Student Housing Competes Using Green Features

Harrisonburg, Va.--How much does a feature such as sustainability matter to a student apartment property's prospects of leasing success?

Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Harrisonburg, Va.–How much does a feature such as sustainability matter to a student apartment property’s prospects of leasing success? The developers of North 38, a student housing complex of 19 buildings with 12 units each near James Madison University in the Shenandoah Valley, assert that it does–even in cases in which the student might not realize why he or she likes a particular green building feature.

Completed in 2008 by Wood Partners, the complex is popular among students, and the parents who pay their rent. That’s probably partly because the development strives for a “resort” ambiance, complete with swimming pools, hot tubs and other recreation facilities, as well as in-unit features such as nine-ft. ceilings, private bathrooms in each bedroom, fully appointed kitchens, and furnished apartments with a designer furniture and an all-important 32-inch flat panel TV.

Wood Partners also built green at North 38. The project meets Energy Star requirements for efficiency with heating and air conditioning, thermostats, ductwork, windows, water heaters and lighting and appliances, faucets and showerheads. Construction of the site also stayed environmentally friendly by recycling wood, brick, concrete, drywall and shingles at the site. Use of recyclable and recycled materials for building, such as finger-jointed studs that utilize scrap materials, was also important.

Tenants are generally positive to this kind of green when it’s pointed out–including students. But people also respond to a good-looking exterior.

Another sustainable feature to the property, one that adds to the visual appeal of the property but that might not be immediately recognized as green, is shake siding manufactured with cedar molds (Foundry Siding by the Tapco Group), which lends a cocoa color to the exterior and looks like old-growth wood, but in fact involves no wood harvesting. The exterior also uses StoneCraft’s stone veneer.

Besides being sustainable and attractive to residents, the exteriors are also cost-effective to the owner. “In multifamily development, it’s almost always advantageous to spend money on the front end to avoid ongoing maintenance cost,” Blair Sweeney, development manager for North 38, tells MHN. “These products have allowed us to do that.”

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