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Growing Popularity of Modular Student Housing

Modular student housing is popular among colleges and universities seeking to keep up with growing demand for on-campus housing while reducing construction delays.

September 18, 2019

Student housing, also known as dormitories or residence halls, entails unique responsibilities beyond those ascribed to the construction of other building types. College dormitories must also maintain the educational environment of the campus, which means causing as little disruption to the surrounding area as possible, and above all, being ready to receive students when classes start. This is why the use of Modular dormitories and modular construction methods for building new additions is a growing trend in the education construction sector.

Undergraduate enrollment in the United States has increased by 27% since 2000 and is expected to continue to climb through 2028, pressing colleges and universities to accommodate the portion of those students who elect to live on campus.

Higher learning institutions are continuously growing and expanding. While seeking out new and prospective students, universities also need to consider the importance of expanding their space to accommodate growing attendance.

There are over 4,360 higher education institutions in the United States with approximately 17 million enrollments each year. With the prospect of 2-year and 4-year institutions potentially becoming tuition-free, there could easily be an even greater influx of students.

The state of New York recently made college tuition to select universities free for students whose parents make less than $125,000 a year. That means an estimated 940,000 middle-class families, people making up to $125,000 per year, can qualify to attend college tuition-free.

New Mexico is said to be planning a similar proposal, making college tuition-free. If passed, this proposal would allow students to attend any of the 29 state’s public colleges or universities. The program could help 55,000 students each year attend college.

Twenty other states have similar tuition-free education initiatives for two-year schools. But eyes are now centered on the possibility that other states (and the nation) may move forward with making college free across the board for 4-year institutions. With tuition-free college approaching, now’s the time for universities to focus on the potential influx of newer students. Additional living accommodations, classrooms, and office buildings may need to be erected to prepare for this coming influx.

So how do these institutions accommodate an influx of new students in time? Modular construction might be the answer.

Unlike typical apartment buildings or condominiums, dormitories need to be move-in ready to coincide with the beginning of the academic term. If a school is unable to meet the needs of its incoming student residents, it must deny housing to those who may have previously been granted residence, increase the occupancy of existing dormitories, or provide temporary housing. These contingencies are the source of headaches for students and faculty, and can even result in significant damage to a school’s reputation. Such was the case for Purdue University, the center of a public relations crisis in 2018, when news outlets reported students were living in makeshift dormitories due to insufficient housing.

With so much at stake and enrollment growing, colleges and universities are under more pressure than ever to ensure their residence halls are completed on schedule. With traditional, onsite construction notorious for delays, it should be no wonder why campuses across the country have been turning to modular construction for these new buildings with increased frequency. These situations showcase the ever-increasing need for the use of modular student housing initiatives to help pave the way for on-time construction.

For instance, Dutchess Community College required a new residence hall to accommodate nearly 500 students. A building of such scale would have required several months of construction and disruption to the campus with traditional, onsite methods. Delays would have meant months of additional distractions and a prolonged deficiency of student housing.

Instead, Dutchess Community College turned to iBUILT’s subsidiary: Deluxe Modular.

By fabricating the modular units in our Berwick, Pennsylvania facility, Conklin Hall was fully assembled on the Dutchess campus in just 40 days, ready to receive students exactly on schedule.

This experience is not unique and is, in fact, becoming ever-more common. Muhlenberg College, which assembled five new modular dormitories throughout a summer, and Yale, which assembled one over the course of a single spring break, are just two on the quickly growing list of institutions taking advantage of modularization as an efficient means to increase resident capacity or replace aging structures.

With schools able to open high-quality buildings in a fraction of the time compared to less-efficient methods, modular construction is fast becoming the standard for student housing construction.


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