Each year Building Design + Construction reports on the strength of work and trends affecting higher education facility design. The article states, “Demand for modernized housing and STEM research facilities persists, but this trend is being tempered with an overriding sense of caution.” This concern has resulted in more planning and targeted types of student housing, as well as an increase in public-private partnerships.
According to Clark Nexsen’s Chris Brasier, “Many schools are engaging in more detailed master planning of student housing. This includes evaluating existing buildings and considering off-campus competition.”
Specific types of housing projects are being undertaken by many universities. “The past decade saw a wave of housing projects catering to upperclassmen. “Now there’s growth in student housing developments geared for freshmen and sophomores,” says Clark Nexsen’s Peter Aranyi. “These units tend to have traditional double-occupancy or suite-style designs, in contrast to individual bedrooms and apartment-style units that had been in vogue in recent years.”
Peter continues, “Newer projects for underclassmen often include community-style bathrooms of old with a twist: private shower and toilet facilities. Common vanity sinks offer space where students see and interact with each other.”
Public-private partnerships gaining ground in the student housing space is discussed in the article as an attractive alternative funding method that allows development without taking on new debt. The Henderson County Health Sciences Center designed by Clark Nexsen is noted as an example of an innovative public/not-for-profit partnership:
Wingate University and Blue Ridge Community College teamed up with Henderson County, the City of Hendersonville, and Pardee UNC Health to develop the facility. Located on Wingate’s campus, the $32 million building opened in fall 2016. It houses Pardee Hospital’s Cancer Center and Surgical Clinic, Wingate’s Pharmacy and Physician Assistant programs, and Blue Ridge Community College’s Nursing and Surgical Technology programs.
“It provides a connection between academy and practice,” says Chris. Students have access to internships and professional instruction along with academic classes in the same building. Higher ed institutions are increasingly looking for these types of innovative partnerships to bolster their offerings backed by partners who contribute to capital projects.