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The Lucent

The design aims to soften the transition entering the university as well as celebrating the entrance to the to-be-consolidated MMU campus from the West side, transitioning visitors from the buzzy street to the quiet campus. The word have the meaning of both translucent and glowing, describing the quality of the building in day & night respectively.

Team of 2 people

Manchester School of Architecture

MArch 1, 2020



The project is an adaptive re-use project collaborating with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) estate, designing a purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) while exploring the innovative building method of Design For Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA). DFMA brings versatility to the building allow it to maintain its competitiveness compare to the ever changing student housing market as a valuable asset to the university.

The existing Cambridge Halls (the site) highlighted in red, hover to see MMU's plan to consolidate the campus

Client Requirements

Client requirements

Collaborating with MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University) Estates as a live client, a meeting was conducted to receive insights and ideas that the Estates already have. The client is asking for a PBSA that would:

1)  work with MMU’s masterplan, which would allow the university to continue delivering high quality experiences to students

2)  meet its sustainability goals, which the university is committed to net zero carbon by 2038

3)  provide 1600 beds

4)  target users: first year undergraduate / international students

5)  can be constructed in phases

“(Cambridge halls)...have a limited life before major refurbishment will be required, and pose an opportunity to increase density of development on this site if redevelopment was favoured. The buildings are of little architectural quality and conceal the University from Higher Cambridge Street.” (MMU Estate Strategy, 2017, P.22)

Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) 

Too much demand, too less supply

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Supply of PBSA in Manchester 

Classified as a grade A market - Structurally under supplied with significant development opportunity (Cushman & Wakefield, 2019), Manchester is currently experiencing a massive shortage of PBSA due to tight government policies. This under supply translate to soaring prices for PBSA with some supply not PBSA, lacking amenities and intensives.

Price Distribution


Since university accommodation and its private counterparts are a perfect substitute, it provides a chance for the university to moderate the price.


The ability of the university providing a desirable PBSA on par as private counterparts, decreases its opportunity cost, making more students choose university PBSA .


In short, the PBSA would have to always be able to keep up with ‘current’ demands, one that would allow review and change in programme, number of rooms and amenities - a PBSA that is flexible.

What's the demand?

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A survey asking student opinions on accommodation and factors that affect their choices

The demand of PBSA can be analysed from the wider reason of “why does a student choose PBSA A instead of B” and a more specific scrutinization on which type of room they desire. There are usually 4 types of rooms that are provided in a PBSA:

Cluster     - shared bathroom and kitchen

En-suite    - private bathroom and shared kitchen

Studio     - private bathroom and kitchen

Twodio    - bathroom and kitchen shared between 2 people

Demand & Supply
Existing Cambridge Halls

The Existing Cambridge Hall

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The existing Cambridge Halls is situated on the edge of the to-be-consolidated campus, separating MMU and Higher Cambridge Street, providing 764 beds in total. The 4 stories tall building has 8 cores, each connected to rooms with protected corridors, with clustered and en-suite rooms. Divided into 2 blocks with a central courtyard in each block, it offers a view out the streets or into the courtyard. However due to the orientation of the accommodation, there are 20% of rooms that does not have access to direct sunlight. The project aims to steer away from these identified issues (highlighted on the right) and create a welcoming and fresh experience.

Masing development

Massing development


DFMA - Design for manufacturing and assembly

DFMA is a type of building method that utilise off-site assembly to minimise the construction happening on site.

Different from normal off-site assembly or manufacturing, DFMA excels in standardisation, simplifying materials and streamlining the production process.


DFMA not only saves time and money as well as increase efficiency, but also minimise a lot of disturbance to nearby activities, specially in this case the university, which the method is also in line with MMU estate goals: “MMU favours fast and efficient buildings” (MMU Estate, 2017), DFMA allows more flexibility and faster deliver time, meeting demand”.

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With the use of a panelised system for the building based on DFMA principles, each part of the building in the detail on the left is a panelised element that is assembled on site, all panels are removable and replaceable should any part fails.

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Kit of Parts

The detail above was made possible by the use of a standardised kit of parts that are manufactured and shipped to site to be installed.

Installation of external wall panels

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External walls utilise a C-channel system at the bottom and uses bolts to secure at the top.

After sliding in and erected to the correct position the wall would be bolted to the ceiling structure to secure it in place.

Installation of internal wall panels

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Internal walls are fitted with a locking device that locks the walls into place. Walls are brought horizontally into place, erected, then slid into the steel rail in the floor and on the ceiling.


To lock the system in place, the lever is pressed in to extend both the nib and to push the plastic stud against the floor, creating a sound barrier and using

friction to hold the wall in place.

Unlocked state on the left and locked on the right

The use of a panelised DFMA system and kit of parts approach, the building can facilitate different usages based on projected annual international students, allowing the university to fully utilise their investment.

The Soluton

The Solution

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