With national news reporting that students in some university towns and cities are having to resort to budget hotels for accommodation as university student numbers rise nationally, 68 students at Somerville College at the University of Oxford are happy to be avoiding such a fate.
Somerville was founded in 1879 and named in honour of the Scottish mathematician and scientist Mary Somerville.
The £11.5 million investment is helping the College to achieve one of its long-held goals: to accommodate all of its undergraduates on site. Though a number of Oxford colleges are now able to house all undergraduates using ‘satellite’ sites, very few offer accommodation for all on the main site.
The Catherine Hughes building, designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects, was delivered on time and on budget by Oxford-based construction firm Beard. Named after a distinguished past Principal of Somerville, it provides accommodation for 68 students in the city centre, a short walk from the College. It also features a ground-floor seminar and reading room.
The project started on site in November 2017 and was completed in time for students to move in for the start of the current term.
The 15-metre high structural frame of the building is constructed from cross-laminated timber panels, fabricated off-site and hoisted into position with the use of a tower crane. This method permitted a reduction of 80 per cent in deliveries to the site compared with the initial proposal of a concrete frame, reducing the environmental impact of construction and enabling a substantial cost saving.
Mark Beard, Executive Chair of Beard Construction, said: “Beard is proud to have been involved in this project which will make an important contribution to the life of the College and the University.
“The city-centre location, and the fact that the building occupies much of the footprint of the site, presented significant logistical difficulties. I am delighted that our team was able to resolve all these difficulties and meet the College’s timetable for completion of the project.
“I hope the Catherine Hughes building will be a home from home for the students living here – this year and in the years to come – and that it gives them the security and comfort they need to underpin their academic endeavours.”
Beard is an award-winning, £150 million turnover construction company which operates across the South of England. The family-owned company was established in 1892.