In an effort to address its student accommodation shortage, Nelson Mandela University (NMU) has opened a 500-bed residence in Summerstrand, with two additional buildings set to be completed by the end of the year.
The new residence is behind the Sanlam Student Village and ocean sciences campus.
It will be followed by the opening of a 300-bed residence in the same vicinity in April and another 1,000 beds are due for completion in October.
University spokesperson Zandile Mbabela said the establishment of the three residences was part of NMU’s efforts to mitigate the ongoing challenge of inadequate student accommodation on campus.
“[The situation] has been worsened in recent years by the influx of students from poor and working class backgrounds as access to higher education widens,” she said.
The 500-bed residence, which includes sustainability interventions and used a novel construction method, forms part of the university’s broader infrastructure plans.
“The latter provides a blueprint for the institution’s long-term development of campus spaces,” she said.
The new developments add to the 200-bed residence opened on the George campus in 2021, which makes up the 2,000-bed additional on-campus residence capacity mooted a few years ago after government infrastructure grants made provision for a residence portion.
NMU is the first known institution nationally to deploy the “peri-uno” method of construction, which is maintenance-friendly, offers good ventilation and insulation — dependent on the weather — and is easy to adapt in terms of extensions or interior changes.
The building method is used extensively around the world for similar projects.
The new residence consists of four blocks, each comprising 15 to 16 pods.
Each pod, or living area, accommodates eight students in four double rooms, and comes complete with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, as well as shared common rooms.
Special provision has been made for differently-abled students, the inclusion of some single rooms and for dedicated living quarters for residence staff.
In keeping with the university’s sustainability drive, the new residences will have access to borehole water.
“The borehole, which had lain unused for years, will feed all the toilets, along with tanks to catch rainwater run-off,” Mbabela said.
“This gravity-based water system is aimed at countering the challenges caused by water shortages.”
Potable water tanks have been installed to assist in times of emergency, especially considering water scarcity and power outages in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The three-storey pods have been constructed to allow for the introduction later of PV solar panels.
Students from the university’s new medical school and the Sol Plaatjie residence, which is undergoing renovations, were among the first to move into the new residence.