Supporting student welfare

How can student accommodation create spaces that help promote wellbeing, combat isolation and prioritise community? Neil Smith from Scape gives some answers

A student’s experience can be substantially impacted by their choice in accommodation while at university. Whether students decide to stay close to campus, or prefer to be located further afield, a sense of belonging and community is vital to help them thrive in their studies during these all-important years. This is even more true in the current climate of the pandemic.

The ‘Gen Z’ student population expect their accommodation spaces to work as hard for them as they are working towards their own future while at university. Internet reviews, social media influences and the authenticity of user generated content has revolutionised the understanding of what their accommodation should look and feel like. Today, students expect accommodation not only to provide a living space that looks good aesthetically, but also one that offers a sense of community, opportunities and a robust support system.

We believe that building a sense of community and nurturing student wellbeing starts with design. Spaces need to function as facilitators for studying alongside social activity areas; incorporating important communal areas such as shared kitchens encourages residents to build a community, and lifelong connections. At Scape, our communal spaces follow a design philosophy that, above all else, offers comfort and practicality. For example, kitchens are a major hub of activity, with students from varying backgrounds sharing recipes, food and experiences.

In communal study areas, desk spaces can be designed to reduce surrounding noise, providing students with an area they can escape to, and work undisturbed when studying for an important exam. Providing spaces in our facilities that students can go to study or to socialise helps residents feel part of a vibrant, global community.

Scape work with designer Ab Rogers to develop student accommodation that puts comfort and wellness at the forefront. We believe that the maximisation of space is vital to student wellbeing and by incorporating a range of smartly hidden storage areas within rooms we have given students much more space. For instance, our mattresses can be lifted easily to provide a large space for storage. In the kitchen, the fridge is tucked neatly behind a cupboard door, and in the bathrooms the mirrors open to reveal a shelving system. Window seats in rooms add extra space, extending proud of the walls to provide an additional area for relaxation or shelving. Giving students as much storage space as possible allows them to organise and ‘curate’ their space.

Each aspect of our student rooms has been designed with student wellbeing in mind. Sleep deprivation greatly increases stress and with this in mind, all of our rooms offer double beds plus their own temperature controls, meaning students can control their environment and get the best possible sleep all year round. Equally, the colour scheme is key when it comes to affecting mood. The secret to creating a stress-reducing and relaxing space is a soft-toned palette, and a clean, bright aesthetic helps to make a room feel serene and safe.

Our design partnership with Ab Rogers was seen in the development of our most recently opened property, which is in Dublin. It provides a design-led space for residents, accompanied by a wide range of services and communal elements, including a cinema, gym and kitchen.

The key to designing and building spaces fit for students is to consider all the above factors. With there being more pressure on students than ever before, the role their accommodation plays has never been more important. Through meticulously and expertly planning spaces with the student in mind however, a space can foster productivity while building community and supporting wellbeing. We hope and aim that all our residents feel nurtured and inspired during their time at university.

Neil Smith is managing director at Scape UK/IE