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Designing ahead: Housing for Gen Z students will emphasize digital technology and ‘Alone Together’ spaces

Generation Z students (born between 1997 and 2012) are different than Millennials in terms of lifestyle preferences and unique needs in student housing, as a recent opinion piece from KWK Architects points out. Gen Z students are the most digitally engaged group, as they have never known life before technology. They are also the most diverse and well-informed in 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.

‘Alone-together’ spaces for Gen Z

Digital technology and ‘Alone Together’ spaces for Gen Z students

As digitally engaged as Generation Z students are, 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. Gen Z students are more independent in their learning style, but they want to be in a communal space, not isolated — the concept of being ‘alone together’.

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.

Digital technology for Gen Z

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.

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.

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

Founded in 2013 by five architects with a combined 120 years of higher education knowledge and experience, Webster Groves, Missouri-based KWK Architects partners with colleges and universities across the United States to create innovative and inspiring places designed to enhance campus life. Areas of expertise include student housing and dining, and academic and science/technology spaces.