Designing Factors in Student Housing
Ever heard the adage, “Put your money where your mouth is?” If you want to know what will drive the student housing market for the Class of 2020, it’s best to hear it from the mouths of developers, investors, owners and architects.
Sean Studzinski, Principal at KSQ Architects, will be joining an esteemed group at the 2015 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition on the Keynote Panel, “Student Housing Market Watch.”
But before we collectively gaze at the tea leaves, Studzinski, who has designed more than 10,000 beds in student housing, shares a few secrets about what makes conceiving for student housing so unique, as well as some insights into some of the biggest factors architects take into consideration when designing for off-campus student-housing.
“Students are in a transitional phase in their life and so the facilities have to be conducive to that learning environment…. We try to define each university and each student differently. No residence project is the same, no university is the same and no two students are the same,” says Studzinski.
Planning for Community
Most of the popular amenities that students are asking for these days–such as fire pits, outdoor grills, swimming pools and exercise rooms–are communal spaces.
“Students want more of that community space where they can interact with students. The creativity of the community spaces is in high demand as well. You’ve got to get creative with what is going to attract students,” Studzinski says.
Including a plan for a sense of community within each property has deeper effects than just checking off students’ wish-lists however. According to Studzinski, research has shown that that students who live in communal settings are more likely to continue in their education, more likely to go on to graduate and are more likely to remain involved at an alumni level.
Monica Roberts, Director of Communications & Campus Research at KSQ Architects, says that a good sense of community can also have health impacts on students.
“There is a lot of research that shows that the suicide rate can go up when kids move off-campus into their own space and become isolated…. while that sounds really extreme, that is the reality,” Roberts said. “Everything we do is centered on the question of, ‘How can we create community?’”
Just as no two students are alike, no two universities are alike either, and Studzinski says the culture of a university will play a role in the design of student housing, even for off-campus housing.
KSQ Architects is currently working on an off-campus student housing project in Lynchburg, Va., near the faith-based Liberty University, and the first phase of this project is expected to be completed this summer.
“The parents who send their kids to a school like Liberty want to feel that their students are living in a way that underscores the values that the university puts forth,” Studzinski said. “Things like drinking and males and females living together are all taken into consideration.”
This project near Liberty includes more recreational activities than many communities designed to give students an alternative to partying, and will carry a strict no-alcohol policy. Co-ed living arrangements will also be prohibited.
It’s no secret that today’s college students are more tech-savvy than ever, and tomorrow’s college students are expected to be even more so. And, to meet the ever-growing technology demands, planning has to start during the design phase of each building.
“The key feature is just Wi-Fi everywhere,” Studzinski said. “They want to be connected everywhere—in their rooms, in the hallway and even in outdoor spaces. They want to have that capability and they want it fast.”
Today, when students gather in a community room to study together, they’re not just opening their text books and sharing notes. They want to be able to pull out their devices and be connected through furniture that will integrate their technology, according to Studzinski.
Even though students want Wi-Fi, architects still need to plan for datalines for community staff and also for students’ gaming systems.
With so many evolving factors in student housing, it takes a village of architects, developers, investors and owners to continue creating housing that will meet the needs of both today and tomorrow’s students.
-By Mary Scott