Improving Sustainability in Student Accommodation: What can we do?

How can universities and private student accommodation providers ensure their services are as eco-friendly as possible? UniHomes finds out

Sustainability is a hot topic at the moment, and for good reason. With governments around the world setting goals to rapidly reduce emissions, and activists like Greta Thunberg being household names, the importance of acting sustainably is at its peak.

With 76% of the general population agreeing that business leaders should be taking a lead on tackling climate change[1], universities are among those being urged to take action. Businesses who are actively eco-friendly are reaping the reputational rewards, as well as benefitting from cheaper operating costs[2].

With purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) valued at over £50bn[3], the industry isn’t exempt from acting sustainably. Additionally, a staggering 94% of students want to see universities doing more to reduce environmental impact[4]. Students are more environmentally aware than ever, placing a high importance on how accommodation providers move forward.

The importance of sustainability in the accommodation sector is clear, and the benefits from reputation and reduction in costs are proven. Student accommodation providers need to take on the social responsibility of sustainability, so what can be done to ensure their services are as eco-friendly as possible?

Awareness

The biggest, and possibly cheapest, way to reduce the environmental impact in student accommodation is through tenant awareness, and this is true for both PBSA and private housing. Signage around the building to encourage tenants to wash their clothes on a low temperature, turn off the heating when it’s not being used, and to be smarter about water, and how these little efforts all add up to big changes. Making your tenants aware of the eco-friendly efforts in the building will encourage sustainable behaviour. Even providing a welcome pack, with products like bamboo toothbrushes and reusable cups, is a great way to get the message across.

Recycling Accessibility

Recycling a single 500ml aluminium can saves enough energy to power a TV for over 4 hours [5]. The power of recycling is unquestionable, so making it easy for tenants to do is vital in such large-scale operations. When managing PBSAs, place signs around the building encouraging recycling and inform students where the nearest recycling points are. If managing student houses or HMOs, make the recycling bins accessible and make sure tenants know the correct bin days. In all cases, make sure there are more than enough recycling bins to cover the property.

Insulation

Loft insulation can save up to £140 per year for a semi-detached house, while wall insulation can save almost £100. Surprisingly, floor insulation can save a whopping £270 per year[6] – it all adds up. The return on investment will even out after just a year, and less energy will be wasted when heating the house. Proper insulation is important for eco-friendly living, especially in student accommodation.

Utilise Green Energy Providers

Whether bills are included in your tenants’ rent or not, using green energy companies for gas and electricity is the way forward. These sustainable companies are becoming more and more popular, they’re often cheaper, and like us their electricity is usually 100% renewable and gas green. If your tenants organise their own bills, suggest they use green options in order to remain as sustainable as possible.

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

The benefits of energy efficient light bulbs are astounding. They last up to 12 times longer than traditional bulbs and save about £35 a year in an average house[7]. This small change really makes a big difference when working with hefty property portfolios.

Dishwashers & Appliances

Surprisingly, dishwashers are more environmentally friendly than you might think, with an automatic dishwasher using 2,000 less gallons per year than doing dishes by hand[8]. Installing a dishwasher is usually appealing to students too, leading to an increase in enquiries for your property. On top of this, choosing to only install showers rather than baths into a property will save even more water.

There are many more ways to improve how environmentally friendly student accommodation is, from providing rewards for appropriate energy usage to fitting clotheslines to avoid excess energy usage from tumble dryers. Due to the scale of the sector, all of these seemingly small changes certainly make a large difference. Making these changes can land you in a reputable position among students, as they place great emphasis on sustainable business decisions.

Overall, the student accommodation industry needs to focus on producing energy-efficient housing. When developing new PBSAs, this should be done in the most sustainable way possible, not just for the environment, but for the future.


www.unihomes.co.uk

References

[1] https://bit.ly/32yhlG6 / [2] https://bit.ly/2wajzzA

[3] https://bit.ly/32zqj65 / [4] https://bit.ly/2T6Wzdv

[5] https://bit.ly/388cGMv / [6] https://bit.ly/2vomlkz

[7] https://bit.ly/3cgBtku / [8] https://bit.ly/387EY9F