Designing a building on a tight budget is nothing new to architects, builders and designers. Coupled with declining enrollment and technological advances, college and university campuses and residences are finding innovative ways to attract students and keep costs down.

Trends in college and university building design

The Kean University Residence Hall in New Jersey saved time and money through the use of StoPanel technology.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses are increasing in demand, and that is putting pressure on school managers to re-think the use of existing buildings when changes need to made. Adaptability of spaces is of increasing importance as buildings now need to be re-thought for integrating different purposes. Gymnasiums are becoming creative hubs, libraries are teaming with technology such as 3D printers, and IT infrastructure needs to be weaved into every corner, as both students and professors lug around multiple connected devices.

According to Building Design & Construction,

“Science is evolving from an elective to a prerequisite,” says Robert Quigley, Principal, Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC), Boston. “Science is being integrated into schools that traditionally weren’t science oriented.”


The gravitational pull of science and technology on college campuses often competes with the equally strong movement toward building designs that stimulate collaboration and socialization. ARC’s recent renovation of the 85,000-sf Jennison Hall at Bentley University, Waltham, Mass., combines interdisciplinary labs, classrooms, offices, spaces wired for A/V technology, and places where students can work together.

Student housing is also a major case for enrollment. Competition with off-campus providers is a reality, making a well-designed building promoting campus life an integral part of a college or university’s marketing strategy. Low-cost housing options for cash-strapped students is a major benefit, and the tax-exempt status of a college or university gives the institutions a leg up on a typical developer.

Residence halls under tight timelines

The Kean University Residence Hall in New Jersey saved time and money through the use of StoPanel technology. The project won a 2018 EIFS Industry Members Association Hero Award in the residential category. This project is a hybrid EIFS project with 80 percent panelization and the remainder using Sto’s brick panel finish. The design and appearance of the project fit into the context of the surrounding buildings which are a part of this college’s campus. StoPanels are lightweight, energy-efficient, durable and only require a fraction of typical installation time.

Kean University Residence Hall uses StoPanel technology

With building schedules based on critical timelines coinciding with move-in dates related to the school year, StoPanels greatly reduce the time of building envelope installation, making the most of the construction calendar. Indoor production means no weather delays, and site prep and panel construction can occur simultaneously.

Interior design evolving

Interior design trends are also changing significantly in terms of student housing. Student desires have evolved, with technology advances, the need for privacy, and a desire for amenities typical of a mixed-use community. Health and wellness perks like outdoor amenity decks and CrossFit centers are a big plus when attracting top student talent, as are environmentally-friendly living spaces.