Solving the Student Housing Crisis: The Power of Modular Construction

Kylie Clark

9 min read


The student housing crisis is a growing concern in a multitude of cities across the United States and Europe.

As the demand for higher education continues to rise, enrollments at universities and limited on-campus housing options grow as well. Students are often left to find convenient and affordable student living accomodations on their own.

Fortunately, a promising solution is emerging in the form of modular construction; explore how modular construction can address this student housing crisis by offering a plethora of benefits, including affordability, speed of construction, and sustainability.


What is the Student Housing Crisis and what is creating it?

The global student housing crisis is one of the worst housing crises that we have seen and with the rise of university enrollment in a post-pandemic world, the housing situation continues to worsen in major cities across the world.


Student Housing Graphic & Quotes (5)

As student living costs reach new highs, within popular study-abroad locations such as France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the US, it is becoming nearly impossible for students to find affordable housing.


Student Housing Graphic & Quotes 

In fact, some students were unable to begin their 2022-2023 academic year due to a lack of affordable housing in close enough proximity to their university. Students who face housing insecurity are almost two times as likely to drop out of college due to their financial situation.

The two biggest factors creating this housing crisis are:

  1. Insufficient capacity where the housing capacity of the university is lacking.
  2. Higher costs of off-campus housing, essentially forcing the students to struggle as they juggle decent housing, their tuition, and other expenses that may arise.

In the Netherlands and Ireland, governments and universities are working together to address the shortages of student housing stock. Still, most of these solutions need more time than is available to implement.

However, a tried and true lesser-known construction method may offer a new solution to solving this crisis. Modular dormitory systems can offer the perfect housing solutions, whether it is a quick and temporary fix or a more permanent build on the campus. 

In modular construction’s extensive history, this method has proven to not only cut traditional construction times in half but has evolved to be customizable to fit any needs whether that’s a hotel, an apartment complex, or yes, even student housing.

Before we fully dive into the benefits of modular construction, let's first look a little deeper into what the housing crisis looks like:


Northeastern & Boston University Struggle to Meet Student Housing Demand

The housing crisis is closer to home than many people may think. Students living and going to school in the greater Boston, MA area have to wait roughly 6 months to receive their housing assignments when going through their school’s housing system, filling their summer with stressful planning and constant unknowns of where they will be living the next school year.

Some universities have even resorted to lottery systems for housing. In early February, students of Northeastern University were provided a number representing their ranking in the housing selection lottery system. Students waited the entire summer with bated breath to get any information about the future of their housing situations.

Both Northeastern and Boston Universities are scrambling to accommodate the record-breaking increase of students that have been admitted in the past few years. In an effort to find quick fixes, they’ve begun investing more in international programs and attempting to rent or purchase local hotels in Boston for their students to live in for whole semesters. Quick fixes, but not sustainable.

Even if these students wanted to avoid the stress of trying to work with their on-campus housing system, housing in college towns is extremely limited and very expensive.

Many current Boston-based students are also recognizing that this housing crisis is not going to be a single-year crisis. This is something that will continue occurring for the rest of their college experience, and beyond if these students decide to stay in the greater Boston area.

The City of Boston is facing a crippling housing shortage and is failing almost every metric measuring housing accessibility, equity, and availability.


Right now, the average rent in Boston is a debilitating $2,970 per month, with the average pricing for rent (as of February of 2023) is as follows:

Studio - $2682

One-Bed -  $3215

Two-Bed - $4105

Three-Bed - $5517

The City of Boston government officials estimate that more than 40% of the students who go to Boston-based Universities live off-campus. These roughly 66,000 students looking for off-campus housing tend to look in surrounding neighborhoods, which puts a strain on housing availability and the community members in these areas. The demand for housing, in turn, is allowing landlords to raise housing prices.

The “easy option” would be to build more affordable and appealing dormitories to house these students, or so it seems. Traditional on-site construction takes time AND causes large amounts of disruption to the site location. 

It is not a viable option to solve the student housing crisis as universities need solutions fast that are sustainable for the campus’s environment. 

Standardized modular construction is the best solution to the student housing crisis.

Modular or off-site construction offers the transformative solution to the housing crisis that universities across the globe are looking for.

Volumetric Building Companies (VBC) specializes in the innovation of modular and prefabricated construction, building individual modules in a controlled factory environment, and then transporting and assembling them at the actual site location.

VBC is seeing a massive surge in university housing requests.

Colleges are looking for solutions that are going to be long-lasting and tick off all of the needs they are hoping to fill.

Modular construction allows for the unit construction process and the site work to be done at the same time. 


Student Housing Graphic & Quotes (1)


Modular construction is a great alternative to traditional on-site construction, especially for fast-turnaround student housing, which is in such great demand in the US. 


Let's look a little further into the benefits VBC offers with our modular construction units:

Speed of Delivery:

As the rates of enrollment are on an upswing, the needs of the universities are changing. Colleges need quick and easy solutions to allow for higher occupancy rates to keep up with the rise in enrollment. Innovative modular solutions are the only form of construction that can deliver accommodations quickly enough to keep up with these growing housing needs. At VBC the modular units can be manufactured concurrently with site preparation, optimizing production to complete the project in half the time of traditional construction methods.


Greater Customization:

VBC’s design of standardized modular units allows for greater customization of interior and exterior material options, enabling the newly constructed units to blend easily with the pre-existing structure on college campuses. 

This adaptability allows universities to customize the units to fit their exact housing needs, with the number of modules needed and a variety of unit types such as studios and multi-bedroomed dormitory-style apartments. VBC’s architecture studio team can work to develop scalable and repeatable units that both meet the needs of the students and are cost-effective to build at scale.


Cost Predictability:

Cost predictability is nearly guaranteed with prefabricated modular units. At Volumetric Building Companies, we use a project cost estimator system, allowing us to account for the cost of the build ahead of time. Through this system, all modular units are built within a controlled environment. This allows a reduction in material waste and lowers construction costs further. In turn, creating stabilized costs for the university and more affordable units for the students living there.


A Greener Approach:

 With global warming at the forefront of all our minds, especially a younger generation set to inherit our climate crisis, universities are increasingly trying to align their mission with ESG (environmental, social, and governance). VBC is echoing this even further with green sustainability efforts;

VBC’s modular construction process sustainably produces housing with eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient designs.


Disruptions to Campus Life:

Traditional construction processes cause significant disruptions to not only the students living on campus but the surrounding community members as well.

A few of these disruptions:

  • Extended completion times
  • Rerouted vehicle traffic
  • Disrupted student walking paths
  • Environmental impacts on the local community

Modular construction’s off-site fabrication minimizes on-site disruptions, ensuring that students can continue their studies without major inconveniences.

That’s why VBC is working with these universities to provide quick and cost-effective housing for their students who are in desperate need of housing.


We have the knowledge and experience to create the solution.

In partnership with BG Capital, VBC is actively working to solve the student housing crisis. 

A current project that is underway in Philadelphia, near Temple University, the North 11th Street project is striving to alleviate the need for additional student housing before the second semester of the school year starts. 


By creating a total of 324 living units available to the students of Temple University via 162 modular units, VBC is helping not only provide housing but also a better sense of safety and community for these students.


The Potential Modular Holds for Solving the Student Housing Crisis:

Modular builds have faster speed of delivery and are consistently a more cost-effective solution for student housing. 

Debunking Misconceptions:


Despite misconceptions that modular buildings can limit the design choices made by universities, modular student dorms can be designed and built in uniformity with the campuses' traditional styles 

Modular construction’s quality is often brought into discussion as there is confusion about what the modules look like and how they function.

However prefabricated manufacturing ensures that the construction is of higher quality and is more durable than traditional construction methods, which is perfect for university housing.


Why Modular is the Solution to the Student Housing Crisis:

The global student housing crisis is an ever-growing and pressing concern to universities that needs an innovative solution to deliver resolve quickly and modular construction is that solution. 

Volumetric Building Companies is the game-changer solution to paving a more affordable way to bridge the student housing gap.

From the speed of delivery to customizable units, we have the tools educational institutions need to provide better housing options for their students.

If you're interested in exploring if this progressive building method is the solution for your student housing project, take our quiz and explore the possibilities of modular construction with us. 

Download a sample test fit today.