Kevin Singh: getting regeneration right

Kevin Singh of the Architecture and Design faculty at Birmingham City University give his views on the planned student housing development.

1. How do you think the development will benefit the university?

First, proximity is really important. The development is going to be right behind Phase 2 of the university, which will essentially be its front door. Adjacent to that is the Architecture and Design faculty. So you’re going to have a lot of students studying within a two-minute walk of the development.

Second, it’s a good quality development and its design complements the campus.

Finally, there’s also talk about the ground floor being a series of incubation spaces, which certain university departments may be able to use.

2. How will students gain from it, and what do you think sets it apart from other student accommodation?

There’s a certain standard that Alumno are offering and a good quality student living environment is key. This is a big investment for student and they are going to study hard to get the maximum out of it, so they need to live in the right environment to do this – and not have to worry about being cold or cramped.

Plus, with the development being so close to the university, there are no travel costs. Time is money to students now, as they want to make the most of their education.

Furthermore, Alumno is keen to cater for the kind of people who will be using the development, in this case art and design students, which I’ve never come across before. Student accommodation is traditionally very generic, but there’s a big difference from someone studying English, who might have a few books and a laptop, to a fine art or fashion student, who would need a different kind of space. In particular, the communal spaces proposed offer this kind of flexibility.

Students are also worried about security, particularly those from overseas, and the single entrance and 24-hour concierge really help. Good quality student accommodation isn’t just about nice architecture and interiors, it’s about how the place is managed, from waste to how easy it is for students to get their post.

3. How have you found working with Alumno?

I’ve found Alumno to be refreshingly open and keen to connect with the students who are going to be living in the development. They hosted an engagement day, which included a workshop and lunch for the students, even giving each one who attended a gift voucher. We’re now extending the conversation about Eastside Locks into a module as part of the course, and students have signed up to take the engagement day further.