Sustainability meets affordability at Kings
22/03/2016

Paloma Lisboa explains how student needs shape the accommodation offer at King’s College London

In September 2014 King’s College London marked its commitment to deliver a world-class service to students with the modernisation and refurbishment of its Champion Hill Residence. The newly built student accommodation has been complemented by the rejuvenation of the Grade 2 listed Platanes Building and is testament to a university dedicated to meeting its students’ needs.

Our flagship residence, located in a leafy London suburb at Denmark Hill, adjacent to one of its five campuses, is an exceptional student accommodation designed to encourage sustainable living, promote King’s commitment to the environment and offer an outstanding student living experience.

Background

About two years ago, Accommodation Services at King’s College London, now known as King’s Residences, embarked an ambitious journey, led by Paloma Lisboa, Head of Residences, to renovate its offer to match the world-class reputation the institution carries academically. It also faced the challenge to better student experience from a number of aspects – from affordability to how allocations were run, which for the first time will guarantee accommodation to all first year students and all international postgraduate students.

The beginning of this journey, that included a complete departmental restructure and brought the department under the Estates & Facilities Directorate, was also marked by the launch of the renovated Champion Hill Residence, in Denmark Hill. A project carried out to the highest specification and which was the result of bringing students input to the heart of the development, resulting in this award winning development, from both an operations but also property perspective.

Sustainability & Environment

Our students concern with sustainability in their own accommodation also drove the sustainable design philosophy evident in the Residence’s construction, facilities and location. Assessed in the design stage as BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ for the new buildings and ‘Excellent’ for the existing Grade 2 listed building, the scheme is in the top 1% of buildings in the UK. The benefits include lower carbon emissions, reduced water and fuel consumption and extended maintenance periods. A highly efficient Combined Heat and Power Unit (CHP) simultaneously generates and supplies the hot water, heating and electricity across the site, and roof mounted Photovoltaic panels (PVs) provide a zero carbon electricity source from passive solar gain.

In line with BRE’s Green Guide for Building specification the principle construction material chosen was timber, the only building material to have a positive impact upon the environment.

Study rooms have been designed to offer each occupant a high level of comfort. Fresh air is constantly supplied to all occupied spaces, which is efficiently pre-heated as required by a heat recovery system. Optimally sized windows allow a good quality of natural light into the rooms and expansive views out.

Students benefit from the provision of secure cycle parking facilities held at the Denmark Hill Campus, supporting a long-term shift towards sustainable modes of transport. Local amenities are just 500 metres away from the residence and public transport is easily accessible including the Denmark Hill Overground train station.

Student Experience

A key attraction at the Champion Hill Residence is the communal area and facilities in the stunning Grade 2 listed Platanes building.  The building boasts an activity room, where King’s Sports’ BeActive programme is run; a launderette; a music room; a printing room; a surround sound cinema room where weekly movie nights are held; a variety of quiet study spaces, including a library room; and a lounge complete with a pool table, table tennis and vending machines.

Champion Hill Residence also offers six specifically adapted rooms for the added comfort of our students with additional needs. Each adapted room offers step-free access and lower level beds, furnishings and lighting. In the summer students will be able to make use of the beautiful grounds including an outdoor terrace and Petanque pitch.

To accommodate all aspects of the student experience King’s has implemented a 24-hour daily Residence staffing structure, in which pastoral care takes form in a comprehensive team of highly trained Residence Life Assistants and Wardens, who work closely with the day to day operations team to deliver excellent student experience, tailored to King’s College students. The current programme promotes sustainability, personal finances, healthy eating and general wellbeing practices and is driven by the students themselves, represented by the Residence Life Assistants.

Their residence life programme is being further improved for 2016/16 intake to promote virtual learning and living communities, using the technology our students are so accustomed to and which will no doubt boost their ability to connect with a network of over 5,000 residents, not only from a social perspective, but more importantly from the academic point of view.

Affordability

King’s College London is committed to finding the brightest minds regardless of their background and supporting them in accessing higher education and that includes ensuring we can provide affordable accommodation. We launched an accommodation support scheme in 2015 which enabled up to 700 students to access accommodation priced below £155 per week, in a bid to address the impact of accommodation costs to those experiencing serious financial hardship. King’s also launched a pilot scheme last year removing the £300 deposit required to secure accommodation, freeing up a reasonable amount of cash during the students’ first semester.

The affordable accommodation scheme focuses on those most-in-need and was launched after months of collaboration between King's and King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU), recognising the need to provide a sustainable path to increasing the offer of more affordable accommodation to incoming students. The pool of rooms available below £155 per week was increased from 700 to 940 beds for the 2016/17 academic year.

Jamie Sweeney, former VP Welfare and Community at KCLSU, said: "I am delighted that KCLSU have been able to work with the university in such a constructive way to deliver something which will change the lives of future King's students. I am very proud to have been a central part of this along with the affordable accommodation campaign team who have put in so much work to make this happen."

Paloma Lisboa explains: “Working directly with the student body, allowed me to better understand the root of their concerns as well as foster the transparency and cooperation required to achieve the best possible outcome in such important issues”

King’s College were the winners of the Best Housing Award at the CUBO Awards 2015, as voted for by CUBO members.  CUBO aims to recognise and share examples of institutions working hard to create an excellent student experience.

For further information about the Champion Hill project please contact Paloma Lisboa, Head of Campus Operations, Student Residences Team. M: 07780 462 706 - E: paloma.lisboa@kcl.ac.uk