Close to Home: The 14th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report

June 1, 2003
Colleges and universities are investing in new housing construction in a bid to keep students on campus.

Across the nation, colleges and universities increasingly are providing new housing options in a bid to keep students on campus — and the facilities and amenities being offered in recent construction projects rival anything that can be found off campus.

Today's students demand functional, more sophisticated housing options, and higher-education institutions are responding by designing and constructing facilities that appeal to these desires. And colleges are sparing little expense to provide accommodations that offer a variety of spaces, sophisticated amenities and a link to “the total college experience.”

Results of American School & University's 14th annual survey of residence hall construction show not only that new housing facilities are being built larger and provide more square feet per resident, but also that institutions are spending more to ensure an enticing product.

Breaking out costs

Data for the 14th annual Residence Hall Construction Report were compiled as part of American School & University's more comprehensive Official Education Construction Report (published in May). Chief business officials at the nation's higher-education institutions involved in a residence hall construction project were asked to provide information about a variety of cost and amenity issues.

Table 1 breaks out information from lowest to highest, and by averages and medians. When comparing costs and figures, the editors recommend that median figures be used. Medians are determined to provide more accurate cost and size variables than averages.

Final cost for new residence halls completed in 2002 ranged from a low of $3.2 million to a high of $98.7 million. The median project cost is $6.8 million (up from $5 million last year); the average cost is $19.1 million. Project size varied from 25,000 square feet to 127,000 square feet. The median housing facility had 49,707 square feet of space, while the average project totaled 56,870 square feet.

The median new residence hall was built to accommodate approximately 196 residents, while the average housed 322. The number of beds ranged from a low of 54 at the smallest project to a high of 1,494 at the largest. Cost per resident ballooned to $66,046 at the median new residence hall, up from $34,503 reported in 2001.

Square feet per resident provided at the median new residence hall jumped to 339 from 291 the year before. The amount of square feet per resident ranged from a low of 133 to a high of 552.

The median cost per square foot for new housing projects completed in 2002 reached its highest level since this survey's inception ($150, up from $128 per square foot last year). The average project cost $161.46 per square foot.

Eye on amenities

The type of amenities offered in new residence hall facilities is a primary factor in attracting students to on-campus housing. And the importance and availability of technology and other modern conveniences cannot be underestimated. For example, of the new housing projects completed in 2002, all included Internet access, air conditioning and laundry facilities.

Co-educational housing remains the predominant form of living arrangement at new residence hall facilities; 80 percent of the projects completed in 2002 have this designation. Buildings designed for couples or families, and facilities built for men only or women only, made up the other 20 percent.

Amenities featured in today's new residence halls are detailed in Table 2. Among the most popular include Internet access, air conditioning and laundry facilities, which were included in 100 percent of the projects. Other commonly reported amenities include television rooms/lounges (90 percent), elevators (80 percent), computer access to the library (80 percent) and electronic security systems (80 percent).

Among the least popular amenities in new residence halls include classrooms and dining halls (10 percent). Even kitchens, a popular amenity in older residence halls, were included in less than half (40 percent) of the new housing projects completed in 2002.

TABLE 1: Residence hall construction: The statistical picture (2002)

Range Variable Low High Average Median Cost ($ millions) $3.2 $98.7 $19.1 $6.8 Size (Sq. Ft.) 25,000 127,000 56,870 49,707 Residents 54 1,494 322 196 Cost/Sq. Ft. $85.81 $228.15 $161.46 $150.00 Sq. Ft./Resident 133 552 340 339 Cost/Resident $20,000 $125,926 $61,534 $66,046

TABLE 2: Amenities in today's new residence halls

Air conditioning 100% Carpeting 65% Classrooms 10% Computer access to library 80% Dining hall 10% Elevators 80% Individual room/apartment lavatories 60% Internet access 100% Kitchen 40% Laundry 100% Security systems (electronic) 80% Shared lavatories 70% Television rooms/lounges 90%

Results at a glance

Following is a snapshot of the median new residence hall constructed in 2002:

Cost: $6.8 million.

Size: 49,707 square feet.

Residents: 196.

Cost/Square Foot: $150.

Square Feet/Resident: 339.

Cost/Resident: $66,046.

Agron is editor-in-chief for AS&U. 

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