A True Residence in a Residence Community

When parents leave their students at a college or university, they need to believe their children are living in safe, clean, and welcoming environments where they will be nurtured and protected--just as they would at home. While students are also concerned with issues of safety, they are perhaps equally interested in enjoying the aesthetics of their living spaces.

They are looking for opportunities within their residence halls where they will be encouraged to socialize and build friendships. They are also seeking out the places they will be able to stay up late studying and preparing for challenging classes. After all, what is a university or college for? It is a learning center where parents send their children to study, grow and to discover their potential. At private colleges and universities around the nation, this is where positive changes in the world often begin.

Student Recruitment and Retention

It’s not always a simple task to design residence hall furniture that students are drawn to, which is one reason it is so important to travel the country and continually stay connected to the young people at colleges and universities. We recognize how important it is that these students feel heard, and we know they want to live in residence halls that feel like homes. Students offer insights that are invaluable in planning the spaces where these young minds will feel most inspired.

Any design of new products should cater to students’ needs without compromising style and the demands of the physical space. Just as essential is their comfort, which is an important aspect of a student residence.

Without comfort these places will not be pleasant or desirable, which can affect the university on several levels: either students choose another university with more appealing residence halls or students may leave a university because another institution offers a more appealing place to live. Though there are many factors in determining student recruitment and retention, one of the most important is certainly where students will live and work.

Factors for Design

When designing living space for students, the furniture should be flexible and easily moved. Reconfigurable furniture is also a must. Because this furniture needs to last, it must be both strong and sturdy as well. There should be a variety of seat widths, collaborative areas, and geometric configurations that are both visually interesting and practical.

Modular seating offers a dynamic space that can be easily reconfigured to accommodate individuals, small groups, or large group meetings. Cluster corners are still a popular option, where the furniture pieces can be designed around areas that encourage small group collaboration, where students are encouraged to sit together, whether they are busy discussing classwork or building emotional connections.

Connecting People and Their Data

Obviously, electrical components should be carefully planned with any design choices, so multiple students would be able to share one space but have everything they need to plug in their phones, laptops, and other devices.

Electrical connections with USB data capabilities, which come in a variety of outlet designs, should be incorporated within the space. Even better, electrical USB ports should be offered as part of the furniture, built-ins that do not sacrifice the design. With a variety of power and data ports to choose from, including flush-mounted outlets to pop-out versions, students can easily incorporate portable technology into all of their social spaces.

Research has demonstrated that the most popular and often-used spaces are those that support small group interactions, and researchers continue to document the allure of smaller spaces for collaborative work or socializing. For that to work, though, access to the right technology is key-along with close proximity. Ideally, students should have the option to use laptops, whiteboards, tablets, and cell phones without leaving the group space.

Meeting spaces designed to foster a sense of intimacy and privacy will also attract students, while offering a more informal feel than their classrooms and an opportunity to gain the emotional support from their peers that helps students develop a sense of community within their residence halls.

Pleasant Surroundings Build Stronger Students

Residence Halls should have easy access in and out of buildings (i.e. elevators, large hallways, extra stairways, ramps for disabled students, extra lighting – including in the dorms). The dorm itself should feature a generous area for each student with extra lighting and perhaps a lamp desk, a comfortable bed, a private bathroom if possible and, obviously, easy access to a Dining Hall and a Student Union to relax and study.

In addition, Recreation Room accessibility is a definite plus. After all, recreation time should be strongly recommended for students’ physical and psychological health. Without a Recreation Hall, there will not be enhancement of relaxing time in a student life, which is necessary and should be part of the curriculum.

Study after study has demonstrated that students who are happier and more content are far more likely to excel in their studies. Thus, we have to design their surroundings carefully, being mindful of the powerful impact our choices will have on students’ well-being and overall success. A pleasant and appealing student environment will result in better students and higher scholastic achievement.

About the Author
Geroge Zaki is a mechanical engineer who founded ERG International approximately 35 years ago. From his company's inception, he's had a very close relationship with design engineers in Europe who created ergonomics. Zaki has trained in ergonomic design under their supervision, so to speak, and their guidance in design and style has brought ERG International to its degree of national exposure and branding.