In the race to build more and more purpose built student accommodation blocks, one important thing has been overlooked by developers: what students actually want.
The latest crop of brand-heavy student dwellings feature bedrooms straight from ‘Ibis Hotel world’ – bland, minimalist pre-fab boxes. Cheap and quick to build, you can see why developers like them so much. But students may beg to differ, particularly when they are paying upwards of £300 a week for the privilege of living in them.
A senior director of one of the major operators told me recently he had tried living in one of the student rooms for a week “to get an idea of what it’s like”. It wasn’t very nice. “I don’t know how anyone puts up with it for a whole month, let alone a year,” he said. He confessed to “climbing the walls” after just two days in the 20sqm space.
In this highly competitive market something else is needed that reflects the desire of students to live a little more like they would at home whilst at the same time recognising the commercial drivers of the building operator to maximise returns.
What students want is really quite simple, and well documented in numerous surveys in the US and Europe: they want the freedom to make their room at university reflect as much about themselves as possible. Our homes communicate who we are and mark our territory. We want to interact with our space and arrange it in a way that speaks to our values and priorities.
While many halls of residence are designed around repeated room designs and cellular structures, the most appealing environments are those with quirks and eccentricities such as unique built-in features and furnishings. Intimate and non-institutional living spaces are routinely rated high in student residence satisfaction surveys.
In our R&D work with waste fibre materials we have come up with something we think might be a rather good solution: a lightweight and highly flexible bedroom furnishing system that can be customised to an almost unlimited degree without adding anything to the operators’ fixed and FM costs. As you would expect from FluteOffice, it is made entirely from low value waste, but the use of new waste fibre technologies enable us to produce structures and finishes that are strong and elegant, completely sustainable and highly cost effective.
We look upon it as a work of art, so we are initiating a series of ‘private views’ for anyone interested in how it all works. Register with firstname.lastname@example.org