The COVID pandemic arrived just as digital environments were being tested and shifting many established norms. As an immediate response to the need for social distancing, universities implemented remote learning systems on a scale never seen before – but what long-term solutions have been considered? While there are many trends, one has stood out to us: the emergence of single-dwelling, modular student housing.
On-Campus Learning Has Many Benefits
More students are choosing to continue their education off-campus, even though studies have shown that those who live within driving distance of their school are much more likely to graduate than those who do not.
As designers and architects during the pandemic, we saw a challenge in the short and medium-term to transform existing campus facilities to address pandemic fears with an emphasis on safety and security — but shifting attitudes toward the ideal function and design of campuses, in general, will also shape academic environments in the long term.
Just as our homes have once again become the epicenters of our lives under quarantine — leading us to consider and re-evaluate their design — student housing facilities will likewise undergo massive changes in response to new hygiene concerns and lifestyle desires of students and their families. As we explore how to design and manage student housing that is more relevant, secure, and attractive, we can draw from technologies, techniques, and strategies sourced from other sectors — including hospitality, multifamily, commercial, and retail — which have yielded success in improving the overall experience and sense of wellness among occupants.
For higher education students today, the value of privacy is increasing rapidly. This is due in large part to social media platforms allowing more of life to be shared with the world. Students are craving personal space.
By offering students a space of their own, you not only help manage the spread of disease in the case of a pandemic, but you also help maintain mental health by providing students more personal space to decompress, reflect, and focus — in solitude. The privacy offered by a single unit becomes even more valuable when alternative study spaces like libraries and cafes are closed for the day.
While increasing the number of single units in student housing facilities offers more room for focusing on work, a question remains: how do we address shared kitchens, restrooms, laundry rooms, and lounges?
By scaling down, decentralizing, and duplicating these common spaces throughout a residential building or complex, “neighborhoods” can be formed around them in clusters of up to six single units. A kitchen might be placed next to a small lounge and a laundry room with access to a terrace or roof garden that students would share. Organizing spaces this way will benefit everyone from students to facility managers. In addition, this “neighborhood” concept naturally lends itself to fostering community among students by highlighting a sense of place and connectivity.
Interested in learning about how CMBA Architects approaches new trends in higher education architecture and design? Click to learn more!