September 07, 2021

How Important is Multi Use Space in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)?


The idea of the perfect student accommodation has changed a lot in the last decade. Students of times gone by were happy enough in Halls of Residence, but today’s generation want to spend their time at university living in the modest luxury they’ve become accustomed to.

And honestly, we don’t blame them. Given the choice, we’d rather live in a development with a range of amenities and services over a standard room any day.

Growing in line with student expectations has been the purpose built student accommodation sector. The reason for this growth is simple; PBSA delivers on what students want and need.

Even with the PBSA market growing at such a rapid rate, there’s nowhere enough supply to meet the demand. According to Select Property Group, the UK only has enough PBSA to accommodate 24% of the students who are asking for it. This tells us two important things:

  1. A lot of students are going without suitable accommodation

  2. There are plenty of opportunities for the PBSA sector to grow even further

Students shouldn’t have to struggle finding accommodation they’ll be happy in, and there is a way existing PBSAs and ones in development can help. Multi use space in PBSA frees up a huge amount of space for more beds, and it also creates a lot of other benefits.

We strongly believe multi use space in PBSA can help everyone from staff to the students. Here are the key reasons why. But first, we should explain what a multi use space really is.

What is Multi Use Space?

A multi use space is an area that has more than one function. As an example, communal zones can be used for relaxing after a tough day at uni, but they can also double up as hosting areas for student events and parties.

Not every area has the right set up for multi function, but spaces that can be used for many different reasons help by:

  • Improving social interaction between students

  • Offering more diverse services and amenities

  • Creating more room for accommodation

  • Bringing in extra revenue for your development

In short, a multi use space is an area that’s used to its full potential. If it’s not being used for one thing, it can be used for another.

But it takes a lot of knowledge to get the balance right. You don’t want to over-furnish an area based on one use if it’s also going to be used for something else.

Likewise, you need to be confident that the zones you’re working on can be used for the different purposes you want to use them for.

If you want to pick up the top tips we’ve learnt from 18 years working in the student accommodation sector, we’ve detailed how multi use space works in practice below.

Multi Use Space Encourages Social Interaction

For many students, going to university will be the first time they have moved away from home, and it’s not uncommon for them to feel lonely or isolated. Research shows us that one-in-three students experience a bout of depression or loneliness, and it’s up to PBSA operators and developers to find ways of beating this.

In a multi use space, students will come together for a range of reasons depending on what the area will be used for. As an example, students want a place where they can study in their accommodation, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. By combining sound-proof work booths with a chill-out zone, students can take a break from their studies to play a game of pool, turn their brain off for five minutes or to simply chat with other students nearby without having to shout over any noise.

Improving the wellbeing of students is the main driver of PBSA, and creating a multi use space that many will flock to can help with that. Naturally, you’ll need to get the balance right so everyone can use the space for what they need it for, which is where our team of award-winning interior designers come in to use their skills and knowledge.

Multi Use Space Lets You Provide More Unique Services

When a space is used to its full potential, it can open up a wider choice of unique services to students. Outdoor space is a key luxury in PBSA, and many students like to keep fit and active. If you have opportunities available to combine your spaces with your services, it should become one of your main selling points.

For example, a lot of PBSAs are fitted with gyms and instructors come down regularly to give students fitness lessons. Yoga is a popular option, especially since it helps students with their worries and anxieties.

However, if your PBSA has a large enough roof terrace, it would be a great idea to hold sessions in the fresh air where the students can enjoy the peace, sunshine and the scenery. It’s certainly a more inspiring environment than a gym room that starts to smell of sweat after a good few minutes.

The more you look at a space, the more possibilities reveal themselves. The LOFT team has been designing and furnishing multi use spaces in PBSA for years, and we know how to uncover the hidden possibilities available in every area. Make sure to check out our student accommodation portfolio to see examples of our work.

Multi Use Space Allows You to Accommodate More Students

Being able to provide as many students as possible with beds while also delivering on the services they want isn’t easy. However, multi use space frees up room in your building for more individual units, meaning you can help a greater percentage of the 76% of students who can’t find suitable accommodation.

The struggles students go through to find accommodation speak for themselves. Around one-out-five students start looking for the next academic year’s accommodation 10 months in advance. Some students feel priced out of the market altogether and have no other option than to stay at home with their parents and commute to university.

By including multi use space in your building, you don’t have to have separate areas for movie night screenings, study areas, chill-out zones and games rooms. You bring them together, freeing up as much room as possible to accommodate those who really need it.

Multi Use Space Creates Extra Revenue

Multi use space is great for the students, but it can also give your development an added boost in revenue.

When you look at an area, you have to think about how to get every bit of value out of it as possible. If you have a sizeable function room, it’s perfect for renting out privately.

You could also rent out the space on your roof terrace to a telecommunications company for their antennas. Depending on where the antenna is placed, it shouldn’t stop the space from being used as a communal area for BBQs, parties or outdoor workout classes.

Some areas are also perfect for franchising, which will result in referral income. You could make a reasonable return by allowing a coffee chain to set up shop near your study and work areas, and even vending machines in the corridors will bring in a healthy sum.

How Do You Create an Effective Multi Use Space?

The best way to create an effective multi use space is to know exactly what you want each area to be used for first and to then discuss your ideas with an expert interior designer in the PBSA industry.

There are many different ways you can get the most out of the space available. A sliding partition wall is great for keeping areas separate when multiple people need to use a space for different reasons, the right storage solutions let you keep necessary equipment on-site at all times without it getting in the way, and the furniture you put out gives people a clear idea as to what the space can be used for, ie. keep sofas and stools for the communal areas and not the study spaces.

How LOFT Can Help

LOFT’s expertise lies in the PBSA sector. Our award-winning interior design team has helped with many PBSA projects, much to the delight of students, operators and developers across the UK. We understand how to get the most value out of the space available, making sure everyone has a place to work, relax or do whatever they feel like.

For more information on how our team can help you create the perfect multi use space, make sure to get in contact with us today.


For our complete co living & PBSA portfolio

Download our Student Living Case Study brochure