Red-Carpet Treatment: 12th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report

July 1, 2001
Colleges and universities not only are spending more on new housing construction, but also are ensuring that residents have plenty of space and amenities.

Colleges and universities across the nation increasingly are focusing on the type and quality of housing offered on campus. And one thing is evident — today's crop of recently constructed residence halls bears little to no resemblance to the dormitories of old.

Students are demanding functional, more sophisticated housing options, and institutions are responding by designing and constructing facilities that rival practically anything private accommodations have to offer. In a bid to entice students to live on campus, colleges are sparing little expense to provide accommodations that offer plenty of space, sophisticated amenities, and a gateway to “the total college experience.”

According to American School & University's 12th annual survey of residence hall construction, new housing facilities cost more and provide more square feet per resident than those constructed the year before.

Construction and cost breakouts

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 2000 ranged from a low of $1 million to a high of $35.4 million. The median project cost $5.3 million (up from $3.8 million last year); the average cost $9.4 million. Project size varied from 6,000 square feet to 134,000 square feet. The median housing facility comprised almost 40,000 square feet of space, while the average project totaled 53,000 square feet.

The median new residence hall was built to accommodate approximately 150 residents, while the average housed 190. The number of beds ranged from a low of 87 at the smallest project to a high of 400 at the largest. Cost per resident ballooned to $45,000 at the median new residence hall, up from $34,387 reported in 1999.

Square feet per resident provided at the median new residence hall grew to 320 from 284 the year before. The amount of square feet per resident ranged from a low of 201 to a high of 542.

The median cost per square foot for new housing projects completed in 2000 was $126, up from $120 per square foot last year. The average project cost $201 per square foot.

Eye on amenities

The type and quality of amenities offered in new residence hall facilities are a primary factor in attracting students to campus living. And the importance and availability of technology and other modern conveniences cannot be underestimated. For example, of the 22 new housing projects completed in 2000, every one included Internet access and laundry facilities.

Co-ed housing continues to be the predominant form of living arrangement at new residence hall facilities. Almost 81 percent of the projects completed in 2000 had this designation. This is up slightly from the 80 percent of projects put in place in 1999, yet down from the 90 percent reported in 1998.

Roughly four percent of the buildings were designed for couples/families. The remaining 15 percent were evenly split between facilities for males only and females only.

Approximately 78 percent of all new housing space is air-conditioned, with 68 percent of the projects reporting 100 percent of their space air-conditioned. The amount of new space carpeted grew to 73 percent from 58 percent in last year's survey.

Various amenities featured in today's new residence halls are detailed in Table 2. Among the most popular include Internet access and laundry facilities, which were included in 100 percent of the projects. Other commonly reported features include television rooms (78 percent), elevators (78 percent), computer access to the library (67 percent) and kitchens (56 percent).

A surprising result of this year's survey is that only 33 percent of the new housing facilities featured some form of electronic security system. While many higher-education institutions have made the move to card systems and other forms of electronic access, it's obvious that there still are numerous others that have not.

The number of new residence halls that included classrooms within its walls doubled to 33 percent (from 16 percent last year). In addition, only 22 percent of the projects included a dining hall, as more institutions opt to give campus dining a separate identity.


Data for the 12th 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 amenities issues. Information was collected on 22 new housing projects put in place in 2000, amounting to more than 1 million square feet of space and costing almost $198 million.

TABLE 1: Residence hall construction: The statistical picture (2000)

Range Variable Low High Average Median Cost ($000) $1,030 $35,400 $9,412 $5,300 Size (Sq. Ft.) 6,000 134,000 53,021 39,890 Residents 87 400 190 147 Cost/Sq. Ft. $8.33 $1,093.75 $201.56 $126.32 Sq. Ft./Resident 201 542 319 320 Cost/Resident $2,895 $350,000 $97,058 $45,000

TABLE 2: Amenities in today's residence halls

Aerobics/weightroom 11% Air conditioning 78% Carpeting 73% Classrooms 33% Computer access to library 67% Dining hall 22% Elevators 78% Gang lavatories 11% Individual room/apartment lavatories 44% Internet access 100% Kitchen 56% Laundry 100% Security systems (electronic) 33% Shared lavatories 44% Television rooms 78%

Results at a glance

Following is a snapshot of the median new residence hall constructed in 2000:

  • Cost: $5.3 million.
  • Size: 39,890 square feet.
  • Residents: 147.
  • Cost/Square Foot: $126.32.
  • Square Feet/Resident: 320.
  • Cost/Resident: $45,000.

Classroom-building construction: The statistical picture (2000)

Following is a breakout of the 46 classroom-building construction projects completed in 2000:

Classroom buildings Range Variable Low High Average Median Cost ($000) $350 $33,000 $7,733 $6,430 Size (Sq. Ft.) 5,000 150,000 48,791 40,000 Students 64 224 121 76 Cost/Sq. Ft. $9.57 $1,045 $181.10 $150 •97% of the space was air-conditioned, 55% was carpeted.Projects represent $332.5 million worth of construction and 2.1 million square feet of space.

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