By Adina Marcut
The student housing market has been a magnet for both foreign and domestic investment companies over the past year and predictions for the next 12 months remain optimistic. Strong demand has also spurred new, modern developments designed to fit the needs of the new generations of students. Founded in 2013 by five architects with a combined professional experience of 120 years, KWK Architects specializes in practical design solutions for student housing communities. Headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., the company has worked on dozens of student housing projects throughout the Midwest, but also in southern United States.
Multi-Housing News spoke with KWK Architects Principal Javier Esteban on the most popular trend in student housing and how a community’s design can influence affordability for renters.
In order to tackle the affordability issue, many developers are creating micro-housing units. Is that something you designed or plan to?
Esteban: Not at this point. We had some discussions about it, but the final decision ultimately comes down to a university’s specific existing portfolio and related amenities around campus. The affordability factor can come into play in other areas such as efficiency of the plan, materials, alternative structural systems, financial structures, etc.
How can design influence the affordability of student housing units?
Esteban: Our main strategy is to provide a very efficient plan that takes maximum advantage of the site features.
What are the main three aspects that you take into consideration when designing a student housing community?
Esteban: Design aspects vary substantially depending on different circumstances. There are hundreds of variables that can shape a design. For example, unit type, land use, proforma and campus environment, among many others.
How many projects do you currently have in the pipeline?
Esteban: Between the projects we currently have under construction, in the design phase and pending for the future, we have more than 3,500 beds in the pipeline.
What are the overall trends in student housing this year?
Esteban: We have seen an increase in P3 (public-private partnerships) projects, as well as an increase in single, private bathrooms and the integration of educational spaces, such as living/learning communities.
Could you single out one trend that is gaining popularity in this sector?
Esteban: It appears there are more universities embracing the P3 approach. This approach gives universities greater flexibility on the construction type and the possibility to accelerate the schedule and allow multiple financial structures.
Image courtesy of KWK Architects