An Eye on Cost: 11th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report

July 1, 2000
Results from AS&U's 11th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report.

Today's crop of new residence-hall facilities can be said to embrace both ends of the spectrum: They are larger in size yet cost less than those constructed the year before. The median size of a new residence hall built in 1999 was 43,000 square feet, up 32 percent from the 32,500 square feet reported in last year's survey. Total cost of a median new housing facility in 1999 was $3.8 million, down 7 percent from the $4.1 million reported in 1998, according to American School & University's 11th annual survey of residence-hall construction.

Following is a snapshot of the median new residence hall constructed in 1999:

-Cost: $3.8 million.

-Size: 43,000 square feet.

-Residents: 118.

-Cost/Square Foot: $120.51.

-Square Feet/Resident: 284.

-Cost/Resident: $34,387.

Getting results Data for the 11th annual Residence Hall Construction Report were compiled as part of AS&U'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 25 new housing projects put in place in 1999, amounting to almost 1.4 million square feet of space and costing more than $198 million.

Primary data breaks out information from lowest to highest, and by averages and medians. When comparing costs and figures, it is recommended that median figures be used. Medians are determined to provide more accurate cost and size variables than averages. Prices for new residence halls constructed in 1999 ranged from a low of $100,000 (for a new married-student housing unit) to a high of $45 million. The median project cost $3.8 million; the average cost $7.9 million. Project size varied from 11,200 square feet to 246,719 square feet. The median housing facility encompassed 43,000 square feet of space, while the average project totaled 66,641 square feet.

The median new residence hall accommodated 118 residents; the average housed 198. The number of beds ranged from eight at the smallest project to 800 at the largest. While the median total cost of new residence halls dropped compared with last year's survey, cost per resident grew to $34,387 from $29,205 reported in 1998.

The amount of square feet per resident provided at the median residence hall constructed in 1999 was 284, down slightly from the almost 300 square feet reported for 1998. The amount of square feet per resident ranged from a low of 187 to a high of 1,813.

Square footage costs reported for new housing projects completed in 1999 ranged from a low of $21.92 to a high of $239.36. The median residence hall cost $120.51 per square foot while the average project cost $121.20 per square foot.

Focused on amenities

Colleges and universities are embroiled in a highly competitive market for students-and many institutions are turning to their residence halls as a selling point when marketing "the total college experience."

Amenities featured in new housing facilities cater to a more demanding college student. Popular features such as Internet access, computer access to the library and more are found in many new projects.

In looking at the type of students new residence-hall facilities accommodate, 80 percent of the 25 new housing facilities put in place in 1999 were co-educational. This is down from 90 percent reported in last year's survey. Of the remaining, 12 percent were built for couples/families, 4 percent for males only and 4 percent for females only.

Approximately 95 percent of all new housing space is air-conditioned, up from 91 percent in 1998. The amount of new space carpeted also increased to slightly more than 58 percent from 48 percent reported in last year's survey.

Among the most popular amenities featured in today's new residence halls include Internet access (in 92 percent of the facilities), laundry facilities (92 percent), kitchens (76 percent), computer access to the library (68 percent) and television rooms (68 percent).

With the added focus on security, a surprising result of the survey is that only 60 percent of the new construction included some form of electronic security system. This is down from the 80 percent of housing facilities completed in 1998 that featured electronic systems.

Other amenities found in today's residence halls include elevators (52 percent), aerobics/weight rooms (20 percent) and classrooms (16 percent). Of par ticular note is that not one of the 25 new residence halls that data were collected on included a dining hall.

The inclusion of individual room/apartment lavatories in new construction can be found in 68 percent of the projects. Shared lavatories were included in 36 percent of new housing construction, while gang lavatories appeared in only 4 percent.

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