Glazing that makes the grade

Andrew Cooper of Senior Architectural Systems sheds new light on the process of window specification for the student accommodation sector and explains why aluminium systems can work so well.

The days of dark, damp and depress- ing student ‘digs’ have fortunately come to an end and now, students have the reassuring choice of university-run halls of residence and purpose built accom- modation schemes.

As student rooms are generally seen as temporary abodes they often follow a different design code to other residential schemes but increasingly, the sector is recognising the importance of daylighting. The slim sightlines offered by aluminium windows help maximise the flow of light into bedrooms that are often used as both living and study areas, with many schemes also now incorporating aluminium frame doors and curtain walling to open up entrances and communal areas.

With the ability to create the full range of standard RAL colours or specific colours for a more bespoke solution, powder coated aluminium frames can make a real design statement. Dual colour options to create a different look for the exterior and interior surface of the frames are also very effective.

Durability, security and safety

Hard wearing and robust, aluminium systems can significantly help to reduce cyclical maintenance costs and with many products offering guarantees of 30+ years, can also make a positive contribution to managing the overall life cycle costs.

The intrinsic strength of aluminium frame windows and doors also offers increased security and the best quality products are fully compliant with the Secured by Design code.

Another key concern of this sector is safety. As the design of many accommodation schemes feature multiple storeys, the use of window restrictors can provide protection from falls but still allow windows to be opened for ventilation. This aspect can also be addressed through the installation of external mesh panels, used in conjunction with opening windows. These panels can have bespoke, aesthetically pleasing characteristics, bringing another dimension to the architectural design.

Energy-efficiency

Aluminium systems can also bring additional cost savings in terms of thermal performance. With many new student accommodation schemes aspiring to achieve BREEAM targets, the specification of low U-value glazing systems can bring significant benefits. In a sector where affordability is a key concern, the use of thermally efficient windows and doors can also help to reduce heating running costs.

Thermally-efficient windows can also significantly reduce the risk of condensation build up which is a common problem in this sector.

Early engagement and timely delivery

Many student accommodation schemes are built on brownfield sites, with the better locations often snapped up for mainstream residential developments, and as such, many schemes face logistical issues.

As many projects work to tight construction programmes, choosing a supplier that can meet deadlines and has an approved supply chain of installers is essential. Identifying products that lend themselves to offsite construction techniques can be also extremely beneficial.

Affordability will always be a sticking point in the student accommodation market and much like the students themselves, those working in this sector find themselves faced with a myriad of challenges such as adhering to tight budgets, deadlines and expectations of outstanding performance.
It may be a learning curve for some but the solutions to these problems can often be found through supplier collaboration as it provides the perfect forum for manufactur- ers to contribute specialist knowledge.