Tiny Living Brings Big Changes to Student Housing

At the 2017 NeoCon show, Tomas Eliaeson and Thomas Carlson-Reddig of Little discuss how universities can embrace smaller units without sacrificing design or space.
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Tomas Eliaeson

Student housing is constantly changing. Whether on- or off-campus, residents are always looking for the newest technology, spaces for communal activities and to be comfortable in their rooms. Although the usual plan is to build larger spaces, more universities are looking to explore the tiny-living trend. At the 2017 NeoCon show in Chicago, Little’s Partner & Director of Design Tomas Eliaeson and Partner & Community Global Practice Leader Thomas Carlson-Reddig explain why tiny living is making its way to student housing, what residents are looking for and how universities can embrace this change without having to sacrifice design or space. 

Housing trends

With student housing constantly evolving, one trend that mains prevalent is the need for accessibility, as well as creating a better environment. In typical homes, over 65 percent of energy used goes to heating and cooling, but with tiny living, reducing the carbon footprint becomes much easier, as the use for energy consumption drastically reduces. Millennials are also prone to taking their bikes, public transportation, or walking, which saves both money and energy. 

“Tiny housing is all about utilizing small spaces that don’t necessarily look livable at first, and transforming them into something different,” said Eliaeson. “They can look skinny but go vertical. The idea is that you build what you need now and then can infill in the future. As housing becomes better, you can unplug and replace these modules with an updated piece.” 

What students want 

According to Eliaeson and Carlson-Reddig, after conducting a survey of 62 students, including nine graduates, ranging from freshmen to seniors across 12 universities, residents are looking for these top elements in a living space:

  • Ability to reconfigure a room;
  • Latest technology integrated into the space; 
  • Being able to personalize a space by painting a wall or incorporating new lighting;
  • Privacy within the sleeping quarters but large communal sharing spaces;
  • Comfortable, whimsical furniture that looks modern;
  • Spaces to socialize such as community kitchens or lounges;
  • Room to breath but that easily be connected to the outside shared spaces.

Keeping these ideas in mind when designing, tiny living offers a variety of opportunities to give students what they are looking for. The most prominent idea being that the design should be mixed up to reflect how much time students would be spending in these prospective spaces. Tiny houses can be built in sections at a time and the same goes for student housing. 

University embrace

At the College of Wooster in Ohio, Little partnered with BSHM Architects to convert an old school house into an updated tiny living space for students. The design was an inverted approach, with the living room and communal spaces on the outermost areas of the room and the bedroom “pods” being located in the middle. These pods offer students the privacy they want by using frosted glass doors, but it also keeps them included in the living space by letting light in and providing a top window over the bed space to look out into the communal areas. 

“Every living room was customizable because they were so big. Students told us that with these new configurations, they actually spent more time with their roommates because it forced them to get out and socialize more,” said Carlson-Reddig. “Tiny living connects residents more instead of isolating them to individual spaces. It gives students that individuality they are looking for in these rooms.”