Emstead Place: Townhouse Style Student Accommodation

Date posted: July 27, 2021

ArchitecturePLB have recently completed a new student village on the doorstep of the University of Essex. The client, student housing developer Osborne recognised that students often look to move out of traditional halls for their second and third years of study and commissioned ArchitecturePLB to develop a new ‘town house’ model which would combine the benefits of purpose-built student accommodation with the ‘family’ feel of a student’ house, offering friendship groups an alternative to the traditional HMO offering.

The resulting scheme provides 15 self-contained town houses arranged around a landscaped green. Each house contains 7-9 ensuite student bedrooms and a generous communal kitchen and living room on the ground floor. A separate block, which also faces the courtyard includes 15 individual studio flats and additional student amenities such as student lounge, study spaces, laundry, and reception.

The site sits on the edge of a village which influenced the decision to develop a ‘town house’ model rather than a typical layout of stacked clusters. The palette of materials was chosen to express a contemporary take on the local vernacular which is a mix of residential and agricultural styles. Inspiration was taken from the black cladding on the barns of a nearby listed farmhouse. The design team chose a staggered block form to express the individual units. Each of the town houses has a traditional pitched roof with vertical black cladding and deep window reveals on the upper floors. A brick plinth has been used on the ground floor for robustness and recessed entrances provide further articulation and weather protection.

Exposed rainwater goods add to traditional yet contemporary appearance. The studio block has been designed to reflect the houses, but additional elements such as larger areas of glazing and extensive use of brickwork has been used to emphasise the communal function of this block.

The landscape strategy for the scheme aims to reflect the already natural feel of the site which is created by the existing mature mixed species hedge and mature trees. A simple pallet of native species and wildflower planting will deliver enhanced biodiversity, screening and a natural backdrop. The central green is grassed allowing students to spill out, relax and play games and a number of focal trees have been planted which will be become established over time. Formal ornamental planting beds have been installed along the ground floor of the town houses, which in time will soften the front of the buildings in time.

The scheme is a traditional build but ArchitecturePLB have recently worked with Osborne to develop a design guide and MMC kit of parts which will allow us to take this model onto new sites in the most cost-effective way and energy efficient way.

Photos: Peter Langdown Photographer