Gen Z students are prioritizing their own well-being during their college years, and developers are responding. In recent years, student housing developments have undergone a transformation, shifting from traditional dorms to hospitality-inspired environments. Innovative designs and curated services that underscore wellness and accommodate a wide variety of emotional and social needs are the ticket.
Upscale Amenities and Their Role in Creating a Holistic Wellness Experience
Student housing developments have historically offered basic amenities and minimal comforts. However, the expectations of today’s Gen Z students have evolved. No matter the climate, amenities like fitness centers, outdoor swimming pools and rooftop terraces are now a baseline expectation, so a more elevated experience can help differentiate a property when competing for students’ residency.
Developers are incorporating elements of hospitality into their amenity plans, offering spaces that provide more than just a place to live. For example, fully staffed coffee bars are an up-and-coming student housing amenity that provide sought-after connection points, not to mention the possibility for a great latte. Now, the lobby Keurig simply doesn’t cut it. Additionally, the incorporation of technology in self-check-out “micro markets” makes it convenient to ditch the Snicker’s bar and grab an elevated, healthy snack.
Security and convenience also earn high marks with Gen Z students. In the age of on-demand food and package delivery, it’s important to consider designated areas for food delivery pickups that offer a seamless and secure experience.
A Space for Everyone
Physical and emotional wellness takes center stage in the modern student housing fitness center. These wellness spaces incorporate elements like synthetic turf, saunas and multi-use areas. Single-person meditation rooms feature low lighting and Bluetooth speakers, and incorporating premium brands like Echelon and Mirror allows the property to offer on-demand fitness classes for those seeking a more private experience. These spaces aim to provide options for both social and reflective missions, ensuring that students can find an environment that suits their needs.
The inclusion of both active and passive courtyards in student housing developments also fosters a sense of community and offers students the choice between social and tranquil environments. Active courtyards feature fire pits, swimming pools and kitchen areas while passive courtyards are designed for emotional reflection via hammocks, private study nooks and seating areas.
The Elevated In-room Experience
Student housing room designs are taking cues from the hospitality industry. Students at modern developments can expect fully furnished spaces with TVs in the living room, making their living environments feel more like upscale hotels. Desire an upgrade? No problem. Many developments now offer premium units with better views, high-end finishes, appliances and entertainment systems. While full concierge services may not yet be common in student housing, some offerings like valet trash and à la carte services like laundry and cleaning are available in many modern developments. Technology like smart thermostats is another added convenience, allowing students to control room temperature from their phones.
Environmentally Responsible Design
Gen Z students care about the planet, making sustainability another key aspect of modern student housing. Savvy developers are incorporating sustainable materials and practices into their designs, with biophilia, natural light, locally sourced materials and vintage furnishings as just a few examples of an eco-friendly approach.
College campuses play an essential role in sustainable living, and this responsibility extends to student housing. The integration of EV charging stations in the development phase is another critical consideration and can help set one community apart from the rest.
Does your student housing development leave a resident feeling safe, productive, healthy and inspired? If so, it can be considered a success. As wellness, community, and technology continue to reshape the modern student housing experience, Gen Z students can look forward to an enriched and well-rounded living experience during their college years.
—Mitchell Korte is an executive vice president of development at Subtext, a student housing and multifamily development firm.