Students in My Backyard: Housing at the Campus Edge and Other Emerging Trends in Residential Development: Where Is the Campus Edge? Is It Becoming More Defined or Disappearing?

By Martin, John; Allen, Mark | Planning for Higher Education, January-March 2009 | Go to article overview

Students in My Backyard: Housing at the Campus Edge and Other Emerging Trends in Residential Development: Where Is the Campus Edge? Is It Becoming More Defined or Disappearing?


Martin, John, Allen, Mark, Planning for Higher Education


When it comes to building student housing, the stakes for universities and colleges have never been higher. From competing for prospective students and environmental bragging rights to contesting for space on the typical campus, institutions face a fundamentally different landscape than they did when housing previous generations of students. A national sampling of student residential projects and housing data provide some indication of emerging trends. Universities and colleges will increasingly look to the campus edge (even in difficult environments), will challenge themselves to build sustainably (even where budgets are tight), and will partner or compete with private developers in a variety of contexts. These emerging trends are set against the already-established trend that finds students enjoying--and expecting--more luxurious accommodations than were once typical.

Established Trends in Residential Life

Gearing housing to student expectations for a comfortable and engaging environment is an established trend in residential life. From the Los Angeles Times to The Boston Globe, recent articles on deluxe student accommodations catalog the national scope of this trend (Schweitzer 2008; Spurrier 2007). A generation of students has become accustomed to colleges and universities competing for their enrollment with improved housing options (Schweitzer 2005).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Where spartan facilities might once have been adequate, amenities now abound, particularly in new residence halls (see figure 1). The once-prototypical double room located off a double-loaded corridor with ganged bathrooms has given way to a suite or apartment with a private or semi-private bath. New residence halls typically offer a variety of common areas, including lounges, fitness centers, and coffee bars, to help students connect with one another. Of course, institutions not only compete among themselves to provide superior housing options, but also with private developers creating off-campus residences. Whether institutionally or privately developed, students expect to be enticed with supportive and enriching residential environments. In particular, breaking down anonymity by providing opportunities for social and academic engagement is especially important in large residential projects.

Three new residential projects notable for their size demonstrate the stylistic range of architecture now employed by universities to meet these challenges. In Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan is constructing North Quad, a 450-bed residential and academic gateway to campus (figure 2). Incorporating the preserved facade of the Carnegie Library, the quad's traditional architecture blends Collegiate Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles. A 10-story residence hall is a key component of this living-learning complex, an environment created by the adjacency of residential common spaces and a central dining hall to media laboratories and language arts classrooms. The $175 million, 360,000-square-foot complex is projected to open in 2010.

In 2005, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland opened the Village at 115, a seven-building apartment complex for 740 juniors and seniors. Overlooking new athletic fields, the brick neo-Georgian buildings are part of the new North Residential Village. Amenities include a fitness center, a convenience store, a coffee shop, music practice rooms, indoor bicycle storage, and garage parking. This project represents the initial phase of a 10-year program to replace all undergraduate housing on campus.

[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]

At the other end of the design spectrum, new and renovated buildings featuring a modern assemblage of projecting bays and volumes respond to the University of California, Berkeley's urban setting (figure 3). This now pedestrian-friendly area is comprised of four new buildings fit between renovated dormitory towers originally constructed in the 1960s on two city blocks. …

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