Home Grown: 9th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report

Competitive market pressures are driving the construction of today's residence halls, forcing colleges and universities to focus attention on design features.

Competitive market pressures are driving the construction of today's residence halls, forcing colleges and universities to focus attention on design features and conveniences to meet the demands of a more sophisticated and sought-after student population.

While the total cost of the median new residence hall built in 1997 was lower than what was reported in last year's survey ($3.5 million compared to $4.4 million in 1996), costs per square foot and per resident increased. The lower price tag for housing facilities primarily is due to colleges and universities offering smaller buildings that accommodate fewer residents in less square footage. These and other data are among the findings of American School & University's 9th annual survey of residence hall construction.

The median cost per square foot to build a new residence hall in 1997 was more than at any other time since this survey's inception ($112 vs. a previous high in 1995 of $100). Much of the increase can be attributed to colleges and universities incorporating the latest technology capabilities and design trends to attract students to on-campus housing. Breaking down the components of a median new residence hall in 1997:

-Cost: $3.5 million.

-Size: 29,500 square feet.

-Residents: 117.

-Cost/Square Foot: $112.37.

-Square Feet/Resident: 250.

-Cost/Resident: $29,205.

About the survey

Data for the 9th annual Residence Hall Construction Report were compiled as part of AS&U's larger Official Education Construction Report, which is published in the May issue. Colleges and universities involved in a residence hall construction project were asked to supply information about a variety of specifics. Data were collected on 29 new housing projects put in place in 1997.

Results are displayed in Table 1 and are broken down from lowest to highest, and by averages and medians. When using data to compare costs and amenities with those at your college or university, the editors suggest using the median figures listed, which are determined to provide more accurate examples of cost and size variables than averages.

Total cost for a new residence hall constructed in 1997 ranged from a low of $900,000 to a high of $45 million. The median project costs $3.5 million, whereas the average building costs approximately $6.2 million. Size of projects spanned from 8,000 square feet to 244,000 square feet. The median residence hall encompassed 29,500 square feet of space, compared to 44,298 square feet reported in last year's survey.

The attention to detail and smaller overall size of many new residence hall construction projects is paying off in attracting students to on-campus living. In 1997, the median new housing facility accommodated 117 residents-the smallest project housed 35 students whereas the largest accommodated 800. The cost per resident increased to $29,205 from $27,200 in 1996.

Not only are newly constructed housing facilities being built smaller and accommodating fewer residents, but also they are providing less square feet per student. A typical resident is provided 250 square feet of space, down from 274 square feet offered in 1996. The amount of square feet provided per resident in 1997 varied from a low of 100 to a high of 400. Square footage costs ranged from a low of $68.75 to a high of $375. The median residence hall cost $112.37 per square foot-an increase of 19 percent over what it cost in 1996.

Drawing attention

Today's residence halls are catering to the popular student desire to live in a more home-like environment that encourages interaction between the sexes. New housing facilities primarily were co-educational (72 percent), with the remainder built to accommodate either males only, females only, or couples/families.

Of the 29 new facilities built in 1997, 86.2 percent of the construction was air conditioned, which is up from the 73 percent reported in last year's survey. Although carpeting remains the flooring of choice in new residence hall facilities, the percentage of space covered was less than what was put in place in 1996 (65.5 percent vs. 71 percent).

Table 2 outlines the amenities featured in today's residence halls. One of the most noteworthy trends is the incorporation of technology into new facilities. Of the new construction put in place in 1997, such technology elements as Internet access and computer access to the library were prominent (82.8 percent and 79.3 percent, respectively).

Laundry facilities are found in almost all residence halls (93.1 percent). However, other amenities that seemed to be becoming more common in new housing facilities are found in fewer of today's projects. For example, aerobics/weight rooms, classrooms and dining halls are found in fewer than 10 percent of the projects. Colleges and universities are concentrating more on providing quality housing facilities, encouraging students to visit other buildings on campus for ancillary functions.

Restroom facilities in residence halls primarily are individual room/apartment lavatories (72.4 percent), followed by shared lavatories (41.4 percent). Gang lavatories are found in only 6.9 percent of residence halls, reflecting the need for colleges and universities to provide facilities more like private housing and less like the barracks-style of old.

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