Lockdown #2 is here.

Through #1 your home was either your prison or your palace. Since then we’ve all been inspired (or perhaps forced) to think differently about our homes, how we live in them, and how they make us feel.

No alt text provided for this image

Suddenly everyone now gets it: where we live affects our wellbeing.

For a large cohort students in halls of residence or large purpose built blocks, the impact is not good.

First-year students locked down in halls with strangers. No social activities (other than zoom which doesn’t really count if it’s with people you don’t know). Food boxes that lack nutrition and value. Calls for help. Rising mental health concerns. Suicide.

Social isolation is proven to be worse for our health than obesity and physical inactivity – as great a risk to our mortality as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day! We know the harm that isolation causes, yet here we rolling out campus lockdowns, in accommodation that further detracts from wellbeing. Student accommodation, like all homes, needs to deliver more than just shelter. They should:

  • Be somewhere to be together, to enjoy friendships and feel part of a community
  • Provide the space, facilities and atmosphere to work productively and creatively
  • Allow us to express ourselves. It’s human nature to want to exert some control over our surroundings, from moving furniture around to putting up pictures
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle choices, from cooking, to exercise, to rest and relaxation
  • Deliver good value, whatever the price point

What is becoming acutely apparent is that a lot of student accommodation, be it halls of residence, purpose built blocks or shared student houses, is not delivering on these basic needs.

Communal spaces have been squeezed or lost entirely to increase bed spaces per square foot of development. They’re uncomfortably furnished. Strict rules in the stacked up identikit box rooms squash the expression of personal identity. The rooms and the services on offer are over priced and deliver financial stress instead of good value.

These are our young, our next generation of leaders, workers, and care-givers. 

They need us to provide and what do we give them? Blame, isolation, and overpriced food packages. All to be enjoyed in sub-standard living conditions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Student accommodation can be designed to improve wellbeing.

Good design is neither mystery nor accident, it follows simple, proven principles. These principles apply across all types of accommodation from shared houses to purpose built blocks, because they relate to human behaviour and psychology.

These fundamental design principles create a framework to develop student accommodation which improves wellbeing.

A place where students can balance creative, productive study with recuperation and rest. A place where they can enjoy spending time together and build meaningful relationships which will last a lifetime. A place which supports a healthy lifestyle and provides tangible value, whatever the price point.

The pandemic, and ensuing lockdowns, have intensified the impact of our homes on our wellbeing. It has accelerated the harm to those students who are living in poorly designed homes.

We must not waste this crisis and the pain that many are going through. It is an opportunity – a catalyst for real, lasting change in an industry that so desperately needs it.

All student homes should be #designedforwellbeing

All these topics and more are explored in our bestselling book ‘Designed for Wellbeing’, available to buy here: Designed for Wellbeing

Philippa and Tom Charrier are co founder’s of FAT Properties and hosts of the Designed for Wellbeing Podcast . They create and operate high quality homes for university students that focus on wellbeing. With at least 30% of students experiencing mental health issues (this figure is set to rise) we are passionate about creating homes for students that focus on design, customer service and wellbeing.