June 2024 - Lakewood Construction

Building Beyond Dorms

How Hope College and Lakewood Construction are Transforming Student Living in Higher Education

2024 MiAPPA Case Study Presentation arrow


Hope College and Lakewood Construction are redefining student living for higher education through innovative and purpose-built residential cottages. With significantly lower up-front required capital investment, lower maintenance costs, higher efficiency, and more flexibility when placing students, this “neighborhood model” of student housing is an effective alternative to traditional housing. To realize the greatest benefit to the institution, however, a strong partnership must exist between the institution and a good design-build firm. When the architect, builder, and institution are all working together as one, the project goes faster, smoother, and the results are more successful.

This case study on building new student cottages demonstrates the transformational design and construction approach taken by Hope College and Lakewood Construction to maximize bed count, utilize space, and optimize maintenance efficiency while ensuring aesthetic community fit and long-term financial growth.

Why A Change Was Needed

Intimately woven into the City of Holland, Hope College sits in both the city center and surrounding neighborhoods. With rising student populations, changes in student preferences, and a desire to be good neighbors in the community, Hope College realized a change was needed.

An Innovative Housing Model

The neighborhood model is a non-traditional student housing program that utilizes duplex-style cottages that are able to grow alongside the student, as well as create flexibility and cost efficiency for the institution. Compared to the traditional dorm housing, the neighborhood model creates a more mature and community based living style, as well as allowing institutions to save on cost per bed ($125k- $150/Bed vs $75k/Bed), lower turnover time (4-6 hour turnover) and significantly reduced maintenance.

The neighborhood model also allows for the institution to better provide accommodations and meet needs when placing students by providing versatility. Investing in a new dorm or residence hall can be a lengthy and highly capital-intensive process, but by implementing a neighborhood housing approach, institutions can reduce costs and drive greater efficiencies. Since the facilities are built as duplexes, the neighborhood model doubles as a diversified long-term investment for the institution—where the cottages can be rented, leased, or offloaded as a saleable asset as needed to adjust to changes in student demand and economic factors.

The Approach: Why Choose Design-Build

Working with the same team from start to finish—from concepts to drawings to construction provides the highest level of synergy and coordination to help guide institutions in strategically master planning campus housing and facilities. As a united team, Hope College and the design-build team at Lakewood Construction carefully mapped out the future facility plans for the institution, evaluated geography and city factors, and analyzed people movement to determine the optimal locations for each future facility to maximize space and minimize cost. When the architect is already an integrated part of the build team, master planning becomes an easy and highly effective process.

Taking a design-build approach also provides the fastest speed to market. When you can begin ordering materials while the drawings are still being finalized and when the architects, estimators, engineers, and constructors literally work side-by-side, you end up with drawings optimized for construction and construction optimized for speed and efficiency. As an example of this: Hope College’s board met in September to approve the designs of the new model, but did not approve the finances for the project until January—for housing needed that fall! An accelerated speed-to-market saves money and offers the greatest flexibility for changing student needs.

The Approach: Space and Cost Optimization

Multiple designs were created of 6, 8, and 12 bed layout options in order to analyze efficiencies and identify the optimal layout configuration for cost efficiency and ROI. Throughout the design process, the existing geography and layout of the neighborhoods was an important consideration in order to ensure site optimization, as well as aesthetic design flexibility of exterior of the houses. The new cottages were also designed with student needs and preferences at their center.

After covid, many students desired single occupancy housing options. The college wanted to provide a housing option that allowed for this privacy, but without isolation. Because of the layout flexibility Lakewood designed, Hope was easily able to accommodate the desire for privacy, while still having areas for engagement and connection throughout the cottage.

Lakewood was also able to analyze student’s needs in the designs, amenities, and aesthetics of the cottages. Alongside Hope College’s team, we worked to strategically select key student desirables such as modern design styles, newer materials, single occupancy rooms, privacy options, and more. This allowed for the institution to then reduce high maintenance amenities (i.e. dishwashers) to save cost and time without losing appeal and attraction to students.

Construction and Procurement Considerations

While the cottages were built as residential structures, Lakewood incorporated commercial codes and factors into the designs of the buildings. From fire alarms to centralized emergency notifications to range hoods and ADA compliance, integrated commercial features keeps the homes consistent with the institutions housing programs and are attractive to students with additional needs. Factors like these are why using a commercial design-build partner who understands zoning, code, and compliance, rather than a traditional residential builder, is essential when tailoring “residential” structures to higher education settings.

To save time and money, frost protected slab on grade was used for the primary foundation. This not only provides the same quality as a traditional three-pour process, but also provides first-level ADA access.

Building from a commercial perspective allowed the cottages to be built through a maintenance optimization lens. By strategically selecting key student desirables, such as modern design styles, newer materials, and single occupancy rooms, an institution can reduce higher life-cycle cost amenities that require more maintenance (such as dishwashers, using solid floors, etc.) without losing student appeal. Additionally, by providing exterior utility access, maintenance can be conducted easily and without requiring access to the student’s space.


Final Lessons Learned:

  1. Strong pre-construction is critical
    It is essential in building higher education housing, to have a strong pre-construction approach. Since higher education builds are often unique projects with a strict timeline and budget, it is essential to careful plan at the very start in order to ensure a seamless and efficient build process. Working with a commercial design-build company can benefit your next build in every way. Working all under the same roof allows for issues to be identified early, a faster speed to delivery, minimized disruptions and change orders, and more- all creating a smoother build and reducing time and costs. A commercial design-build company can also help your institution ensure key commercial standards  are met, as well as ADA access. We were able to bring unique designs to the construction process such as optimized designs for maintenance, privacy flexibility, and exterior aesthetics. All in all, a design-build process will be able to give you the best, cost efficient build, while optimizing design and increasing speed-to-market.
  2. Develop Layouts that provide versatility and accessibility
  3. Optimize designs for maintenance and efficiencies
  4. Build to residential code, but include key commercial standards

Hope College and Lakewood Construction recently had the opportunity to present this case study to other higher education facility and campus leaders at the 2024 MiAPPA Conference. Click on the link below to see the presentation content:

2024 MiAPPA Case Study Presentation

If you are a higher education institution interested in how you can implement the neighborhood model, or would like to learn more about this unique and highly effective process, we’d love to connect!