With a growing list of multifamily developers jumping into the student housing arena, it’s no surprise that you often can’t distinguish new student housing from conventional market-rate communities.
Increased college enrollment, combined with low housing inventory and a demand for luxury accommodations, is fueling the demand for new high-end student housing developments. And the competition among builders to attract residents is inspiring a new array of amenities.
Today, students expect more from the "college experience." And, housing is just as much, if not more important than the university's degree programs or sports team.
So, it’s crucial to first understand what students are looking for, and, most importantly, how the building supports the live-learn goals and outcomes to provide them with that coveted ultimate "college experience."
Today’s students are highly social and connected 24/7, and they expect to stay that way throughout their college experience.
High-speed wireless access throughout the community is a given, but newer trends include keyless entries, an internet bar with PC and Mac stations, iPod/iPad docking stations, and video surveillance to instill a sense of safety.
Never without their smartphone, students want to receive a text message when a washer or dryer cycle is complete, or when a care package has arrived in the community's Amazon Locker or Google Buffer Box. They want to view the community's social events online, as well as see a calendar of events flashing on screens in the hallway and common areas. Students also want to go online to pay their rent, schedule an appointment with their resident advisor, or resolve a property maintenance issue.
Technology can also be used to create a better, more social learning environment. For instance, some study rooms have flat-screen monitors in which students can plug their tablets or laptops, and use to collaborate on projects.
“Extra Mile” Management
The community's management staff plays a key role in keeping students engaged.
The staff might implement a program of dropping off a get-well package of chicken soup and a box of Kleenex or ginger ale when a student is sick. Or they could deliver a birthday card with a bouquet of helium-filled balloons or a cupcake on a student's birthday.
Managers can also host social and holiday events, game-day parties and even speed-dating mixers. Residents might also enjoy Margarita Mondays, Taco Tuesdays and other daily and weekly events.
Onsite resident advisors can also provide an important service in mentoring and assisting struggling students who need encouragement and direction. A positive residential experience helps link students to the university community and creates a memorable "college experience."
Some communities even offer housekeeping and laundry services as well as a moving service that transports their belongings.
Students want to be physically active and expect, to a certain extent, to be pampered by resort-style amenities.
They want a salon for manicures and pedicures, tanning beds, a large pool and sundeck with private cabanas. They want to work out in a state-of-the-art fitness center with exercise machines that allow users to check their e-mail or watch TV. They want to do Yoga in a Yoga/Pilates studio or practice their music in a soundproof room. They want to swim laps in a lap pool or float down a "lazy river" water feature.
Some of the fun is decidedly low-tech, like providing courts for playing Bocce, tennis, sand volleyball or basketball. But students also want their outdoor fun to include an outdoor kitchen, fireplace or a fire pit with plenty of seating plus a jumbo screen for televised games, events and movies.
Study space, gathering, recreation, and connectivity should be at the "front living room," which opens to the street. On mild days and nights, big sliding doors or fold-up windows can be opened. When the weather is too chilly, the doors or windows are closed but there is still plenty of room to gather inside. Large windows connect the students to the outdoors and make the gathering spaces feel much larger.
Adding a roof deck amenity “for residents only" with a sense of openness and visual connectivity to the campus can also provide an intimate gathering area inside the perimeter. Lounge space, fire pit chat areas, sun deck and fitness facilities activate the space.
As developers continue to look for ways to set their properties apart, it is necessary to be mindful of the ever-evolving student preferences and deliver a product that not only provides students with a memorable "college experience," but makes financial sense.
Rohit Anand AIA, NCARB is a principal with KTGY Group, Inc., Architecture + Planning, with offices in Tysons, Va., Denver, Colo., and Irvine, Santa Monica, Oakland, Calif. He can be reached at (703) 245-1082 or firstname.lastname@example.org.