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Student housing for Gen Z students will emphasize digital technology and ‘alone together’ spaces

Education Facilities

Student housing for Gen Z students will emphasize digital technology and ‘alone together’ spaces

As digitally engaged as Generation Z is, they still value and desire in-person communication and socialization.


By KWK Architects | January 5, 2022
UMN Pioneer Hall
Courtesy KWK Architects

Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) is different than Millennials in terms of lifestyle preferences and unique needs in student housing. Gen Z is the most digitally engaged group of students, as they have never known life before technology. They are also the most diverse and well-informed, knowing exactly how to get the information they need to make decisions.

To this end, university housing for the Gen Z student needs to incorporate the digital world. For example, many housing providers are utilizing apps to field student complaints and needs, plus track and communicate with students in real time. Reporting something like the heat not working needs to be able to be communicated in real time, 24/7.

As digitally engaged as Generation Z is, they still value and desire in-person communication and socialization. This unique trait impacts the types of spaces and amenities that residence halls should incorporate, says KWK Architects Principal Paul Wuennenberg.

“Gen Z is more independent in their learning style, but they want to be in a communal space, not isolated – the concept of being ‘alone together,’” said Wuennenberg.

The Gen Z student is typically very value conscious as they saw their Gen X parents suffer through the Great Recession and understand the importance of maximizing value. That being said, Gen Z students are willing to pay for amenities, and will pay more if they see it provides them value.

Using digital technology comes naturally to Gen Z students. Wi-Fi and networking are simply expected in student housing. Shopping online is the norm for the Gen Z student, so universities need to accommodate the ability for them to receive packages and have safe access to those packages 24/7.

According to Wuennenberg, the values that Gen Z espouses will promote more studios and micro units in residence halls. Gen Z students will also want more opportunities to cook for themselves and social spaces where they can work in an ‘alone together’ scenario. Providing spaces for gaming will also be important, as a majority of this generation say they game at least once a week.

“I think the combination of wanting privacy, having fewer people share restrooms, and the desire for maximizing value will encourage these types of units,” he said. “Allowing them choices will be extremely important.”

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Student Housing

Cornell University builds massive student housing complex to accommodate planned enrollment growth

In Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University has completed its North Campus Residential Expansion (NCRE) project. Designed by ikon.5 architects, the 776,000-sf project provides 1,200 beds for first-year students and 800 beds for sophomore students. The NCRE project aimed to accommodate the university’s planned growth in student enrollment while meeting its green infrastructure standards. Cornell University plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.


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