Will the student living development boom continue?

Tomorrow is the annual Property Week Student Accommodation conference in London. It’s a well-attended event where the great and the good of the student living fraternity reflect on the last twelve months and consider where the sector might go in the next twelve months. For us, it’s also a great opportunity to see many of our contacts in one go.

This has been a tough year for Student Living. The introduction and impact of the £9000 University fees can start to be seen. Also the UCAS ‘AAB’ change has left a lot of high-ranking courses under subscribed for the first time in many years. There is arguably now the highest supply of accommodation on the market – giving students a wide choice. Their expectations, based on the amount of money they are paying to learn/ live, are high. Regardless of price, student living needs to be premium quality in terms of specification and operations. I suspect the key question we need to ask this week is;  We know there will be an adjustment in the market, but will this be a long-term shift or a short-term blip?

I often talk to clients about our experience in student living – we have a diverse track-record now and there is no doubt that this sector has remained strong for us throughout the recession. When we first got heavily involved in the sector back in the mid-2000’s, we were predominantly working for private sector developers with an open tap of funding supply. Over recent years, we have seen a strong shift towards on-campus University development. This has been working with Universities directly or via Public Private Partnerships (PPP) or Design, Build, Finance, Operate (DBFO) routes. Our private sector experience is something Universities are keen to tap into. We are also seeing an increase in Refurbishment of old stock. This is necessary to keep it competitive.

In terms of our activity this year, I thought I’d share a bit about our current projects. We first got involved in Student Living via our Manchester office, but that quickly grew into our Nottingham location. Today, we are working on Student Living schemes in all of our UK offices in; Edinburgh, Guildford, London, Nottingham and Manchester. We are also currently pursuing an opportunity in Australia. It’s a great success story for us and I’m proud to have personally been a lead part in that growth.

The UK is No. 1 in the world for the maturity of its purpose built Student Living products. (Click here to see a Jones Lang LaSalle report on this). We are now seeing an increasing number of global Universities seeking to understand our experience and we have a great opportunity to spread our work outside of the UK now.

Here’s a selection of our key projects for 2012 and beyond…

University of Stirling. We are currently working, under the OGC Buying Solutions Framework, to provide a £35m development of 786 new bedrooms. This is phased over 3 years.

University of Warwick. We were appointed by Shepherd Construction to deliver 570-beds on-campus. The scheme was built to a very tight construction programme and achieved BREEAM Excellent.

Russell Street, Nottingham. Working with our long-standing partners OCON Construction, we have delivered another private student living development for an investment consortium in Nottingham.

University of Hertfordshire. We were selected by Sir Robert McAlpine’s to bid on a new 3000-bed campus redevelopment. This competitive tender included designs up to RIBA Stage D to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding campus.

University of Essex. Working with Bouygues and Derwent FM (under the ULiving consortium), we won, via competitive OJEU tender, the development of 650 new bedrooms on campus in Colchester. This scheme includes cluster accommodation and townhouses. We are also using a pre-cast concrete construction system. You can see the progress of this project here. The image below illustrates the cluster blocks on the right and the townhouses on the left. The two-storey building on the bottom image is a student hub.

Aston Student Village. Our biggest project to date; circa 2500 new student bedrooms, built in three phases, on a live city centre campus at Aston University. Phase 1 was completed in 2011 and Phase 2 completes next summer. We are currently working with BAM Construction on this.

University of Liverpool. Working with OCON again, we won the development of 1259 student bedrooms on-campus in Liverpool. This was awarded Planning in August and has started on site recently. Aerial image of the proposed development below.

Liberty Living, Southampton. We are currently finalising a Planning permission for the conversion of a 12-story office block to student living and also the development of 150-beds in a new 16-storey tower on a site in Southampton.

University of West of Scotland. We have delivered two separate developments for this University on their Paisley and Ayr campus’. The Paisley scheme has recently been completed and we worked with Graham Construction.

The list above is a mere snapshot of our experience, but I hope it demonstrates our strength in this sector. Our exposure to more and more Universities is also seeing us develop strong working relations with Universities to design new faculty and academic buildings – a sector we are keen to build on.

So, Will the student living boom continue? I suspect it will for some time yet – certainly on-campus. But we are likely to see a slowdown I think. We’ll see what comes out of the conference tomorrow…

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