Living Through the Ups and Downs

8th annual Residence HallConstruction Report

Today's residence hall construction costs are growing yet shrinking at the same time. Although new housing facilities are being built larger--and at a greater expense--to accommodate more students, costs per square foot and per resident, as well as the amount of square feet provided each person, are down. These are among the findings of American School & University's 8th annual survey of residence hall construction.

The cost per square foot to build a new residence hall, which is the most significant figure for comparative purposes, dropped in 1996 after two years of increases. The median residence hall costs $94.45 per square foot, or $27,200 per resident (compared to $100 per square foot, or $28,098 per resident, in 1995), and accommodates 175 individuals in 52,500 square feet.

Nuts and bolts To arrive at the findings for the 8th annual Residence Hall Construction Report, sections of AS&U's larger Official Education Construction Report--published in the May issue--were used. Information for this year's survey was collected on 32 new housing projects, with the results shown in Table 1.

For illustrative purposes, results are broken down from lowest to highest, and by averages and medians. When using the data to compare costs and amenities with those at your institution, the editors recommend using the median figures listed, as they are determined to provide more accurate examples when compared to averages.

In examining project costs for new residence halls, prices ranged from a low of $300,000 to a high of $33 million. The median project costs $4.4 million, whereas the average facility costs $6.7 million. Project size varied from 3,240 square feet to 200,000 square feet. The median residence hall encompassed 52,500 square feet of space, compared to 40,000 square feet reported in last year's survey--a 31 percent increase. In reviewing responses, the trend seems to be that colleges and universities are building bigger and better-equipped housing facilities to cater to an influx of more-sophisticated students.

Because today's residence halls are being built larger, it stands to reason that more students are being housed. In 1996, the median facility accommodated 175 residents, compared to 147 reported last year. The smallest project housed 20 residents, whereas the largest accommodated 750.

Although facilities are larger, colleges and universities are providing fewer square feet per resident, thereby lowering square-footage and per-pupil costs of construction. Square footage costs ranged from a low of $53.85 to a high topping $293. The median residence hall costs $94.45 per square foot--which is 6 percent lower than what it cost to build a facility in 1995.

A typical resident is provided 274 square feet of space, slightly less than the 280 square feet offered in 1995. The amount of square feet provided per pupil varied from a low of 100 to a high of 556. Cost per resident ranged from a low of $9,333 to a high of $83,333. The median cost per resident was $27,200, which is 3 percent lower than the amount reported in last year's survey. Of the 32 new residence hall projects identified for this year's survey, the total amount of construction put in place equaled $215.4 million. In addition, 6,675 beds were provided in approximately 1.6 million square feet of space.

What a new facility includes Residence halls being constructed today are designed to offer a variety of living arrangements and amenities to appeal to a wide array of potential residents. For example, most new housing facilities (72 percent) are co-educational, catering to students' desires to live in an environment where both sexes can mingle. The remainder of the facilities are built to accommodate males only (16 percent), females only (6 percent) and couples or families (6 percent).

Looking closer at the 32 new facilities, 73 percent of the construction was air-conditioned (a median of 42,593 square feet per building). This is down considerably from the approximately 93 percent of all space air-conditioned in residence halls put in place in 1995. When one examines the type of flooring in housing facilities, 71 percent of the space was carpeted (a median of 40,375 square feet per building), which is up significantly from the 59.4 percent carpeted in 1995.

Other amenities included in today's residence halls can be found in Table 2. One of the most notable trends is that more facilities are being designed with features specific to technology and learning, including Internet access (84.4 percent), computer access to the library (78.1 percent) and classrooms (18.8 percent).

Among the amenities found in the majority of new residence halls are laundry facilities (87.5 percent), kitchens (68.8 percent), television rooms (68.8 percent), elevators (62.5 percent) and electronic security systems (62.5 percent).

When it comes to restroom facilities, individual room/apartment lavatories are more than twice as common (59.4 percent) as gang or shared lavatories (28.1 percent each). Other amenities in residence halls include aerobics/weight rooms (15.6 percent) and dining halls (9.4 percent).

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