Investors itching to pump cash into upmarket student digs

August 11, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Investors itching to pump cash into upmarket student digs

Holographic receptionists, buildings that predict faults before they even happen and controlling your room through your phone. Students halls of the future are far removed from their grubby stereotype; and with investors queuing up to pump their cash into new developments, the future is nearer than you think.

Institutional investors spent more than £4.3bn buying 51,150 student rooms in the UK last year, according to Savills. The value of contracts awarded to build student housing totalled more than the deals to build care homes, housing associations, local authority housing and sheltered housing combined, Barbour ABI wrote in a recent report.

Some students are already enjoying top accommodation featuring grand pianos and cinema rooms, but the student of the future will be lapping up even more luxury.

Experts at have teamed up with designer Alexander Purcell Rodrigues of APR Design to illustrate what the enormous investment into student accommodation could translate into.

Check in with a holographic receptionist 

Soon, AI receptionists may well become the norm for many students – augmented reality will give them an instant bearing in their new city providing directions, useful services and points of interest. ‘Tele-relationship services’ will combine AI and holographic avatars to allow for real-time interactions. From streamlining check-in to personal notifications (e.g. “you have received a package”), this technology could provide 24/7 assistance to students, many of whom will be living away from home for the first time.

Charge your device anywhere  

Induction charging is hitting the mainstream with technology becoming available that allows charging coils to be incorporated into the fabric of a building. So, students will be able to charge their electronic devices simply by placing them on top of any surface. 

Smart Buildings that predict and solve problems before they exist

As building systems become connected to the internet, we’ll see the rise of “smart buildings” where buildings will predict maintenance issues before they exist and warn management teams. So, for example, they’ll receive an alert before a boiler part needs to be replaced or the fridge needs to be serviced, resulting in fewer maintenance issues causing disruption for students.

Interacting with the building through your phone

On a more personal level, students will be able to communicate with the building through their phone. They might schedule washers and dryers to be alerted when the cycle has finished, book study rooms or shared bicycles and have their daily schedules and directions sent to them using push notifications as they walk out the door. Similarly, they could even get a notification to switch their lights off as they leave. 

Smart, eco-friendly buildings 

Smart buildings will also be greener, cleaner buildings. They will be able to manage their own systems, controlling energy consumption, temperature and air quality based on room occupancy at any given time of the day. Plus, Tesla solar roof panels will be a commonplace way of sourcing energy – students could even use them to charge their electric cars.

Carbon Negative Concrete

Environmentally-friendly options will pervade student accommodation design – right down to using recycled and renewable building materials. For example, carbon negative concrete substitutes are now available that are made of 95% recycled materials. These materials hope to replace the billions of tons of concrete produced each year and actually absorb carbon monoxide during the hardening process rather than creating it.

Hotel-style communal areas

Living in student accommodation is the only time you’re likely to sleep, study, cook, entertain, socialise, and relax all in the same place. Designers are beginning to adjust plans to account for how pivotal communal areas are in student life – some of the most prolific millennial start-ups have been born between university flatmates! In the future, we’re likely to see a relaxed hotel-style lobby at the core of every hall, where you’ll find the reception, café, an informal break out area and social hub with separate group study rooms, screening rooms, function spaces and games areas dispersed through the buildings.

No more dining tables

In a ‘normal’ kitchen, the cabinets are usually located around the walls with a dining table in the middle. But students – who are all on differing schedules – will rarely sit down at a dining table together. Instead, imagine a kitchen space where the dining and cooking areas are blurred – so at any one time, some students might be cooking, others preparing food, eating or perched at the counter having a tea break. This creates a better flow for multiple people with their own lives and schedules to cook, eat and interact simultaneously.

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