As college and universities work to regain lost ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many face the reality of deferred student housing updates. Lingering uncertainties related to infection control, along with shifting demographics and student expectations heighten the need for action. Based on data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment declined by about 3.5% in fall 2021 from the previous year.
Changing societal norms and student expectations have catapulted campus bathroom updates to the top of the facilities priority list. Many older campus buildings, and particularly residence halls, have communal or “gang style” bathroom configurations. This former design standard maximizes efficiency and capacity – whether a bank of showers in a residence hall or public access restrooms in campus common areas. However, campuses can no longer rely on the status quo of the past.
Despite massive changes in 21st century technology and lifestyle, student-centered teaching and pedagogy evolution, K-12 classrooms today look and operate much the same as they did in the prior century. Teacher-centric, row and column classroom structure, and associated furniture types, still widely dominate, mirroring the oratory-based ideologies of over 4,000 years ago. Future-ready classroom design is now ready to move from concept to the classroom.
Decreased funding, slowing enrollment, overwhelming student debt, and higher operating costs are just some of the challenges facing higher education. Now we must also take into consideration all of the realities that will shake out on campuses following a pandemic. Recruiting and retaining students is vital. Campus housing is a valuable marketing tool to attract students and keep them living on campus. Residence hall renovations preserve campus character and eliminate costly additional land development. These critical campus updates also convert existing housing into a valuable asset while promoting sustainability.
Over time, things wear out, expectations change, and attitudes adjust. Things will never be as they once were, and the ability to adapt to change is the key to survival. Few community sponsors have the luxury to start over, but all have the ability to reinvent. Reinvention provides an exciting opportunity for good stewardship, while breathing new life into an existing community. As consumer demographics, product preferences and service priorities continue to evolve, senior living communities can, and must, likewise reinvent themselves to remain relevant.
“In the past, it was not unusual for many of our clients to be the only option in town, but that’s rarely the case anymore,” says Eric McRoberts, AIA. “Even in challenging economic times, providers still need to move ahead, it just might need to be more incremental.”
Whether for financial reasons, land constraints or stewardship of resources, reinvention is a viable consideration. If the existing infrastructure is a good fit for your program goals, substantial value can be gained from building re-use.
Over time, buildings wear out, consumer expectations change and attitudes adjust. Reinvention is an ongoing and essential process of evolving and adapting to changing trends, commercial design standards and consumer priorities. Reinvention provides an exciting opportunity for good stewardship and long-term viability, while breathing new life into existing spaces.