The student housing market has been a magnet for developers nation-wide in recent years, and is expected to continue drawing interest in 2018 and beyond.  Besides offering everything necessary for a first home away from home, the trend is to add unique high-level outdoor amenities that enhance resident lifestyles.

While apartments are shrinking, common areas are expanding and are being designed to satisfy tenants, in particular millennials, who want to socialize with other residents and guests, and even do school work there. Rooftop decks and terraces are now must-haves for high end mid- and high-rise buildings, and include comfy seating, sonic sound systems, big-screen TVs, kitchens with barbecue grills and pizza ovens, 24/7 fitness centers, cabanas, and many more features. 

As part of our ongoing series aimed at providing architects and developers valuable insights that can assist them in creating outdoor living environments for students that will result in higher returns on investment (ROI), in this article, we describe some noteworthy trends we’ve seen emerging in student housing, which developers should embrace right now for they will continue to come into play in 2018 and beyond.

Follow the shortcuts: 

  • How Amenities Have Changed the Game in Student Housing Development in Utah
  • 5 Amenities that Will Take Your Student Housing Development from Dull to Brilliant
  • How Can Developers Make Their Student Housing Projects More Competitive?
  • Looking to Attract Millennials to Your Student Housing Development in Utah?
  • Rooftop Amenities: A Must-Have in Today’s Student Housing Developments
  • Developers: Your Student Housing Project Needs an Outdoor Amenity Specialist
  • Student Housing Amenity Trends to Keep Occupancy Rates High in 2018 [and Beyond]
  • Tips for Developers to Avoid Going Bust in Utah Student Housing Boom
  • 10 Reasons Why a Landscape Architect Is a MUST for Student Housing Developments
  • What Are Architects Missing in the Design of Student Housing Projects?


To keep project occupancy rates high, these are the trends student housing developers and architects throughout Utah and beyond need to integrate into their projects going forward:

Trend #1: Year-round use

Architects can exercise playful creativity when considering their design options to meet students’ needs and wants, but it’s not solely about what kinds of spaces and features can be added. They must also consider solutions that answer to the change of seasons, and create areas that are comfortable regardless of outside temperature.

With that goal in mind, architects are opting for four-season areas, where the design allows users to adjust the space based on the weather. If it’s terribly hot or bitterly cold, they can enclose the space, yet still have that patio feel and view. If it’s a lovely day, they can open the windows and allow fresh air inside. These spaces can be equipped with heating and cooling systems, making the temperature of the space more comfortable.

Trend #2: Dining al fresco

Dining outdoors has become a fairly popular activity for today’s students. To provide that type of desired venue, more and more developers are offering enclosed patio areas as additional dining spaces. Others have put outdoor dining areas around fire pits and fireplaces, extended seating from an indoor bistro or café to an outdoor space, or placed seating by grilling and pool/hot tub areas.

Developers must take temperature and furnishing into account when making design decisions. For example, metal tables and chairs placed in the hot sun aren’t very inviting. These considerations along with plenty of shaded areas, heating and cooling systems will inspire students to use these outdoor dining spaces.

Trend #3: Ultimate entertainment experience

Students take pride in the spaces they use for entertaining guests, and developers should take pride in the spaces they create to entertain their residents. For example, some high-end student housing developments are featuring yoga lawns, sculpture gardens, courtyards with splash pools, fireplaces, and infinity pools with spray jets and a misting water curtain, and projection video systems that can present movies, or lighting scenes for entertainment and social gatherings in the evening. Other new concepts in use within the industry include open lawns that serve as a blank canvas for a variety of purposes, such as farmers markets or exercise classes.

To determine the right amenities for a student housing development, it’s also important to consider solutions that are appropriate to geographical factors —what’s appropriate in New York might not be appropriate in Salt Lake City, for example.

Trend #4: Always online

One of the biggest lifestyle necessities of incoming college students is connectivity. This generation is used to downloading, playing video games online, and streaming video at the fastest speeds. Most often, students are doing all of that on more than one device, meaning there should be stronger Internet to support all of them. Because of this, easy access to connectivity and outlets is very important. With so many portable devices like phones, tablets, and laptops, students on the move prefer relaxing in outdoor areas with abundant charging capabilities.

Trend #5: The Bike Revolution

As the primary mode of transportation for most college and university students, the ability to bike to campus has long been important to student housing. Many developers, however, fail to consider this transportation method in their project designs. Whether it’s the ability to store a bike, or even rent a bike for recreational purposes, students are looking for bike-related amenities when they rent.

As a result, high-end student housing developments are now providing bicycle stations for parking, storage, and even their own bike “spa.” At the Union Apartments at Oregon State University, for instance, featured amenities include covered bike parking to protect from inclement weather, and what they call the Bike Bar: an outdoor bike maintenance and cleaning station, where students can tend to bike repairs.

Trend #6: Top-notch rooftop amenities

Skyline views and rooftop pools may seem a luxury component, but by adding resort-style spaces to their student housing projects, developers are actually creating the opportunity for better return. The fact is, many residents expect these communal spaces — pools, tanning chairs, or gardens — as a way to meet other students or spend time with friends. Creating these on a larger scale, such as on a rooftop space, translates into larger returns as well. Why is this? Residents are willing to pay more when luxury amenities provide social recreation and serve to enhance the quality of the interactions among residents. 

Take University of Georgia’s The Standard  student building as an example. It offers students a private rooftop oasis that is the envied living space around town. SMU’s Mockingbird Flats is another great example of high-level rooftop amenities. This community offers a wide array of rooftop amenities including a sundeck, outdoor grilling area, and infinity pool with a view.

Both these properties illustrate how otherwise dead space can be maximized in order to not only provide a luxury that students will value, but also to drive higher returns on investment (ROI) for owners and developers. 


Trends in real estate, particularly in the student housing industry, can change over time; but investing in the trends described above can generate lasting ROI as these amenities continue to translate into expectations for students.