The higher education design experts at KWK Architects say seeking student input on new residence halls, dining facilities and educational spaces is a crucial part of the design process.

As universities and colleges look to design new residence halls and dining facilities, KWK’s experts say the best way that architects can improve their design standards is by speaking directly with students about their needs and wants for a space. 

“Student leadership groups are encouraged to be involved throughout the duration of the design process to determine what they would like to have or not have in the spaces that they frequent the most,” said KWK Principal Paul Wuennenberg. “Architects who show that they care about student input and take the time to listen to their opinions will ultimately have a better design result.” 

Designers should consider working with student housing administrators on campus to determine which student organizations would be best to work with. From there, student organization leaders may be asked to be advocates for securing student member input. Some universities have a dedicated student on the steering committee who has input on all design decisions. 

“The most helpful information from students focuses on how residence halls can be multi-functional and comfortable for a diverse population,” said Wuennenberg. “Students are typically most interested in the bathroom configurations and amenities and their location within the building. Everyone wants a lot of space and privacy, but what are they willing to pay for it? The other thing we get from students is a feel for the culture on campus.”

There are several methods that architects can use to solicit design feedback from students, including: 

  • Virtual tours where students can view the tentative design plan and make comments
  • Focus groups where students can bounce their ideas off one another
  • Online surveys where students can provide feedback on the types of units they prefer including the cost differences
  • Suggestion boxes on campus where students can submit their input in writing 
  • Dot surveys where students have input on the types of spaces they like, such as colorful, contemporary or having a home or lodge-feel


Students may be rewarded for their participation in the design process with dining credits, Amazon or iTunes gift cards, pizza parties, t-shirts or other fun activities determined by the university.  

KWK Architects used input from student leadership groups to design the new living/learning residence hall at Augustana University in South Dakota, which is currently under construction. The new L-shaped, three-story hall will house up to 200 students and include semi-suites with four beds and a bathroom in each unit. A community building at the front of the hall will include shared multi-purpose spaces, and incorporate living and learning environments for faculty, students and affinity groups on campus.