From old and cold to big and bold, the student accommodation game is changing. We designed our first scheme 15 years ago. Now, 72 projects and 27,000 student beds later, this is what we’ve learnt.
The only constant is change
In the early days we were converting old office blocks into straightforward cluster flats. Clients were focused on bricks and mortar. Today’s offering is boldly branded, new-build townhouses centred on the student experience. Eclipse and George Eliot Halls are good examples of these.
Along the way technology boomed. Generation Z – true digital natives – are weaned on social media. A game changer for the relationship between consumer and provider. Students, and their parents, are equipped with empowering tech that they are not afraid to use. One of the benefits; insight into how space is really being used.
With tuition now coming at a cost, the expectations of the university experience have changed. Affordability is a key consideration, with every pound spent seen as an investment that requires a compensating return.
Understand your audience
We know what students really want. We talk to them. Through market testing and post occupancy research they tell us their needs, wants and motivations.
As such, lessons are learnt from every project.
What helps integrate students from different social and cultural backgrounds? What mediates their pastoral needs?
Contemporary student living design mixes home comforts in a safe environment; communal spaces, leisure facilities, and study zones. It fosters community and supports students’ mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. A great location and fast Wi-Fi are a given. Beyond that, gyms, cafes, games rooms, cinemas, bars, karaoke rooms, dance floors, dining rooms are all part of the picture. Just ask Fusion.
Know your clients
Working with so many universities and developers, on and off campus, we understand sensitive local market conditions and know what affects value. That knowledge has been put to good use. It means our clients achieve their strategic aims: they get the best returns and stand-out architectural ideas.
This requires a mix of designers. Our architects interpret the brief for optimal site-specific value, before our interior and landscape designers strengthen the brand. The graphic designers add the finishing touches.
Nurture the future
Potential investment is still strong in the UK. Generally, the market remains undersupplied, while the old stock needs refurbishing. The success of new projects depends on an increasingly sophisticated analysis of local conditions, user needs and economic trends. While domestic students are focused on affordability, international students are attracted by British universities’ world-class reputation and the weak pound.
Overseas, the sector is decades behind the UK. Just as the UK followed the US model, Europe and the rest of the world will follow. When these markets open up, growth will be exponential.
The world faces unprecedented challenges, and we need smart people to overcome them. Let’s build student homes to nurture that ambition.