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Green building to address student crisis

A boom in higher education has resulted in a major shortfall of student accommodation, with an estimated 600 000 university students being left without adequate housing when the university year kicks off in February 2016. With university budgets facing major constraints and cutbacks from national government, many have prioritised academic and teaching facilities ahead of upgrading or building new university residences.

“The student accommodation shortfall has been directly linked to the high student failure and first-year dropout rate at universities around the country. The likelihood of a first year student passing is increased from 60% to 80% if they stay in residence,” John Schooling, Director of student accommodation group, STAG African said. “The negative pass rate is even more staggering at previously disadvantaged universities, where it is common for six or more students to share a room, simply because there is no alternative.”

While many university heads have conceded that the student accommodation shortage has reached crisis levels, rising maintenance costs, ageing residences and the high cost of building itself, has limited the growth options for student housing. Catering to a sector where affordability is of the essence, STAG African began looking into architectural design and product innovation to help address the accommodation shortage.

“We needed to come up with an optimal concept to reduce the cost of providing good accommodation to students. During this process we came across lightweight steel framing, which not only provided the lowest cost but also presented a far more green and sustainable building model; this is when we started to get really excited,” Schooling said.

Progressing as an established traditional construction business throughout the 1980s and 1990s, in 2009 STAG African made a strategic decision to challenge what they perceived as an out dated and costly student accommodation market.

Basing their business model on the 21st Century student lifestyle construct; namely community, flexibility, technology, sustainability, innovation and specific to Africa, affordability and job creation, STAG African are currently working on a R43-million, 208-bed residence at Stellenbosch University’s Tygerberg campus and a 2 046-bed residence at the University of Fort Hare in Alice.

“We place the student at the centre of the design process. Optimal building is more than just structure; it’s about creating a very personal space in a student campus environment. The bedroom becomes the student’s home, the rest of that floor becomes the street in a village, and that village or neighbourhood is the campus,” Schooling said.

Student accommodation, says schooling, is more than providing a place to sleep; “it’s about creating communities; a listening, learning and living environment. This is crucial to the success of the housing facilities provided by the university.”

ENDS

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Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications

Beverley Houston

Beverley@be-cause.co.za

021 447 1082 / 082 824 8617

On behalf of STAG African

Director: John Schooling

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