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How MMC helped build York University’s new student housing

Words:
Natalia Maximova

Sheppard Robson employed modern methods of construction to realise 1480 new student residences for its new Heslington East Campus, resulting in high-performing buildings, some of which completed early

Architect's statement 
Natalia Maximova, associate partner, Sheppard Robson

The project provides 1,480 student residences, with social hubs that act as ‘front doors’ to the accommodation. It spans two residential colleges – named after key LGBTQ+ figures, Anne Lister and David Kato – which form a gateway into the University of York’s Heslington East Campus.

Our design arranges 18 residential blocks around interlocking courtyards, protecting existing vistas and integrating the buildings into the established ecology of the adjacent lakes. 

Wellbeing is promoted by the student hubs, which foster community and offer discrete pastoral care. Their entrances are brought to the fore with bold canopy overhangs and landscaped plazas. Double-height spaces within the buildings encourage interaction and create an energetic frontage, as well as being a central location for LGBTQ+ events and resources.

Characterised by precast concrete and brick, our design reinterprets the character of the university’s 1960s West Campus. Dark metal cladding defining the hub contrasts with the light-coloured concrete residences. Sculptural qualities of the concrete are explored with acid-etched relief panels inspired by original West Campus artwork and bespoke window grills add architectural filigree and shading to the glazing. 

The project applies innovative Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), with cross-wall prefabrications, integrated brick finishes, windows, internal walls and slabs and prefabricated bathroom pods – all enhancing quality while reducing construction waste and time. 

As a result, we achieved a level of airtightness close to Passivhaus standard, reduced heat loss, improved acoustics, and enhanced fire safety and durability. Furthermore, prefabrication meant parts of the scheme were delivered early. 

 

Credits

Client consortium Graham Construction with Equitix
University partner University of York
Contractor and project manager Graham Construction
Architect Sheppard Robson
Interior designer IDSR
Planning advisor Indigo Planning
Civil and structural engineer, transport and acoustics Cundall
Services engineer RPS
Building performance Yonder Consulting
Fire consultant Olsson Fire & Risk
Landscape architect Landscape Projects
Ecology Brooks Ecological
Accessibility MAC Construction Consultants
Building control Assent
Principal designer Currie & Brown

 

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