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Student Housing That Won't Go Out of Style

Chicago Student Housing

While developer-led student housing often gets all the buzz, today’s institutionally owned and funded projects are the ones that will still be around when our grandchildren’s children go off to college. (Assuming education doesn't come in pill form by that time.) We’re pumped to discuss what makes these projects so successful at Bisnow’s 3rd Annual Student Housing Summit on Nov. 19, starting at 7am.


VOA principal Bill Ketcham, one of our panelists (snapped at a design charrette in process), is an expert on these much-needed long-term buildings, which must both enhance and fit in with overall campus plans in a different way than perimeter projects, he says. They’re meant to help with student quality of life, retention, and keeping campuses 24/7 environments. New residence halls might include some kind of food service or centralized kitchen (depending on university culture), and units tend to be much more amenity-filled and larger than when he was in school, Bill says. (Even the name change, from “dorms” to “residence halls,” shows that evolution.)


He recently worked on a 340-bed replacement residence hall for University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (above), and the school’s key priority was fostering a sense of community. That meant spaces for congregation (lounges, community kitchens) near the elevators and two-story lounges (below) connecting alternate floors, Bill says. At Roosevelt University’s new vertical campus (residences above offices and classrooms), the challenge was many rooms with heavy plumbing above larger rooms without much plumbing, so they designed the spaces within the column grid. (Unlike Oshkosh, where unit size drove the structural systems.)


The secret to long-lasting student housing is communication with university stakeholders, Bill says. Early on, VOA establishes what student life is looking for in terms of unit typology, number of units, and culture. With developer-led projects on the rise given educational institutions’ financial realities, a connection to the campus master plan and long-term goals (something fairly tenuous in today’s environment) will be key, he tells us. When Bill’s not reliving his college years, he’s busy working on Wrigley Field’s all-consuming renovation, a fitting update for “the last of its breed” in terms of ballparks, he says. Get your event tix here!