.

At student housing operator EdR, its Senior Vice President of Strategic Business Development and Chief Technology Officer Scott Casey says he’s not taking an about-face when it comes to windows.

“I see us putting more glass into our buildings than we ever have before,” Casey says. “I do not think glare is a concern for our residents. Devices are being built better today to handle glare.”

Brent Little, President of Fountain Residential Partners, says he has not seen glare to be an issue. He says the room’s design has a big impact on visibility.

“We have a television wall on one side of the living room, a furniture wall on the other side and the light is coming from the opposing wall,” Little says. “Glare is not an issue.”

Student housing developers continue to see an increase in the number of devices students use.

“They used to say a port for every pillow,” Little says. “It went from every student has one device to three to five to seven to eleven. Now some students probably have a pair of socks hooked up to the Internet.”