How To Increase Room Occupancy When Your School Has Limited Space

In Blog by Amos Kober

Do you struggle with limited residential space and climbing enrollment? Given the trends in declining college enrollment, it’s a good problem to have.

You need to house more students but you can’t exactly create space out of thin air.

Or can you?

In many respects, this is a design issue. And over the years, we have engineered solutions to help schools like yours deal with this same issue.

In fact, a lot of schools struggle with limited space and capital. So it makes sense that more and more of our partner schools are asking us to help them increase occupancy through innovative design solutions.

According to the Hechinger Report, college and university enrollment is down across the United States for the 5th year in a row. Schools are looking for fresh ways to save money. Instead of investing in huge capital projects, they are capitalizing on underutilized space by increasing occupancy.

And instead of spending precious dollars on new construction to attract students, many are adding amenities like upgraded lounges, gaming rooms, and tech-friendly furniture to existing residence halls.

Over the last few years, I can think of at least four Universities that needed our help to increase occupancy:

  • California Lutheran University
  • Pepperdine University
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Riverside

All of these projects had one thing in common. They needed to increase student housing capacity without increasing residential space.

So here’s a super short tour through the four custom solutions we developed for each school.

California Lutheran University

We started working with Cal Lutheran in 2016. At CLU, housing demand kept increasing. When we partnered with them, they were in urgent need need of a viable solution for tripling rooms that were previously doubles.

Each of their 5-Resident suites had two bedrooms and a shared living space. CLU asked us to design the first bedroom as a triple and the second bedroom as a double.

Tripling the first bedroom presented unique challenges based on the limited floor space. It required us to completely optimize the space.

We hit on two breakthrough concepts.

Optimizing Bed Space


First, we bunked two of the beds and placed a horizontal 6-drawer unit under the lower sleep surface. Each of the three residents would have access to two of the drawers.

Second, we made the third bed a Jr. Loft with a wardrobe and 3-drawer chest under the sleep surface. The CLU team chose the Jr. Loft for two reasons: to decrease overall mass in the room and to differentiate the level of each sleep surface.

Another key consideration centred around optimizing the following three factors: ceiling height, the height of the university’s existing mattresses, and the height of the 6-Drawer dresser.

To make the most of the limited room space, we wanted to build the 6-drawer unit under the bunk bed as tall as possible. This approach allowed us to maximize drawer storage while leaving adequate space above both sleep surfaces.

With 97.5” high ceilings, we calculated the max height of the 6-drawer height could be 20” and still leave both sleep surfaces with 30” of clearance.

With dimensions of 79W x 24D x 20”H, the 6-drawer unit integrated perfectly with our Quick Lock 3900 Bed to create a seamless look.

Maximizing Storage

Maximizing storage space was another key to the tripling solution. All the triple rooms featured a large closet shared by two residents. Each closet would have two, Campus 3-Drawer Chests.

The third resident, sleeping on the Jr. Loft, would have a wardrobe. The Campus Wardrobe was designed so the hanging and storage space roughly equalled a closet. The custom dimensions of the wardrobe were 36W x 25D x 48H”.

The way it worked out in the Triples is that each student had their own hanging and storage area, a 3-Drawer Chest, and 2 bonus drawers from the horizontal 6-drawer underbed unit.

>> You can read the full Cal Lutheran Case Study here

UC Irvine

When we first started working with UC Irvine, they asked us to come up with floor plans for triples. Given the available floor space, it wasn’t hard.

Then then asked whether they could add a 4th person to the room to further maximize space and occupancy.

We came back with a new quad design solution and everyone loved the new layout.

The quad solution allowed use to innovate even more. At the request of the University Design Team we incorporated charging outlets, data ports, and USB ports into the the top of the wardrobe.

This transformed the upper bunk into a function-rich environment for the students. In an age of laptop driven learning, we strive to maximize non-traditional workspaces for the modern student.

On other wardrobes that weren’t attached to the bunk beds, we added upper storage cabinets to create more storage for the residents.

At some point in this process, the school increased their enrollment, and at the end of June added another 100 beds thanks in large part to the novel quad solution.

The quad layout that we developed in collaboration with UCI’s design team helped them manage an unexpected surge in enrollment enabling them to convert more rooms to quads.

>> You can read the full UC Irvine Case Study here

UC Riverside

How do you elegantly maximize space? That was our focus in 2013, we started collaborating with UC Riverside.

Our first task was to design beds, wardrobes, desks, bookshelves, and dressers for triple rooms to maximize occupancy.

We developed some custom products and layouts to meet their specs and UCR was enthusiastic.

In terms occupancy, a few things stood out in the design of the custom bed, dresser, and bookshelf.

Based on the design requirements, we developed a functional bed with space for 2 drawer units that could fit underneath the bed or stack anywhere in the room.

We also developed a custom bookshelf that could fit under the bed. But we didn’t stop there. The bookshelf could also come out from under the bed and tip on it’s side to double as a nightstand.

>> You can read the full UC Riverside Case Study here

Pepperdine University

When we started working with Pepperdine, they had a space issue. They needed to increase occupancy for on-campus student housing.

They wanted to know, could we help them achieve this goal immediately, without adding new residence halls?

Converting their doubles into thoughtfully designed triples presented the best immediate solution.

Our first course of action was to look at their spaces and evaluate it for the triple option. Next, based on this research, we developed floor plans and furniture designs.


Obviously, to increase occupancy, we needed to think creatively and space was at a premium. In that spirit, the team at Pepperdine wanted to create more storage space under the loft.

In order to maximize space, we customized a wardrobe and desk to go under the loft. And in order to accomplish this, we needed to alter the standard furniture design. The end product was elegant and beautiful.

Take a look for yourself.

>> You can read the full Pepperdine Case Study here

Let Us Customize Your Solution

Do you need help increasing occupancy in your residence halls?

At DCI, we have a full team of designers and engineers who can craft the perfect solution for you. We specialize in custom furniture solutions that are designed to solve your unique challenges.