Room to Grow: 13th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report

Housing continues to be a major focus of new construction projects at colleges and universities.

As construction on college and university campuses continues its record pace, new housing projects are among the types of facilities most often built. This is in response to a number of factors, including rapidly rising enrollments, a growing demand by students for on-campus housing and the desire of colleges to keep students in the institutional environment.

While the total cost and overall size of newly constructed housing facilities remained steady compared with last year's survey, the cost and square footage per resident dropped considerably, according to American School & University's 13th annual survey of residence hall construction.

Making an investment

Construction and cost data for new residence hall projects can be found in Table 1, which breaks out information from lowest to highest and by averages and medians. It is recommended that median figures be used when comparing data. Medians are determined to provide more accurate cost and size variables than averages.

Total cost for new residence halls put in place in 2001 ranged from a low of $550,000 to a high of $32 million. The cost of the median project was $5 million (down slightly from $5.3 million last year); the average project cost was $7.6 million. Size of projects ranged from 6,000 square feet to 600,000 square feet. The median residence hall was 40,000 square feet (nearly identical to last year's survey result); the average project was 70,773 square feet.

As it was the year before, the median new housing facility was built to accommodate 150 residents, while the average housed 187. The number of beds ranged from a low of 45 to a high of 440. Cost per resident dropped considerably from what was reported last year. The median new residence hall cost $34,503 per resident (down from $45,000 in 2000).

The amount of square feet per resident provided at the median new housing project sank to 291 from 320 the year before. The amount of square feet per resident ranged from a low of 93 to a high of 1,364.

Cost per square foot for newly constructed residence halls increased slightly to approximately $128 compared with $126 in 2000. The average project cost $147 per square foot.

Focus on amenities

Amenities offered in new residence hall facilities continue to be a major factor in attracting students to on-campus housing.

Of the 65 projects reported, the vast majority were co-educational facilities (82 percent). This is up slightly from the 81 percent of projects put in place in 2000. The remaining projects primarily housed single-sex students.

While the incidence of air conditioning increased in new residence hall projects, carpeting decreased. Approximately 84 percent of all new housing space is air-conditioned (up from 78 percent in 2000). The amount of new space carpeted sank to 64 percent (down from 73 percent in last year's survey). Additional amenities and their incidence in new residence hall projects can be found in Table 2.

Among the most popular amenities are laundry facilities and Internet access, which were included in 83 percent and 82 percent of the projects, respectively. Other commonly reported features include television rooms (65 percent), kitchens (60 percent) and electronic security systems (57 percent).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a number of amenities are becoming less frequent. For example, classrooms are found in only 8 percent of new projects (compared with 33 percent in 2000) and dining halls in 3 percent (compared with 22 percent the year before).

Behind the numbers

Data for the 13th annual Residence Hall Construction Report were compiled as part of American School & University's larger Official Education Construction Report (published in May). Chief business officials at the nation's higher-education institutions involved in a new residence hall construction project were asked to provide information about a variety of cost and amenity issues. Information was collected on 65 new housing projects put in place in 2001. Slightly more than 86 percent of respondents were four-year institutions. The median respondent had a full-time-equivalent student enrollment of 1,750; the average 4,505.

TABLE 1: Residence hall construction: The statistical picture (2001)

  Range    
Variable Low High Average Median
Cost ($000) $550 $32,000 $7,583 $5,000
Size (Sq. Ft.) 6,000 600,000 70,773 40,000
Residents 45 440 187 150
Cost/Sq. Ft. $8.33 $375.56 $147.24 $127.59
Sq. Ft./Resident 93 1,364 331 291
Cost/Resident $11,364 $96,667 $39,089 $34,503

TABLE 2: Amenities in today's residence halls

 
Air conditioning 83.5%
Carpeting 63.8%
Classrooms 7.7%
Computer access to library 50.8%
Dining hall 3.1%
Elevators 50.8%
Individual room/apartment lavatories 43.1%
Internet access 81.5%
Kitchen 60.0%
Laundry 83.1%
Security systems (electronic) 56.9%
Shared lavatories 46.2%
Television rooms/lounges 64.6%

Quick stats

Following is a snapshot of the median new residence hall put in place in 2001:

  • Cost: $5 million.
  • Size: 40,000 square feet.
  • Residents: 150.
  • Cost/Square Foot: $127.59.
  • Square Feet/Resident: 291.
  • Cost/Resident: $34,503.

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

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