IN more recent times, the key considerations to designing student accommodation have centred around the following needs: privacy, student wellbeing and technology.
Fleur Carson, commercial sales director at Karndean Designflooring, says gone are the days of the imposing blank canvas, bare walls and where hardwearing almost industrial fabrics were used to withstand the trials and tribulations that would often come hand-in-hand with student life – particularly the social side.
‘Pre-Covid-19, durability was still an important factor, paired with the need to create a home-from-home feel that is community-centred,’ says Fleur. ‘To balance this, a private space that’s light and airy; the student’s individual sanctuary, providing a respite from the hubbub of campus life and an environment for relaxation or studying, had quickly become the new standard in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).
‘Yet, the uncertainty that this ‘new normal’ has presented has raised new challenges, but there are a few things that we do know, or we can at least anticipate.’
Never has there been more of a need to focus on wellbeing. Being away from home can be a huge upheaval and if there’s one thing this pandemic has highlighted is the need for a community and staying connected to the outside world is still a fundamental part of human nature and will always be a consideration to student living.
Says Fleur: ‘Creating playful interiors through bespoke design can help to mirror the university or college’s unique culture while promoting an interior that’s cohesive and practical. Use a bespoke flooring pattern to clearly define and zone places dividing areas that promote interaction, separating them from quieter zones for periods of studying or used as an area for relaxation.
‘Our glue-down range allows for total customisation of design. Or explore our pre-set abstract patterns in our Kaleidoscope and Heritage collection, mixing shapes and colours to create something that is completely unique, as seen in Tool & Gauge, a shared kitchen facility in Frome, Somerset.’
Another key consideration to promoting student wellbeing is noise. Student living can be excessively noisy, and this can affect things like productivity, concentration, sleep, and in the long term, can have a negative impact on personal wellbeing. However, there are some adaptations that can be made to help reduce ambient noise. Acoustic ceilings and wall panels will help to absorb sound while a flooring with enhanced acoustic properties can help reduce noise from transferring to the room below.
‘Our Korlok and Van Gogh rigid core range incorporates an acoustic foam backing; a technology that offers effective sound absorption, reducing noise up to 21dB, while also omitting the need for separate underlay. Eliminating this need isn’t only cost-effective but allows for a quick installation.’ As sites now reopen, the need for PBSA will still be there, yet the pressure for completion will only be increased.
‘Incorporating a product like Korlok makes installation fast, and the locking mechanism of Korlok and Van Gogh rigid core means that adhesive is not necessary to installation.’
The ‘plug-and-play’ culture of Gen-Z has reinforced the need to ensure accommodation is enabled with smart technology. Fast wi-fi and incorporating technology that promotes efficiency, such as keyless doors, while ensuring the student stays connected, will become more important than ever so providing easy access to ensure the daily running and maintenance of these smart features will be key. ‘The individual panels of our LooseLay wood and stone designs can be lifted to allow access without causing damage and therefore a natural fit to any smart space,’ says Fleur.
The hygiene factor has never been more important than right now. While this goes beyond washing your hands and singing ‘happy birthday’ for student design, what’s clear is surfaces that are easy to clean and maintain will be imperative to any student environment in the future.
Fleur concludes: ‘Unlike textile floorcoverings, luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs) won’t harbour dirt, dust, or bacteria, which can easily get trapped or grow within carpet fibres. Real timber or stone are notoriously porous and if things like grouting aren’t sealed correctly it can absorb moisture that can develop into mould. Our planks and tiles not only resist spills but by its nature LVT is a nonporous surface making it easy to clean and maintain.’