High Life: 17th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report

Spending by colleges and universities on new housing facilities jumped sharply, reflecting higher costs and a desire to keep students on campus.

Residence hall construction continues to be a priority for colleges and universities. With enrollments on the upswing, higher-education institutions are spending more and building larger facilities to entice students to live on campus.

According to American School & University's 17th annual Residence Hall Construction Report, the median new housing facility completed in 2005 was 136,886 square feet (more than twice the 60,000 square feet posted in 2004) and accommodated 382 residents at a total cost of $20.4 million (compared with 210 residents and $10 million the year before).

Behind the data

A total of 16 projects were surveyed to arrive at results for the 17th annual Residence Hall Construction Report. Table 1 breaks out construction and cost data for new residence hall projects completed in 2005 from lowest to highest, and by averages and medians.

Total cost for new residence halls ranged from a low of $4.5 million to a high of $55 million. The median project cost $20.4 million (up from $10 million in 2004); the average project cost $22.3 million. The amount of square footage of new housing facilities ranged from a low of 26,171 to a high of 295,000, with the median residence hall providing 136,886 square feet of space and the average project totaling 140,325 square feet.

Of those projects completed in 2005, a low of 76 to a high of 678 residents were accommodated, with the median number of beds at 382 and the average at 403. Cost per resident increased to a median of $53,367 (from $43,269 in 2004) and an average of $56,122 (from $54,137).

One notable finding is that new residence halls are providing fewer square feet per student, reversing five consecutive years of new facilities offering more space per student. The amount of square feet per resident at the median new residence hall dropped slightly to 334 from 338 the year before. The biggest drop is in the average amount of square feet per student, which fell to 352 from 457 in 2004. Square footage per resident ranged from a low of 235 to a high of 566.

The cost to build a new residence hall in 2005 rose significantly from what it cost the year before. The median new project cost $169 per square foot (compared with $114 the year before), with the average project coming in at $163 per square foot (compared with $143 in 2004). Cost per square foot ranged from a low of $78 to a high of $293. Total cost ranged from a median of $20.4 million to an average of $22.3 million ($10 million and $13.1 million, respectively, the year before).

Eye on amenities

The type and quality of amenities included in new residence halls remain important. Table 2 outlines a number of amenities new residence hall projects feature.

Among the more common amenities among projects completed in 2005 are Internet access, kitchens and laundry facilities (all 88 percent), air conditioning (84 percent), electronic security systems (81 percent) and television rooms/lounges (81 percent).

Amenities reported as among the least popular are dining halls (19 percent) and classrooms (25 percent).

Co-educational facilities continue to be the predominant form of living arrangement at new residence halls (almost 50 percent of the new projects designated as such), with the remainder designed for couples/families and single-sex arrangements. Individual colleges and universities financed the majority of the new residence hall projects in 2005 (81 percent); private financing accounted for 6 percent, and 13 percent were paid for by a combination of the two.

TABLE 1: Residence hall construction: The statistical picture (2005)

 
  Range
Variable Low High Average Median
Cost ($ millions) $4.5 $55.0 $22.3 $20.4
Size (Sq. Ft.) 26,171 295,000 140,325 136,886
Residents 76 678 403 382
Cost/Sq. Ft. $78 $293 $163 $169
Sq. Ft./Resident 235 566 352 334
Cost/Resident $34,091 $95,070 $56,122 $53,367

TABLE 2: Amenities in today's residence halls

 
Air conditioning 84%
Carpeting 56%
Classrooms 25%
Computer access to library 69%
Dining hall 19%
Elevators 75%
Individual room/apartment lavatories 38%
Internet access 88%
Kitchen 88%
Laundry 88%
Security systems (electronic) 81%
Shared lavatories 69%
Television rooms/lounges 81%

Stats at a glance

Following is an overview of the median new residence hall constructed in 2005:

Cost: $20.4 million

Size: 136,886 sq. ft

Residents: 382

Cost/Square Foot: $169

Square Feet/Resident: 334

Cost/Resident: $53,367

Reduction of space

The amount of space provided per resident in new residence halls pulled back from five consecutive years of growth. The average amount of square feet per resident over the past decade:

YEAR AVERAGE SQ. FT./RES.
1996 274
1997 250
1998 294
1999 284
2000 319
2001 331
2002 340
2003 429
2004 457
2005 352

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

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