Student Housing: A Home Away From Home

Student housing has become one of the most important pieces in an institution’s strategic plan to attract prospective students, transition new students to collegiate life, develop and retain students as well as educate students throughout their academic careers. A comprehensive approach to match housing options with developing trends is a critical component both now and in the future. Some of these strategies include the following:

Student Specific Housing

Student needs are changing; increased international enrollment, younger students and gender neutral design all require increased awareness and flexibility. Additionally, the needs of incoming freshmen are far different from upper classmen. It is critical to tailor the floor plans, amenities and styles of housing to suite the specific needs of the student body. Freshman and an increasing number of sophomore students tend to live on campus. These on-campus facilities must foster a sense of positive support (socially and academically), collaboration and community to effectively integrate new students. These needs and desires tend to change over time. There may be a greater desire for a more independent style living as students progress through their academic careers. This plays into the physical layout of the spaces as well as the supporting mechanical and electrical systems and infrastructure.


Energy and resource efficient design not only supports the mission and commitments of many institutions but it also makes sound financial sense. It also provides a tangible means to demonstrate a meaningful commitment to sustainability. It is important to understand current energy use and how it compares to peer institutions. The single greatest user of energy in a student residence is typically the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. There are many HVAC system improvements that can have significant return on investment including control system upgrades that implement energy management strategies, system upgrades and replacement and commissioning; all of which not only save energy but also lead to greater occupant comfort.


Student housing can support the specific educational needs of the students through specific learning environments. Specific desires such as a sustainable community may result in LEED certification, green roofs and highly efficient HVAC systems. International communities may affect food preparation facilities. All of these have a direct impact on the physical infrastructure required to meet the needs of the student body.

These are but a few of the characteristics that shape Student Housing facilities. A holistic understanding of how these facilities fit into an institutions overall strategic plan plays a significant role in their ultimate form. They must be able to successfully attract, assimilate, retain, support and develop students.

If you need assistance in understanding more about Student Housing facilities and their role within the context of the collegiate experience as well as the systems needed to support this function, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Rader, PE at (717) 845-7654 or

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