Student Housing Business

MAY-JUN 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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Page 64 of 88

CONSTRUCTION TRENDS May/June 2018 64 Commonsense Construction Student housing contractors are working hard to ensure new developments are delivered when promised, even against a host of challenges. By Lynn Peisner D Doing more with less is becoming an art form in the world of student housing construction. Axiometrics reports that 46,274 new beds will be delivered off cam- pus in 2018. Up against that healthy output figure are construction teams strapped to find and lock down quality skilled labor to fill an increasing number of available jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, con- struction employment increased, adding 257,000 new jobs between April 2017 and April 2018. The industry is making efforts to fill those positions by increasing pay for construction jobs. Hourly earn- ings in the industry averaged $29.63 in April 2018, an increase of 3.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, which notes that the pay increase is attracting workers who left en masse after the Great Recession back into the field. Still, construction firms that build student housing report that finding and holding onto skilled trades- people is a major struggle. "Our biggest challenges are subcontractor manpow- er and availability, which leads to quality issues," says Todd Winnerman, president of Lenexa, Kansas-based MW Builders. "We are combating this by reaching into our national network of subcontractors and adding additional supervisory staff to the project to be proac- tive with quality control." MW Builders was the primary general contractor on two of Fountain Residential Partners' recent projects: Gateway on Cullen, with 531 beds serving the Univer- sity of Houston, and 8FOUR8 Mitchell at the Univer- sity of Texas – Arlington, delivering in fall 2019. Because it's difficult to staff construction jobs, gen- eral contractor and development teams know that projects will take longer to build than they used to. Axiometrics reported that the average number of months from construction start to completion in stu- dent housing has been expanding in recent the years. In fall 2013, it took an average of 13 months for a new project to come out of the ground. By fall 2017, that timeline was up to 15 months, and the range may be continuing to stretch further. "We have had a complete reset on our expectations of performance and schedule in the past several years and are now allowing 18 to 22 months for a typical build when we had previously built 30 projects in a Fountain Residential Partners developed Gateway on Cullen, a 531-bed project serving the University of Houston. The property opened in fall 2017. hardison/downey is building the NAU Honors College, going up at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. The 636-bed project for American Campus Communities opens in July. Todd & Associates is the architect.

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