Student accommodation takes on many forms in a highly competitive market finding that point of difference can make or break a building

Image of floor plans for an area of architecture, area, black and white, design, drawing, floor plan, font, line, pattern, plan, product design, schematic, square, symmetry, text, white
Image of floor plans for an area of the D2 student accommodation building in Melbourne.

The student grapevine is powerful dishing up the latest gossip and the last word on what's hot and what's not. It is critical, therefore, to find the right mix of style and practicality that appeals to young people, especially when building student housing.

Designed by Shane Rothe of RotheLowman and built by developer Michael Piccolo, Melbourne's D2 represents a new generation of privately owned, investor-driven accommodation that caters to today's technology-savvy student population.

"D2 responds directly to the need for high-quality, affordable student accommodation," says Piccolo. "It has also given investors an opportunity to tap into this growing market."

The aim with D2 was to take what Piccolo and Rothe learned from developing and building D1, an earlier student accommodation project they worked on together, and bring it to the next level.

"Students indicated that they'd like to have bathtubs, double beds and more natural light, which can all be hard to find in inner-city apartments. These requests were addressed as a way of setting D2 apart from other accommodation available in the market," Piccolo says.

The building itself was designed to fit onto a very tight site, close to RMIT and Melbourne University. Because of height restrictions, it could only rise nine storeys, but a generous amount of glass in the facade, thanks to a series of screens and balconies, makes the structure look light and tall. The glass balustrades and floor-to-ceiling ranchsliders also provide an abundance of natural light, as requested by the students.

View of a student common area which features furniture, interior design, black, gray
View of a student common area which features terrazzo flooring and hardwearing carpeting, lighting, bright coloured furnishings.

Smart wiring throughout the building gives students access to improved technology. The power carrier system (PCS) allows students use their televisions to see who's visiting them as well as accessing VoIP or Skype on their computers. The system also offers wireless internet connection throughout, meaning students can get together and use their computers in the common areas of the building, for meetings or study groups.

On the ground floor, jutting out from the front of the building, is the oval-shaped management office its bright-red colour is picked up in the interior furnishings and used for the distinctive D2 insignia.

"The ellipse is rotated within the ground-floor foyer to create a more interesting space," Rothe says.

Staffed only during business hours, this office divides the lounge area from the lobby and cafe. The common areas on the ground floor are furnished with imported European commercial-grade sofas and chairs, and offer a full audiovisual centre.

"The space was designed to make D2 more appealing to students by giving them a place to invite their friends over for socialising or studying," Piccolo says. "It's a cool enough space that students are willing to hang out, so they don't have to go to a bar."

The students have the opportunity to build a sense of community by getting to know others in the building, Rothe adds.

View of the cafe area which features terrazzo café, coffeehouse, furniture, interior design, lobby, restaurant, brown, orange
View of the cafe area which features terrazzo flooring, pendant lighting, bench seating with leather upholstery and wooden tables, kitchen appliances.

For each of the eight residential floors Piccolo commissioned three students to create large, colourful murals to cover the wall opposite the lift. Besides creating visual interest, the artwork provides each floor with an individual signature.

Most of the 116 apartments are studios, although the building also contains some two-bedroom units, which are designed with an ensuite and a lock on the door so the bedroom can serve as a suite within a suite. In total, the building can house up to 132 students.

Unlike a typical apartment building, the tenant turnover will be high because of the transient student population. For this reason everything needs to be hard-wearing and long-lasting.

The furniture, which Piccolo had custom made from durable, low-maintenance materials, comes with each unit. Each bed is laminate veneer MDF with built-in drawers for storage underneath. Easy-to-clean vinyl leatherette covers the sofa, which is the same height as the bed.

Credit list

Piccolo Developments Pty Ltd
Café interior design
Platform Studios
Civil engineer
Winward Structures
Quantity surveyor
Rider Levett Bucknall
Cotto Minimal Silver tile from National Tiles; carpet from Aurora Floor Coverings; stone from LaRosa Tiling
Paints and varnishes
Dulux; Wittle Waxes
Facade design and construction
Precast concrete panels from LA Precast
Windows and doors from Pacific Shopfitters; interior from Cassello Constructions
Glass-and-steel balustrades from A and M Metal Solutions
Reception furniture from Couch Lounge Suite; Elastometric executive task chair and Prince Aha stools from Matt Blatt; K2 lounge chairs and GT Table from Interstudio; bar stools upholstery and custom-made apartment furniture manufactured and supplied by InSitu
Concrete slab
Shane Rothe, RotheLowman (Southbank, Vic)
Construction company
LU Simon Builders
Mechanical and electrical engineer
ALA Consulting Engineers
Fire risk engineer
Thomas Nicolas
Wallpaper by Marburg from South Pacific Fabrics; spotted gum Expressions cladding from Woodform Architectural; feature gloss laminate wall panels from Laminex Industries
Alucobond supplied and installed by Cassello Constructions
Interior Solutions
Electronic Locking by Onity from Access Hardware
Drum lights by ISM in foyer; Lucci Sky pendants by Beacon Lighting in bathrooms
Heating and cooling
Reverse-cycle air conditioning from LG

Story by: Lori Nims

08 Jul, 2009

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