Newnham College - A Student Accommodation Revolution

Newnham College - A Student Accommodation Revolution

Over the last few decades student accommodation has become synonymous with words such as “digs” implying cramped, uncomfortable environments with inefficient and outdated facilities. Newnham College have taken proactive steps in the planning of their latest investment project with student comfort at the forefront of their vision.

Munro’s responsibility on this design and build project has been to ensure that student welfare is considered at every stage of the M&E delivery. Our solution includes a range of mechanical and electrical installations which contribute to the high standards of living and student care that Newnham College strive to provide, from heating and ventilation designs to maximise space, avoid cramped rooms and provide comfort combined with technical innovations which provide energy saving solutions and interventions.

Comfort at the Core of Student Living

State of the art heating systems have been designed and installed to both save space and provide efficiency in running costs. One of our key solutions consisted of a hidden skirting heating system which is barely noticeable to the untrained eye, giving students the ability to maximise the use of their own space without interfering or hindering the heating system.

Alternative heating designs were developed on the ground floor, to ensure disabled users’ safety. It is clear from this one element of heating innovation alone that this is a project and client which is carefully considering each individual student alongside the key drivers of a comfortable, sustainable and sleek space.

The occupiers have the ability to manually adjust their individual room temperature between a set range, meanwhile micro-switches in the windows will ensure heating is automatically turned off when the windows are opened. This prevents open windows and mechanical systems conflicting as well as unnecessary energy wastage, saving the university money in their operational costs.

Whilst popular stereotypes about students regarding the aspect of waste exist, from going out all night and leaving the light on, to not turning the taps off fully. Naturally, Newnham College want to protect their new student environment and a key part of the client requirement was to ensure the design encompassed mechanisms to mitigate these aspects, whilst positively contributing to the lifecycle running of the building.

Like the micro-switches in the windows, other means to prevent waste were considered in our design. Taps in communal areas operate on an absence detection basis, as are lights in the corridors and student rooms. This means that even if lights or taps are left on, without any students in the vicinity they will turn off automatically to prevent waste and protect our natural resources.

Harnessing Natural Resources for Student Wellbeing

The positive effects of natural light on humans is one of the most important aspects considered in architectural design. Research suggests that ample daylight directly corresponds with sleep, security, attendance and mood. To support this, large bedrooms have been designed to make the most of natural daylight, optimising the use of the sun and providing natural warmth as well as light. Furthermore, windows between corridors and communal spaces provide more natural light as well as increasing visibility and communication between spaces. These factors have been clinically proven to help student’s mental wellbeing and improve learning outcomes.

Each room’s aspect has been taken into consideration so that users can individually tailor the amount of natural ventilation required to prevent summertime overheating. The façade openings and external brickwork design on some of the elevations will also alleviate any issues with overheating rooms whilst also making optimal use of natural daylight.

Heavy insulation is used to keep noise disturbance to a minimum between rooms and floors is completely avoided. All of these aspects come together to form a very different student living experience to the one that springs to mind when you think of old style ‘halls of residence.’ You can read more details about our M&E installation at Newnham College by reading the full Case Study.

Flexibility & Functionality

Designed to be flexible, the building is joining the recent trend set by university colleges and institutions which is to use their student accommodation for multiple purposes. Making the most of the state-of-the-art conference spaces, the student rooms can double as high end, overnight accommodation for conference attendees and/or visiting students.

With students benefiting from enhanced facilities provided in this new building, the cost of the more luxurious installs will be balanced by generating income all year round, not just in term time.

Savills (2014) have been reporting a huge surge in student housing investment since 2012 and they report that ‘this trend is likely to continue given the attractiveness of the student housing sector to investors.’

Munro have extensively worked in the student accommodation market with the University of Cambridge and you can read more about our work on similar projects in the Architect’s Journal particularly about our Jesus College, West Court project.

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