Re-Thinking Student Housing and the Co-Living Model

In our continued evaluation of the student housing market, we embarked on a study to analyze and re-think the spatial arrangement of student housing. This study was partially developed in response to the rapidly changing mentality surrounding co-living environments. However, we also used it as an opportunity to evaluate the potential for an overall greater efficiency in building performance and construction methods. Now, our team has compiled and analyzed industry-wide survey results to summarize the expectations and motivations of the student housing market’s most impactful players. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending previous student housing protocols, we see an opportunity to rethink the status quo. The importance of social distancing greatly affects the efficiency of the usual dorm setup, and tightly-packed living arrangements are no longer appropriate. The industry shift of the past year presents an opportunity for expanded development as operators look to decrease resident density in student housing and incorporate remote-learning environments into their facilities. We have conceptualized a layout that would optimize the safety and efficiency of student housing in a post-pandemic world. 

Our solution is to create a co-living concept geared towards students, but open to anyone. We considered the need for social distancing in each unit, and our design and floor plans reflect this.

Instead of designing a typical dorm layout in which bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms are all contained within individual units, we brought the common spaces under the purview of the building’s staff. With this split between common and private areas, the shared spaces can be cleaned and sanitized according to the building’s standards, instead of relying on residents to maintain their own common rooms. This layout also results in larger and more comfortable lounges and kitchens.

However, even as we conceptualize innovative housing methods, we recognize the importance of efficiency when it comes to student housing. No matter the cleanliness protocols, we still have a responsibility to make sure a comparable number of beds — and thus, students — fits under one roof. With this in mind, we also designed our co-living project to maximize the number of residents who can safely inhabit the space.

The Link Evanston, a 10-story mixed-use building with ground floor retail and 242 rental units, was used as a prototype for our newly-proposed layout. The tower’s massing is composed of three linked segments, creating a U-shaped building. Residential units range in size from studios to three-bedroom units, all with in-suite bathrooms.