MW Builders Moderates Student Housing Trends Panel 

MW Builders’ Bret Necessary, Vice President of Business Development, moderated a panel on design and construction at the recent 2022 Texas Student Housing Conference. The conference was held on the Texas A&M University campus and presented by Stafford Barrett Commercial Brokerage. The panel included BKV Group’s Jonathan Delcambre, Kirksey Architecture’s Wes Good, and PeakMade Real Estate’s Mark Winkelmann. The discussion focused on emerging trends for the coming year in the construction and design sectors. Below is a recap from some of the discussion during the panel.

Supply chain issues are affecting industries across the board. Design and construction are no exceptions. Building materials are in constant price fluctuation, causing complications for project teams across the country. Bret asked the panel about the best way to combat the unpredictability the supply chain brings. Jonathan says, “flexibility is key,” and the sentiment was echoed by his fellow panelists. It’s becoming increasingly necessary to build flexibility into project plans, from creating plans that can accommodate varying project materials based on what’s available, to bringing in operators earlier into the design process to provide insights into where overspending may occur.

Teams are finding creative ways to absorb labor shortages in the current competitive market as well. Mark spoke about the importance of building a strong workplace culture, and focusing time and effort on building and promoting within to retain employees. Companies tend to look to universities for new hires. With an in-demand A/E/C labor force, traditional timetables for hiring graduates are changing rapidly. In the past, spring graduates have been offered roles in April or May. Wes recommends offering those same positions in late winter to beat the influx of competitive offers.

While the Gen Z workforce is growing, many of them are still students, informing the trends in student housing. Emerging trends include desire for both increased privacy, and sustainability. Even in common double-occupancy units, individual privacy is in high demand. Larger rooms and built-in dividers were listed as possible accommodations. The panel has seen sustainability as one of the driving forces behind Gen Z’s decision-making regarding housing. Recent code updates in many cities include sustainability efforts, driving projects to be more sustainable as well.

Cost also informs trends, and in many markets, the panel sees three and four-story buildings taking precedent over other new builds for this reason. While the past year or two have seen a lull in new projects, pushing delivery dates into the mid 2020s due to unstable pricing, the panel sees an influx of clients ready to begin projects this year.

According to the panel, the overall outlook for student housing design and construction in 2022 is a positive one, and is shaping up to be one of the busiest years in Tier One student housing markets the industry has seen in the past few years.