Nelson Partners is a real estate investment company specializing in creating, acquiring, and managing high-quality purpose-built student housing assets. While this market has proven lucrative, Nelson Partners also focuses on taking student housing properties to the next level. With each property, the company seeks to address building design and operation trends that are integral to providing a better experience for students and staff alike, such as sustainability of resources and new forms of community programming. An overview of some of these initiatives follows, which together demonstrate how the company is driving the student housing market to realize its full potential.
Design and Sustainability
The developer’s “more-with-less” approach builds on an established track record in the U.S. and abroad to drive operational efficiencies through thoughtful design while also demonstrating environmental responsibility. With each new project, Nelson Partners seeks to provide more space for students by changing existing building footprints rather than simply adding square footage to create crowded dormitory conditions that diminish the quality of life for residents. The company has developed innovative designs, such as Blossom Heights at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, which offers students an additional 40 percent more space per person through the use of eight-person suites rather than traditional two- to four-person units found in most student housing developments.
The design team goes beyond simply maximizing square footage. The company has been a leader in green building for more than a decade, and each new project is built to be as sustainable as possible. For example, Nelson Partners was the first to incorporate dual-flush toilets into student housing developments, resulting in water savings of up to 40 percent per flushing event. In other communities, the developer has leveraged building automation systems to cut energy use by as much as 40 percent. At its latest student housing project in Gainesville, Fla., Nelson Partners has designed the first facility of its kind with a living green roof that is expected to reduce utility and maintenance costs and increase biodiversity on-site.
To help students learn about the importance of sustainability and to encourage positive behavior, the developer is also integrating building performance dashboards that utilize real-time data to display projected utility costs per room in “energy e$cents,” water use in “water trees,” and electricity consumption in “kilowatts.” The dashboard features allow students to track their energy and water usage against community benchmarks and provide them with an opportunity to participate in contests and compare performance against peers. In addition, students can access educational content from the dashboard to learn more about how they might contribute to a healthier environment at home and abroad.
The company continues its sustainability efforts by diversifying energy sources, such as geothermal heating and cooling technology, that provide a constant source of comfort for residents. In one project, Nelson Partners took geothermal a step further by incorporating a chilled beam cooling system that uses water from the earth as a “free” source of energy to regulate the temperature in each room rather than installing standard equipment on the roof.