Creating collaborative learning and living spaces: Chow:Hill discusses the emerging design trends in student accommodation.
Student accommodation isn’t what it used to be. Chow:Hill associate and registered architect, Sam Thomas, discusses design trends influencing student accommodation on campuses around New Zealand.
For many university student's, leaving home to study is a rite of passage. So too is life as a first year in the halls of residence, an environment that plays a vital formative role in a student’s first year of tertiary study.
It is those environments and the experiences they shape, that have been undergoing something of a design revolution, and global trends are now influencing projects here in New Zealand.
“Student accommodation is changing,” says Sam. “There is more emphasis on collaborative social space when it comes to the design of student housing, driven by factors such as student wellbeing and pastoral care.”
Sam and Hamilton/Kirikiriroa Chow:Hill director, Brian Rastrick, attended the Annual Student Accommodation Summit in Melbourne earlier this year, where the creation of student communities and the design of inspiring learning spaces were key topics of discussion.
"Successful design of student accommodation requires a human-centric approach. It comes down to recognising the diversity of student needs and designing for a quality student experience," says Sam. "As the tertiary education experience changes, in particular the methods of education delivery, so too must the design of the student living environment.
"For example, online content delivery is growing. Students no longer need to leave their room to access their education. They can do so online via learning modules and study groups. Yet there are many benefits of social interaction, particularly at university, so the design of student accommodation needs to encourage students into shared spaces."
Socially Engaging Student Environments
Chow:Hill has a growing portfolio of tertiary accommodation design. In 2017, the refurbishment of Massey University's Walter Dyer Hall, student accommodation on the university's Manawatu campus, focused on creating socially engaging environments to meet the need of a growing trend towards less personal space and more flexible, shared environments.
"The existing building comprised of 99 bedrooms with limited social, lounge and kitchen space,” recalls Sam. “Our brief was to improve and increase the social and common spaces without the loss of bedrooms, but those common spaces needed to be fun and inviting environments for students. To encourage students out of their individual space we needed to design engaging social areas, which we achieved with bold colour and internal graphics and artwork, developed and informed by the students themselves.”
Quality Living Spaces for Enhanced Wellbeing
The Wellbeing Budget of 2019 has also seen more emphasis placed on design that enhances wellbeing. There's huge pressure on students when they're studying and there's evidence that shows the living environment has a direct impact on a person's mental health and wellbeing," says Sam.
"As designers, it's not enough for us to create social spaces for interaction and comfort; they need to be of high quality so that people will want to use them."
So, what makes quality student accommodation?
"Social diversity for one," says Sam. "By providing a diverse mix of engaging social space distributed throughout the building, our designs are intended to bring students out of their rooms and face-to-face with their peers.
"It's also about providing mixed use of space," he says. "By integrating other building uses, such as retail space, cafés, restaurants, and formal teaching spaces, not only can this help to offset construction costs, it adds value to the student experience."
Creating neighbourhoods is also something Chow:Hill aims to achieve from its designs. "Making use of more significant social assets between a cluster of buildings helps to form those neighbourhoods and communities on campus," Sam explains. "This often includes amenities such as sports facilities, bookable tutorial and study spaces, and larger format social spaces.
"By blurring the boundaries and integrating teaching and tutorial space with living space, we can create environments where students learn in the context in which they're living," he adds.
Shaping the Student Experience
Creating a sense of place is integral to student accommodation design and is the focus of Chow:Hill's current project with Massey University, the upgrade of the institute's City and Egmont Court Halls of Residence.
"The project involves significant works to the existing buildings with upgraded bedrooms, enlarging and opening up of the existing common room buildings to offer more student interaction, and a complete refit to the existing kitchen buildings to include a dining space and social cooking arrangement," says Sam.
Shaping the student living experience, whether on or off campus, comes down to placing the student as customer when it comes to design. “Comfort is critical for attracting students to a campus and keeping them there,” says Sam. “So too is responsive wi-fi capacity in both private and social environments. In fact, current estimates anticipate demand for approximately seven devices per student!”
Sam says there is also a current trend back to the approach of providing small but high quality dormitory-style rooms that are balanced with diverse shared and social spaces. “This is in response to rising rents and increased construction costs which have driven a self-contained model beyond the reach of most students.”
Design for the Times
Halls of residence continue to play a part in a first-year student’s experiences, but today’s students are living in carefully designed spaces that enhance social activity, education and an holistic approach to student wellness.
July 17, 2019