Student Housing Summit

I attended the Student Housing Summit put on by Bisnow on May 5. The panel discussion was informative and included representatives from Boston University, Northeastern and MIT, as well as a private developer, a representation from a design build outfit and one from the state dormitory authority.The participants noted the significant growth of construction of on campus housing in New England colleges. The state authority has added 40% more beds over the past 10 years and now total over 14,000. The private institutions reported that adding on campus residence halls increases student retention and enhances alumni giving. Obviously it is a revenue producer in the short and long term. In addition, studies have shown that students who live on campus for at least 1 year have significantly more academic success than commuters. Private sector development of student housing is becoming a more popular delivery method for institutions. Institutions are partnering with private developers to build housing on or nearby campuses. The administrations like these arrangements because they don’t need to access their own capital for the development. Developers like it because of the low risk of having a built in tenant base. Without partnering with the administrations, private developers are also building market rate units that cater to student needs nearby and adjacent to campus. Regarding trends in sustainable design, the demand for LEED construction is apparently driven by the parents (not the students, surprisingly) and the fact that sustainability for institutional design is the standard at this point. Colleges without LEED buildings are considered to be falling behind the times. The additional cost of sustainability is tempered by the long term energy savings achieved. It seems like many of the institutions are just trying to keep up with the Joneses in terms of amenities. Apartment style living, work out space, food courts and laundry service abound in today’s residence halls (God forbid you call them ‘dormitories’!) Asked to provide a take away message for the attendees, one panel member suggested ‘it’s all about the bathrooms’.