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University accommodation buildings go green to hit government targets

The government has stringent targets for the reduction of carbon emissions throughout the UK, and the impact of these is beginning to be felt within the student accommodation sector. 

As a result of consumer demand and the enhanced focus on sustainable building methods that contractors and installers are implementing, student accommodation providers are playing their part in helping reach these goals.

Growing pools of increasingly sophisticated students consider the sustainable performance of their surroundings an important factor when looking at accommodation options. Although cost effectiveness is still a significant aspect of any decision that is made, environmental awareness is now playing its part.

“Growing numbers of sophisticated students consider the sustainability performance of their surroundings when looking at accommodation options”

This puts pressure on contractors and installers to provide high-quality solutions that meet this need while remaining as competitive on price as possible in order to pass savings onto students.

Customer demand is undoubtedly forcing manufacturers, universities and specifiers to look at the environmental credentials of individual products and building techniques, and these must be considered first to improve a buildings’ overall BREEAM accreditation.

Universities are now competing on accommodation design to draw students in. By offering the most attractive and sustainable living conditions, they will become the destination of choice for those that choose to study.

Considering layouts and features

Some universities have focused on new-builds as well as refurbishments of dated premises. However, there is still a huge variation in the quality of accommodation offered throughout UK universities. High-quality building materials and products are needed in order to reduce this disparity, as they all must be suitable for living and working in.

An important consideration for university building is the use of flexible layouts; materials must be able to support modern-day living including hanging pictures, shelves and technology.

“There’s no doubt that increased competition for a smaller pool of applicants has forced UK universities to think outside the box”

In practical terms, universities have to closely consider the amount of features they provide per room, such as en-suite bathroom facilities, for example. These incur additional space, therefore reducing the capacity for rooms.

Offsetting this, however, is a significant increase in the level of distance learning and home-based students in recent years, reducing the number of buildings that are needed for both learning and accommodation. Providers can then make improvements on their accommodation offerings without demand exceeding supply.

There’s no doubt that competition for a smaller pool of applicants has forced universities in the UK to think outside the box. Offering innovative and attractive premises is now not only about appearance.

A combination of an increasingly discerning customer base and enhanced competition within the university sector means that underlying quality and ethics are now primary selling points.

Gary Carter is general manager of Fermacell

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