University housing sees big changes for the modern student


Rendering of Western Michigan University’s South Housing development. Courtesy Triangle Associates

Student housing no longer means confining concrete walls, bunk beds and communal bathrooms. Instead, universities are changing their student housing models to provide today’s students with more space and top of the line amenities. Keeping students engaged and living on campus helps to promote campus life and student participation in university organizations.

Universities are surveying their student bodies and using their feedback to guide the design of new student housing facilities. Competition between universities is at an all-time high, and students are looking at more than just scholarly programs to make their decisions. So, when it comes to on-campus housing, what exactly are students asking for?

Convenience – Practical conveniences like adjacent parking and fully furnished rooms are becoming standard at universities, but students are looking for more. They prefer a downtown feel to their on-campus living, with modern conveniences at their fingertips. Residence halls featuring ground-level retail components such as C-stores, Amazon delivery drop-offs or USPS centers are starting to become the new normal. Having a state-of-the-art fitness center centrally located in the hall itself also is becoming a major attraction.

Technology – Investing in the latest technologies is a large part of university spending. Having robust technology systems that can support advanced wireless capabilities is important to students, for both school work and personal use. Universities that are equipped with technology that promotes increased campus security is another factor that both students and parents take into consideration when choosing the right college. Residence halls that require key fob entrances throughout multiple locations in the building and security camera systems give students peace of mind, making the hall a safe space where students can feel at home.

Collaboration – Students want more space than the traditional halls offer, and universities are delivering. Open floor plans within the bedrooms, with common areas included, give students the ability to work alongside their peers outside of the classroom setting. Additional breakout rooms, kitchenettes or lounge areas throughout the facility promote collaboration and fraternization among students, where there was previously little dedicated space to do so.

Triangle has been able to see these trends develop firsthand after spending time on many college campuses throughout Michigan. Two of our top student housing clients are Northwood University and Western Michigan University, which has plans to revitalize a majority of its student housing over the next few years. Redeveloping the south end of its campus, WMU will promote a “neighborhood feel” with its new residence halls.

“Our housing project is the first of many significant projects over the next five years to reimagine the southern portion of our campus and is the catalyst for great things to come,” said Katie Jacobs, WMU’s project manager for the $60-million South Neighborhood Housing project. “It’s so exciting to help lead the process, knowing what the future holds for our students, faculty, staff and the Kalamazoo community as a whole."

Triangle’s knowledge of campus master planning, LEED accreditation and preconstruction helped bring these university student housing plans to life on campus. We are excited to watch our Michigan universities develop and adapt their facilities to meet student needs.

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