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Pandemic-proofing student housing for 2021

Students across South Africa are gearing up for the start of the 2021 academic year. For many, the usual anxiety around academic pressure, finding accommodation and issues of affordability will be compounded by the continued threat of Covid-19. Using lessons learned from the past year, universities will need to re-think their approach to providing student housing to ensure students can remain safely on campus, even in extreme circumstances.

“In the same way that buildings are designed with fire-safety in mind, even though there is never intended to be a fire, it is essential that we pandemic-proof student housing, given the certainty of future outbreaks. This cannot be achieved through tacked on and ad hoc contingencies, but will require innovative, intentional design aspects that take into account an uncertain future,” says John Schooling, Director at student accommodation group STAG African.

Pandemic-proofing a student residence will involve addressing key elements, such as limiting personal interactions, designing functional quarantine living quarters, and providing space for a live-in nurse. In terms of ensuring students can keep up their studies if they are locked-down on campus, universities will need to supply wi-fi with fast download and upload speeds for video lectures and online tests. This also ensures students can remain connected to friends and family across the country – a vital aspect of coping during stressful times.

 Flexible and adaptable common spaces that can evolve over time will also play a part in ensuring students can remain on campus. “In order to design for a future that we know nothing about, we need to think beyond square meters and focus on functionality – sometimes students will require communal workspaces, and other times they might require isolated spaces. It is in our best interests as developers, as educators and as a country to leave room for future uncertainties,” says Schooling.

Beyond the functional aspects of the housing itself, affordability – already an ongoing issue in terms of South Africa’s student accommodation crisis – will continue to be a key factor. “With the impact of the pandemic on job availability and university spending capacity, it is crucial that affordable housing is made available. This doesn’t mean cheap – rather, it means using innovative methods to reduce construction and lifecycle costs, such as grey water systems, energy-saving lightbulbs and recycling programmes, which can reduce operating costs considerably,” says Schooling.

To account for the certainty of similar pandemics in the future, STAG African has engineered a patent pod residence design that limits personal interactions to just eight people. Students occupy double or single bedrooms and share a common cooking and living area. This allows universities to ensure social distancing and hygiene protocols are adhered to, without losing the vitally important aspect of community.

With over 35 years of property development and 10 years’ experience developing student housing, STAG’s holistic approach to campus development is guided by principles of community, flexibility, technology, sustainability, innovation, affordability, job creation and transformation. “We are committed to developing student housing that has a positive impact on both students and the environment,” says Schooling.





Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications

Ciaran Maidwell

021 442 1082 / 072 693 9401

On behalf of:

John Schooling, Director, STAG African


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