University of Alabama at Birmingham


Student Housing Master Plan Advisory Services

In July 2016, the University of Alabama at Birmingham engaged Brailsford & Dunlavey to update its 2012 student housing master plan. The university had a strong enrollment demand in both its undergraduate and graduate programs which was exemplified by a 20% increase in total student enrollment from 2007 to 2016. The existing housing plan proposed projects that demonstrated the university’s efforts to use campus structures to achieve its mission of applying knowledge for the intellectual, cultural, social, and economic benefit of the Birmingham community, the state, and beyond. The goal of B&D’s update was to assess current and future student housing demand while developing a long-term strategy to accommodate anticipated enrollment growth through 2021 in line with the university’s mission.

B&D sought to provide the university with a values-based, data-driven assessment that would help it choose which populations to focus on for housing, select the building projects necessary to meet current and future housing demand, and determine ancillary impacts on student health, dining, and policing. In so doing, B&D designed a work plan that began with a visioning session with the university president’s cabinet and continued from there to include:

• A demographic analysis of the student population
• An existing conditions assessment
• An off-campus market analysis
• A student survey, student focus groups, and a student services impact analysis

A financial analysis was also completed, along with a development phasing plan to help guide future construction and renovation projects. This plan was designed to ensure that construction projects kept pace with, but did not outpace, university enrollment growth.

B&D provided housing recommendations that met the university’s strategic priorities in light of the research and analyses conducted. A two-part development approach was recommended, comprised of two new residence halls accommodating first- and second-year students and a shift of most third- and fourth-year students to off-campus housing while retaining approximately 400 beds on campus as a contingency for that population. In order to fund the additional employees needed to provide ancillary services, B&D recommended the university investigate alternative means of financing, in line with current practices. It was further advised that the university begin programming the first residence hall and exploring partnership opportunities with off-campus developers.