Gen Z Students Want Bathrooms, Kitchens and Asian Cooking
UMass Amherst has a $1.2B capital plan to build or upgrade its structures. So we've asked Eddie Hull, executive financial and administrative officer for student affairs and campus life, what kids today want in their student housing.
One challenge is to give increasingly consumer conscious students at Amherst (almost 30,000 total; 13,000 living on campus) the lifestyle they want at a price they and the university can afford, Eddie tells us. Increasingly, students want more private bathrooms, kitchens and wireless Internet access everywhere for their devices. They prefer to live in apartment style residences rather than traditional dorms. When that housing is on campus, research shows students tend to get better grades and are more likely to graduate.
A recent game changer is the $198M, seven-building Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community designed by William Rawn Associates that opened fall ’13, Eddie tells us. The largest and most costly project UMass Amherst has done, it’s creating a sense of community among the 1,500 honor students. It includes traditional dormitory housing, suites, apartments, classrooms, administrative space, an events hall and café. The usable area of the complex is expanded by the outdoor courtyards and pedestrian paths built into the terraced site.
Some projects underway or in the pipeline: the historic South College renovation and expansion (above); the new Integrative Learning Center; the $101.8M Physical Sciences Building for research; the $62M addition to the Isenberg School of Management; and the exciting $52M Design Building, which uses engineered lumber to create a highly sustainable home for the study and practice of architecture, landscape architecture and construction technology. The building is more costly to build than steel or traditional wood framing but has a smaller carbon footprint, Eddie says. It will teach those who use it about the long-term value of discovering new ways to build.
Many other colleges and universities are seeking ways to make buildings more sustainable, sometimes by using more efficient mechanical systems, says BK Boley, a senior principal at ADD Inc, now with Stantec. These institutions also feel that on-campus or near-campus housing is a way to create and maintain close relationships with students and graduates.
The recently completed renovation of a 600-bed freshman residence hall at UMass Lowell designed by ADD, offers the student lifestyle that’s in demand and high-efficiency mechanical systems, BK says. A year ago, Worcester Polytechnic Institute opened a residence hall that BK and his team designed in which the live/learn space was moved from the ground floor through all of the upper floors—in space that in the past might have been used for social lounges. Now, students on every floor have a place where they can work on group projects.
In an effort to stretch budgets and make use of existing buildings, renovations are popular. Last month, Tufts University opened a 100k SF Collaborative Learning & Innovation Complex in a 1912 building that once served as a warehouse. Now, it’s filled with classrooms, meeting rooms and labs for the departments of physics, astronomy and cognitive psychology. Also, to help students who study in the city stay in the city, colleges and universities would like to see more moderately priced multifamily housing nearby, particularly for graduate students.
Boston University (nearly 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students) is also working to keep students close to campus. Executive director of auxiliary services Marc Robillard tells us BU has seen its population of foreign-born students grow markedly. Since 2012, this urban campus had a nearly 50% increase in students coming from abroad; 5,172 on 2012 to 7,143 last fall.
To be in the forefront of new advances in research, BU is building a $150M Center for Integrated Life Sciences, 170k SF at 610 Commonwealth Ave designed by Payette. Many of the foreign-born students at BU now come from China and want to study engineering and/or business. Usually, these students return home after graduation since many are from one-child families that sacrificed greatly to pay $60k/year for tuition, room and board, Marc says.
Next spring, BU hopes to start a $100M renovation of the historic Myles Standish residence hall. But even with new and upgraded facilities, Chinese students are inclined to live off campus. They favor their own cooking and prefer a social life that revolves around meals rather than around big parties, Marc says. Growing up as the only child, they tend to like more privacy and less sharing than they find in dorms. BU’s response has been to offer more authentic Asian cuisine, more apartment style living and to keep residence halls open during holiday breaks. Retention of Chinese students in on-campus housing for the sophomore year rose to 40% this fall from 30% the previous year.