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Written By: Caitlin Chalem, Senior Director of Business Development & Market Research, and Kaitlyn Ballesteros, Director of Consulting

During the design phase of a new student housing development, there are several decisions that are imperative to creating a timeless asset that will appeal to both residents and future stakeholders. Among those important decisions are two critical determinations: ensuring that there is adequate space and storage, and that the layout is functional for future use. While many architects in the student housing space are equipped to provide basic suggestions, a seasoned student housing operator bears an essential perspective based on experience and on-site trials and tribulations.

Campus Advantage (CA) provides a unique viewpoint as a top ten student housing operator and consultant in the nation, bringing 40+ years of combined experience and working on over 125 new student housing developments nationally. While working in tandem with both the developer and architect, Campus Advantage’s consulting team provides design and development consulting services that include meticulous recommendations based on recent development trends and boots-on-the-ground involvement. The following are various elements that are analyzed and discussed during our design consulting process.

  • Floor Plan Layouts – Site plans will likely be reconfigured multiple times during the design process to comply with city requirements and requested modifications. A consultant will be able to help assist in determining if the changes to the floor plans are conducive to student housing, or if they warrant a premium based on enhanced features such as unit finishes, walk-in closets, larger bedrooms, and/or views. Questions such as, “Can we add an additional window to allow for more natural light?”, “Should we forgo the balcony to add additional indoor living space?”, or, “Can we include a kitchen island and forego the dining table to gain more square footage in the closets?”, will arise during this process which could affect the desirability of the units and the leasing velocity.
  • Amenity and Office Space Configuration – The amenity package will be heavily marketed during the lease-up process, so it is imperative that these spaces be well-designed, highly functional, and accessible to all residents. “Where should the management offices be located within the clubhouse?”, “Can the fitness center be located in a non-central location on the property?”, or, “What is the necessary square footage and how many study rooms should the development have?” are all crucial questions during the formation of site plans. CA’s design consultants are able to help weigh in on various elements when configuring the amenity and leasing office spaces, including recommended square footages based on the size of the development, storage needs, and amenity specifics such as fitness equipment and furniture options.
  • Entrances and Exits – The traffic flow of a property and the offices should be heavily considered during the design process. The location of the leasing office and its access is essential in attracting potential residents and providing ease for current residents. If prospects are not able to easily park and locate the leasing office for a tour, they will often become frustrated and move on to visit the next property on their radar. The placement of entrances and exits should also be well-thought-out based on possible emergency situations.
  • Parking – A city will typically have parking requirements; however, additional parking may be needed above this requirement based on market trends, the development’s walkability, and other transportation methods. Parking issues at a community can lead to long-lasting negative reviews, so the number of parking spaces and types of parking provided are important areas of focus when finalizing the site plans. Inadequate parking or parking issues can be extremely costly to resolve after the project delivers, from both a reputation and financial standpoint. CA’s design consultants survey the market and, typically, students to determine an appropriate parking ratio and premium, if applicable.
  • Telecommunications and Security Features – It is recommended that an information technology (IT) consultant be engaged during the design and development phase to assist with proper infrastructure planning and fast internet capabilities. Students rely on their devices and efficient Wi-Fi for schoolwork, social connections, and getting in touch with the leasing office. The internet infrastructure should be designed not only for the current technological demand, but also for future advancements. Other questions regarding necessary telecommunication features will also arise during the planning process. CA’s design consultant will be able to advise where and how many TVs should be included in the common area spaces, make suggestions for vendors who provide electronic access technology, and assist in determining what additional security features should be considered.
  • Innovative Features – When developing a new student housing community within a market, developers should include exclusive features that clearly distinguish the project from the existing supply. CA has consulted on more than 125 new student housing developments and observed countless trends throughout the last two decades. Fads evolve quickly within the student housing sector, so it is important that a new development include elements that captivate the attention of today’s modern student, while remaining relevant for future use.

The aforementioned design elements are only a few, among the many, that should be considered when developing a new student housing community. Incorporating an experienced design consultant in the site plan process will help ensure that the development is attractive to students currently within the market, that its design is in line with industry standards and trends, and that the development in its entirety will produce a successful exit strategy for the developer.  The decisions made during this early configuration phase will directly contribute to how the development is received upon entering the market, and the overall success of the property.

If you’re interested in hiring a student housing development consultant, or just want to learn more about our development offerings, contact us here for more information.