Halls of elegance

Student accommodation and flooring have improved to a level which is almost unrecognisable compared with a few years ago, reports Nav Dhillon of Gerflor

Forget the drab, dull and dreary student accommodation of yesteryear; things have changed – the students of today demand and expect much higher standards from their environment. Despite the thrill and trepidation with which former students stepped through the door of their halls for the first time, they were often greeted by a narrow single bed, MDF desk, and a heavy-duty carpet. For many though, those days are long gone. Students overwhelmingly want to live in university halls of residence with other freshers to make friends and socialise. Halls also appeal to parents as they almost always offer a secure environment with swipe card entry systems and wardens. The instinct is to choose the rooms that are the most attractive, however, they are usually the most expensive, and their disposable income may be of greater importance.

A more flexible approach

As flooring plays a fundamental role in providing a suitable and enjoyable environment, it can only gain top marks if it is ‘fit-for-purpose’ and meets the challenging requirements of educational establishments and their student housing. Innovative thinking in educational building and student accommodation design is now focused on creating environments that look closely at the principles of how safety, acoustic levels, comfort, decoration, colour and air quality, to name but a few, can better the performance and welfare of those who study and live within the education sector. Delivering more than a basic standard accommodation in education is therefore a hot topic. BB103 and the EFA’s Baseline Designs for Schools provide guidance, but less rigid approaches are being explored by many educational establishments. Specifying for multiple use spaces and flexible design are key trends while some teachers and students are even participating in classroom and lecture hall design, so that their needs are better met. These trends are also placing greater emphasis on flooring in terms of flexibility, comfort, safety and welfare. Students now expect more from the dwellings they live in – for most three years but for some even longer portions of their student life.

Reputable flooring manufacturers, with the necessary product innovation, knowledge and experience within the sector are developing products that bring fresh, hardwearing and sustainable solutions to new build and refurbishment projects including general study areas, communal corridors and the accommodation the students use and live in. Environments for students, including flooring, have come a long way since the days of threadbare carpet and dowdy lino. A KKA architects-designed facility in Glasgow now provides students with the rush of a theme park-style helter-skelter slide as part of a futuristic new university digs in the mould of Google’s famous offices. The chute at the £40m building in Glasgow features twirling loops and looks like something out of a water park rather than a traditional halls of residence. It connects the first and ground floors and has a clear plastic top half so there is no danger of undergraduates falling out. As well as the slide, the luxurious student housing development, which opened in September 2017, also features a karaoke room, cinema, and a cafe serving protein shakes. It’s fair to say that this forward-thinking and rather hip project would need flooring that matches the high standards of design and environment, and that colour and flooring texture would play a pivotal role in the final appearance. High performance, aesthetically pleasing, easy to maintain sustainable floorings can be manufactured using healthy materials with low VOC emissions. These contribute to improved indoor air quality and overall people well-being. Floorings for student accommodation are readily available with anti-slip properties for enhanced safety with the addition of hardwearing surface treatments to stand the test of time, proving they can be top of the class in education.

Nav Dhillon is Gerflor’s marketing manager