How one WBE sees Higher Ed Trending
by Laureen Poulakis
How do you capture the attention of top incoming freshman from around the globe? Marketing? Is it Snapchat, video live streaming, drone footage of your campus, Facebook? Or is it the built environment? As Boston’s real estate market continues to heat up, colleges are upgrading their spaces. While the growth of regional universities is often tied to local real estate trends, there’s a new market driver — student expectations. Colleges are focused on improving the overall campus experience due to rising competition, enrollment demands, and a response to the consumer.
Brennan’s current campus work includes: Brandies University, College of the Holy Cross, Stonehill College, Boston College, Northeastern University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Massachusetts.
The Northeast has seen an uptick in the redevelopment of college campuses, particularly those within an urban core like Boston. Initially, we saw investment in learning and research spaces, student centers, and dormitories. Contemporary and high-tech academic buildings have been popping up on campuses all over Boston. Laboratories, emerging concepts in flex-space design ,and common areas for collaboration are also trending while new technologies are changing the landscape of student-professor interactions.
Students come to an urban center like Boston for that sense of adventure. Because of apartment demand and inventory shortages, rents are on the rise. Colleges are finding ways to provide on-campus housing all four years and in some cases, into graduate school. Dormitory programming trends include central air, in-building laundry, markets and coffee shops, media lounges with 10-foot movie screens, and gaming rooms. Students are also seeking varied dining experiences, from visiting chefs to allergen-free cafeterias.
Universities must be increasingly creative in space and infrastructure design. As the economy stays strong, we’re seeing the construction of new fields, indoor athletic centers, the interconnection of buildings, energy facilities, and co-gen plants. Not only are traditional student spaces expanding, but more adventurous upgrades are appearing like lazy rivers, rock climbing walls, and giant ball pits. Sustainability is also driving colleges to find ways to independently power and climate control their space.
There’s greater competition, and the pressure is on. National trends show colleges must provide a dynamic environment to attract and retain students. Boston traditionally offers world-class higher-ed opportunities, and that stability, coupled with new consumer demands, is resulting in a strong market sector for the local design or construction firm.