HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – It may be quaint, but no longer in vogue, for collegians to go around campus sporting letter sweaters or looking up information in an encyclopedia book.
In truth, 21st century market forces are impacting the educational community in much the same way that changing work habits are reshaping the office environment, says an article written by the head of the Education Advisory Group at the Transwestern real estate firm.
Phil Utigard, executive VP and leader of the firm’s scholastic panel, said, “Three trends [are] driving changes in the design and function of educational facilities – whether it be schools, universities or for-profit providers.”
These include: “A growing consumerist approach to education, the need for cost control and advancements in teaching and learning.” The combo results in “significant implications for owned and occupied real estate in the education sector.”
Writing for Transwestern’s Insights magazine, Utigard said: “Today’s students, for example, expect a variety of housing, dining and entertainment options, preferably within walking distance of the school and public transportation. More and more education centers occupy converted downtown office buildings or even multitenant properties that provide convenient student access and urban, live-work-play amenities, which may be lacking on a traditional campus.”
“Educators competing for promising students can cater to these demands by offering an appealing learning environment and the right mix of amenities for socialization and collaboration.”
Newer educational facilities “offer features that have taken hold in the business world,” including Wi-Fi connectivity, ample seating, charging stations, glass walls and marker boards. Lecture halls and classrooms, in many cases, are being replaced by multiuse rooms with advanced audio-visual capabilities, much like team rooms in a modern office.
This, said Utigard, helps bring about cost savings. “Dissimilar courses can use the same room in succession with little downtime, compared with traditional classrooms that are seldom used more than 40 percent of the school day.”
Many students take a similar, consumer approach to education. “They seek practical skills with applications in solving real-world problems. They know the training they want, what they expect to pay for it and when and where they plan to receive it. If they can accomplish this without making lifestyle sacrifices, even better.”
Utigard said food and beverage options are critical “because they enable students to remain on the property, rather than sacrifice learning time traveling to and from off-campus eateries.”
In addition to a café or cafeteria, the coffee bar is another addition that many learning institutions are borrowing from the modern workplace.
“Part of the design challenge in these new learning centers is to retain and project the school’s identity in a multipurpose facility, often in a vibrant urban environment that competes for its students’ attention,” the Transwestern researcher said. “This is important for long-term funding, because tomorrow’s alumni contribution is often determined by today’s student experience.”