Creating Spaces that Feel Like Home for Students

Student housing is much more than a place for students to live. It is also a place where they come to learn what independence means for them. As we create these spaces, it is our job to find the balance between treating students like adults and providing support and a sense of community as they transition to life on their own.

When done well, modern residence hall design should foster a safe living-learning environment for students to grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally during their years on campus. As designers of the built environment, it is our goal to create student housing spaces that:

1. Foster Personal Growth: Treating Students as Mature Adults

When students are treated as mature adults, they are being prepped for life after college and what will be expected from them once they graduate. You are providing them with independence and holding them accountable for what they do with that freedom. By providing spaces such as study rooms, workout areas, and kitchen community spaces, you are helping them gain proactive skills for the future.

2. Provide Support for Students: Respecting Their Personal & Academic Needs

While they should be treated like adults, today’s students come to campus less seasoned than previous generations—which raises the stakes for personal development as part of the college experience. This is why we must provide more guidance on issues like study habits, wellness, and free speech. Our goal is to create diverse spaces that accommodate different styles of learning and communication. We know from relevant experience and research that the current and upcoming generations are looking for these key aspects in student housing:

  • Campus Life
    Students are desiring fewer comforts and more support spaces. Beyond the unit types, students benefit from more diverse and flexible spaces that promote interaction with other students and professors.
  • Affordability
    They shop for good value, appreciate price transparency, and desire to know details on their return on investments.
  • Teaching
    They value project-based learning and research that will refine crucial, marketable skills for life. Most critical, they want an education they see as relative and applicable.

3. Emphasize Community, Culture, & Collaboration: Programming Spaces that Encourage Connections & Cultivate a Sense of Community & Pride

The campus residential experience allows students to engage other academic disciplines, interests, cultures, and backgrounds. One way to encourage engagement is to provide students with flexible spaces that promote interaction between classmates. We design spaces where students from different backgrounds can come together.

Student Responses During the 2020-2021 Academic Year:

71% of students surveyed said “online instruction has negatively impacted their ability to learn,” and 13% said they definitely or are likely to take longer to graduate due to the pandemic.
58% said they have been struggling with “feeling lonely or isolated” during the fall semester.
44% of students named “stress, anxiety and loneliness” as their “biggest” challenge over other concerns.
71% of students who said they were “much worse” and “a little worse” off academically due to online instruction.
52% of Latino students and 48% of Black students listed paying for tuition and other costs as a challenge they face this semester, versus only 36% of white students.

Having engaged in planning and designing campus housing for at least 10 campuses in the last decade, we have made it our goal to first understand the needs of students, and then design the spaces that fit those needs. 

Learn more about our experience in HIED design.

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