Student accommodation to stand out

Peter Howard from Dulux Trade explains how the right coatings and colours enhance interior design and contribute to student satisfaction

The Purpose Build Student Accommodation (PBSA) sector is continually looking for ways to make buildings stand out. Together with location, a visually appealing product can attract prospective students and appeal to their parents, but brands that ensure living and working spaces not only offer comfort but contribute positively to student wellbeing can make a real difference.  

Understandably, materials specification has an integral role to play and manufacturers are increasingly working in partnership with both universities and student accommodation providers to drive long-term value. This is because providers will achieve a much better return on investment from having an estate that benefits from:

– Attracting students and enhancing wellbeing

– Having a low environmental impact

– Reduced operating costs

– Longer maintenance cycles

– A less wasteful maintenance programme  

When it comes to decorative coatings, it is crucial for design and estate teams to ensure they make an informed choice that maximises potential benefits.

Colour is, of course, imperative to any successful scheme. Leading manufacturers that can provide support through expert colour teams combined with a wide colour portfolio as well as a range of online tools and apps, will help to ensure housing providers and estate teams maximise both aesthetic and performance benefits.  

Once the colours are chosen, it then becomes about selecting the best finish for the space and surface. Ideally paints should always have low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and embodied carbon levels. This will help to minimise both environmental impact and odour, which is incredibly important for student housing as it means spaces can be decorated and occupied quicker.

Maintenance cycles are another important factor and the durability of the paint and coatings is crucial. The majority of areas across educational estates – from crowded lecture rooms to busy corridors – will need to cope with high levels of traffic and need frequent cleaning. Therefore, it is advisable to look to established paint ranges with formulations that actively repel stains and make them easier to clean. For living spaces and in high humidity areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, opt for paint products that can provide mould resistance.   

Furthermore, it is often important to achieve environmental compliance to a set standard such as:


– SKA Rating

– The WELL Building Standard™

These environmental assessment methodologies and benchmark standards provide the assurance that major projects, whether new construction or interior fit-outs / refurbishments can meet sustainability guidelines. Leading suppliers should be able to provide a portfolio of products that comply with these standards as well as demonstrate BES 6001 accreditation for Responsible Sourcing. 

Thinking about optimising application time and minimising waste should also be high on the agenda. Working with an experienced specification team will ensure that the paint chosen is fit for purpose, the correct preparation is made to substrates and all factors considered so that decoration goes right first time.

When it comes to recycling, estate teams and housing providers should stipulate that all empty paint cans are recycled and the majority of leading paint manufacturers will be able to facilitate this requirement through decorating contractors.

There are such a multitude of issues to consider when it comes to specifying paint for student accommodation, and universities will often have their own set of design, performance and eco requirements. As such, it is beneficial to work with a manufacturer that has both the experience and expertise to deliver high quality, sustainable projects that maximise the opportunities that colour, design and finishes can bring.

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