Carrying out university studies can be a stressful few years for many. What makes it more stressful is the ongoing student housing crisis taking place in major university cities across the UK.

Affordability, accessibility, and a stark imbalance in supply and demand plague many areas, tarnishing the reputations of institutions caught in its grasp because of worries about being unable to find a suitable place to live in time for the start of term.

This crisis pressures developers and property managers to meet a growing number of students’ needs quickly while navigating the regulatory hurdles and ensuring the quality, affordability, and accessibility of housing options for students. To that end, we mustn’t rush development. Instead, we should look to technology to guide a strategic approach for the future of purpose-built student accommodation.

In this article, we’ll look at AI-powered technology's role in alleviating the student housing shortage by opening up new insights that help inform future developments.

Investment opportunities in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)

The global real estate advisor Savills reports on a growing investor appetite for student accommodation. They predict that by 2030 there will be an annual rate of 1 million university applications, which is also in step with UCAS data.

But with an increase in the number of students comes an increase in demand for student housing. Now is the time to prepare for the future student housing market. And this isn’t going unnoticed in the sector.

There is a steady increase in investment in the PBSA sector each year, post-pandemic. Investors are increasingly shifting their investment focus from conventional real estate sectors to rental properties. owing to the turbulent market. But that shift in focus demands particular attention.

Understanding student needs

Student accommodation for higher education differs from traditional rental units in many ways. It’s more than a room to sleep in – it needs to have a fixed purpose to ensure it meets the requirements of students. From community needs to security demands, here are a few areas to consider.

Community and social spaces

University can be a lonely time. 1 in 4 students report they feel lonely from a survey of 10,000 students. This has a detrimental impact on their mental health, poor sleep quality, and academic performance, increasing their chances of dropping out of their course.

Looking at the design of student accommodation, we need to find ways to invite authentic opportunities for social interaction to help students not feel isolated, helping them make the most of their university experience. Examples of this could be a games room, cinema, or café which could double up as a meeting point for extra-curricular clubs.

Study spaces

University libraries can often be packed in exam season, so it’s great to provide the option of a communal co-working space in the same building as the students’ rooms. These can act as informal spaces which double up as social areas for people to work together.

Whilst most bedrooms for students contain a desk, it’s beneficial for them to have the option of working somewhere close by that’s separate from their sleeping space to help provide a work-life balance.

Proximity to local services

Students prioritise proximity to local services in their accommodation to ensure convenient access to essential amenities such as shops, restaurants, and their university campus. If the accommodation needs to be further afield, strong transport links are essential with services extending into the night. This enables students to focus on their academic pursuits without disruptions.

How is technology revolutionising student accommodation?

Through the rapid acceleration of property technology, its capabilities are transforming student accommodation for the better. From automated application processes and virtual tours for prospective tenants to smart building management systems that optimise energy usage and enhance security, tech is enhancing the overall living experience for students.

Computer vision can help property developers enhance student accommodation by providing real-time insights into space utilisation, security monitoring, and resident behaviour, enabling them to optimise layouts, amenities, and services to better meet the needs of students while improving operational efficiency and tenant satisfaction.

The benefits of integrating technology with student accommodation development

Using innovative technology as a property developer in the student accommodation sector drives multiple benefits:

  • Increased ROI with data-powered decisions - By leveraging data-powered decisions with computer vision analytics, property developers in the student accommodation sector can increase ROI by identifying optimal pricing strategies, targeting high-demand amenities, and optimising occupancy rates. You can choose the perfect location for a block of student accommodation because it ties in competitor, environmental, and foot traffic analysis so there’s no need to second guess! Through data analysis of student preferences, market trends, and demographic shifts, developers can strategically fill rental voids by tailoring offerings to meet the evolving needs of students, ensuring maximum profitability and investment success in the competitive rental market.
  • Cost savings on utilities - Traditionally with student accommodation, the students would pay one fee a month or term that covers their rent and utilities combined. This keeps things simple for them. However if utilities are left running while the space is unoccupied, it can create a huge expense for the property manager. Using smart technology, you can implement automated systems for monitoring and controlling utilities, such as water and electricity usage, enabling real-time detection of wastage or inefficiencies. This not only helps reduce operational costs but also ensures sustainability and enhances the overall management efficiency of the accommodation facilities.
  • Improved operational efficiency - Technology enables developers to streamline various operational processes, including leasing, maintenance, and security management, through automation, data analytics, and remote monitoring, resulting in cost savings and increased productivity.
  • Enhanced security - Technology provides a proactive, not reactive approach to security concerns. Integrating advanced security systems, such as CCTV cameras, access control, and emergency alert systems, enhances the safety and security of student accommodation. This provides peace of mind for residents and mitigates risks for developers.
  • Increased tenant retention - By leveraging technology, developers can create smart living spaces equipped with amenities such as high-speed internet, smart home devices, and digital communication platforms, enhancing the overall student experience and satisfaction. Computer vision enables predictive maintenance by analysing visual data from sensors and cameras installed on machinery to detect patterns, anomalies, and signs of wear or failure, allowing for proactive maintenance interventions before breakdowns occur. This means students aren’t waiting long periods before key equipment is fixed, helping to build your reputation as a credible business to be sought after by prospective students in need of accommodation.
  • Simplified compliance with regulations - Technology-enabled solutions like smart lighting, HVAC systems, and energy management platforms help developers create environmentally sustainable living spaces with reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint, aligning with green building standards and regulatory requirements. Using computer vision can also ensure adherence to building codes, fire safety regulations, occupancy limits, and health standards by continuously analysing visual data to detect violations or potential risks.

Empowering student accommodation development with Fyma

With a new influx of students year after year, how do we know they’re using the spaces the way they were designed for? What if their needs change? This is why we need better insights.

This is where the platform Fyma can help. By harnessing the power of smart analytics, enabled through existing CCTV systems, Fyma gathers real-time insights into how spaces are utilised, helping you to adapt to evolving student needs efficiently and effectively.

For example, if you provide an on-site gym to the student accommodation, Fyma can reveal whether it was a worthwhile choice. If students aren’t using a space, perhaps that space can be repurposed as rooms or an alternative social space. Or perhaps you have a car park, yet it is only ever half full. Again, you can consider a better way of using that space.

The student housing shortage presents challenges but also opportunities for developers and managers. Innovative solutions must be found through technology.

AI, particularly computer vision, offers real-time insights, enhances security, and aids in data-backed decisions. Fyma exemplifies this potential, providing actionable insights to adapt to changing student needs effectively. Embracing technology-driven solutions is crucial for navigating challenges and unlocking growth opportunities in student accommodation development.

Book a demo with a member of our team and we will show you how Fyma can transform PBSA planning and development.