Aguilera Student Housing Apartments in La Crosse, WI

Like many campuses across the country, the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse is growing. At last count, UW-La Crosse had more than 10,400 students, but they have on-campus beds for only about 3,500 of them, leaving nearly 7,000 students looking for housing in the community.

Today’s college students don’t want just anywhere to sleep; they have become quite discriminating. Increasingly, collegians are seeking resort-style living in chic, contemporary buildings. This leaves developers competing for leases by designing student housing with sleek aesthetics and trendy amenities. Appearances definitely matter in the student housing sector.

Developer Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions knew this well, so they used Nichiha Illumination Series and ArchitecturalBlock™ Panels to distinguish their new student housing complex, Aguilera, near one corner of the UW-La Crosse campus.

Aguilera, which means aerie or eagle’s nest in Spanish, gives students a birds-eye view of the town of La Crosse. And the view of the 89,800-square-foot building from the surrounding area is just as stunning. The $10.6 million, 58-unit structure “is a real statement piece,” said Colin Klos of MBA Architects. “The developer was competing for tenants with some other new housing projects in the area, but they were further from campus, and so we wanted to maximize the value of the property. This building is quite visible, and the Nichiha panels allowed us to get the contemporary look we wanted, at a savings of about 40 percent over terracotta or aluminum panels.”

The contractor installed about 22,000 square feet of the ArchitecturalBlock in Mocha and Gray, and 7,650 square feet of 10-foot Illumination panels, prefinished in Sherwin Williams Copper Mountain. Panels surround the upper levels of the five-story structure, located over a ground-floor coffee shop, fitness center, a courtyard with BBQs and plenty of room for relaxation. Steel balconies give students easy access to views both into the courtyard and overlooking the surrounding area.

Klos said they choose Nichiha for a number of reasons. “This location, right off the corner of campus, held so much value, so we wanted to make a real statement with a contemporary design. The developer wanted to show that he could produce high quality student housing. The quality exterior of Aguilera reflects the amenities inside, which even include a bike station.”

He added that they considered other fiber cement siding products because they wanted minimal maintenance and discoloration over time, which he said they could have faced with other products. “But we knew Nichiha would perform well. We needed visual variety along with a product that would withstand the winters and summers in Wisconsin, and Nichiha gives us that.”

Cost was also a consideration, he said. “If you’re trying to get a particular look, there’s only a few other types of panels you can use and they’re more expensive. We didn’t want to use an EIFS, exterior insulation and finish system, because of potential water problems and discoloration. Both terracotta and architectural metal run around $32 per square foot, so we saved about $12 per foot by going with Nichiha.”

MBA Architects had limited prior experience with Nichiha, and Klos said they learned some valuable tips that they will use the next time they specify the product. “Design-wise, we learned to minimize the cuts the installer has to make,” he said. “Each time they have to work around a window, exhaust fan or other opening, it complicates installation and interrupts the clean design. Also, we were glad that we used the entire Nichiha system, including trim and hardware. Initially, the system price may appear expensive, but by the time you put it all together, it makes the most sense to specify the whole system. Plus, we know it carries the Nichiha warranty, which was important.”

With rental growth of almost 3 percent per year, national occupancy levels above 95 percent and steadily increasing university enrollment, student housing is booming. “We’re very happy with the project, and have received good feedback from students, parents and the community,” said Klos. “Nichiha was a good choice and provides us with a student housing prototype for other college towns.”


MBA Architects, Inc.


Borton Construction


Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions, LLC


La Crosse, WI


Nichiha Illumination Series and ArchitecturalBlock™Panels


Summer 2016


The balconies fit seamlessly with the Nichiha panels, providing the sleek, edgy look that the architect wanted and the long-term performance the developer wanted.


The architect worked closely with Nichiha to make sure the panels integrated fully with the steel balconies. Since the Nichiha is a complete system, the resulting design carries a full warranty.


One of the biggest challenges was site size; Aguilera is close to property lines and all the steel balconies are hung from the building, leaving complicated framing details and the potential for water intrusion if the exterior wasn’t designed and installed just right.
“Nichiha panels allowed us to get the contemporary look we wanted, at a savings of about 40 percent over terracotta or aluminum panels

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