Student accommodation architect urges developers to ‘return to basics’ at Westminster event

Director at architectural firm LK2, Andrew Kitchen, recently took to the stage at the Westminster Higher Education Forum keynote seminar in London, to join a lively discussion surrounding the changing shape of the UK’s student housing market.

The London-based seminar brought together experts from universities, estate agencies and financiers amongst many other professionals, to discuss how demand for student housing has transformed in recent years.

Andrew, who has over 30 years of experience within the architecture sector, looked to inform attendees about how quality and affordability need to be balanced when it comes to student accommodation.

Andrew said:

“We’ve seen a huge change over the years in student accommodation requirements and also in the expectations of students. 20 years ago, on-campus accommodation probably consisted of 30 or 40 bedrooms sharing ‘communal’ bathrooms. This offered basic but affordable accommodation.

“In comparison, the present expectation of high quality en-suite facilities is very desirable but expensive, and for many, unaffordable. Perhaps the time has come for developers and universities to consider offering basic, high quality and more affordable accommodation with shared bathrooms.

“Interestingly, when it comes to student housing there is an eagerness to compete with all kinds of facilities, with some complexes featuring everything from cinemas to gyms – many of which go unused. I firmly believe that while this luxury accommodation has some appeal, it is not tangible for many students and there is a need for developers to return back to basics and deliver basic and good quality affordable options.”

Throughout the event, Andrew alongside his peers discussed how quality, time and budget impact student housing schemes, adding:

“All clients want the highest quality, the fastest time and the lowest cost -unfortunately, you cannot have all three.  For example, in a case when quality and time were crucial to a client, they had to accept that costs would rise as a result – inevitably a compromise has to be made.”

Speaking of future trends within student housing, Andrew said:

“With less land available on, and around university campuses, we can see two possible trends arising in the future. Firstly, we expect to see smaller, high quality private schemes which integrate into residential communities gaining popularity. Alongside this, we also predict that larger schemes within mixed use developments, retail, commercial, residential, sport and leisure developments will also gain traction. These schemes will allow for student accommodation to become an integral part of this community, supporting the local economy and creating thriving hubs.”