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Architectural salvage and student accommodation

Architectural salvage and student accommodation

Recycling and environmentally friendly practices are big business right now; the so called ‘green sector’ was worth more than £46bn to the UK economy in 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Business is constantly finding new ways to innovate in environmental practices; whether that’s fashion companies using renewable materials or the UK government announcing that it plans to ban diesel cars.

Property, it seems, has noted the trend and architectural salvage – the practice of re-using old and abandoned property – has seen somewhat of a surge in the past few years. Churches, cathedrals, pubs and other buildings are being used for cinemas, shops and apartments.

Student property, for that matter, has recently decided to pick up the pace in this practice, too. Popularity for the practice has soared with students increasingly searching for quirky and interesting accommodation for their studies.

Large university towns and cities are perfect environments, too, with many of them rich with architectural heritage; abandoned churches, old hotels or other disused buildings with an interesting back story. Here we’ll take a look at some popular examples and ask, does architectural salvage in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) have a future? Or is it a fad?


Our own perfect example sees a grand old university building that once belonged to Nottingham Trent University being refurbished into 43 double studios and 9 single studios. Located right near the university the shape and style of the building already lent itself perfectly to the usage of PBSA and as such has proved immensely popular with students from the area. Bard House currently has one pod for sale.

Perhaps even more grand than that, though, is The Court House, located in Plymouth. A stunning Grade-II listed building; it was recently renovated to consist of 64 student pods with the latest features and a state-of-the-art common room. Again, proving immensely popular with local students, viewing the building from the outside gives no clues as to its current use, retaining the beauty original bestowed on it when it was built.

Other examples have even seen old hospital buildings in Belfast, old pubs in Bristol and other quirky renovations, with students flocking to live in a piece of history with a stunning back story. Is this the future though?

The future

Typically it’s easier for developers to invest in smaller projects that can deliver between 50-100 pods for students. The work to renovate the internal design of the property can prove cheaper than developing a piece of land from scratch.

It also makes it easier to market to students and letting agent specialists always enjoy having these types of properties on their books.

Provided that energy efficiency and new technology can be introduced into old buildings they make the perfect setting for student pods within a convenient distance of colleges and universities.

The future of student development is likely to continue down this path as popularity continues to grow and developers seek newer and more innovative ways of introducing student accommodation in to busy urban areas whilst maintaining the aesthetic beauty of its surroundings.

Overall, landlords looking to invest in high-yielding and high performing PBSA could do much worse than salvaged property. It provides an edge and a story to their investment that’s likely to see it very popular with potential tenants.

Of course, we would advise to ensure that it hosts all of the amenities and characteristics of any modern PBSA pod but, of course, the majority do, and add very much to the attraction of such an investment.

Popularity is growing, and we would fully expect it to carry on in that same direction in the near future and beyond.