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Contemporary student apartment blocks offering everything from a mini-campus feel to a sustainable building ethos – D1 and D2 are designed to appeal on several fronts

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Thoughtful planning of student accommodation goes well beyond achieving a close proximity to learning centres and a desk in every room. In today's savvy housing market, developers consider the broader needs of occupants, and also look past them to those who will actually sign the purchase agreement – either for use by academic family members, as an investment, or both.

Developed by Piccolo Developments and designed by architectural and interiors firm RotheLowman with principal architect Shane Rothe at the helm, D1 presents a step up in dedicated student accommodation. The concept behind the building is to go beyond a place of shelter and study, creating an environment that involves students and gives them a sense of community.

At the same time, D1 has elements built in that encourage investors to see the apartments as reliable assets that will retain their value through the years. Their location, exceptional six-star energy rating, quality of design and materials – and attendant high rental value – all contribute to the investment attraction. As a result, all D1 apartments are sold and D2, modelled on very similar lines, is under way. There may be a D3 to follow.

For students alone, D1 offers a persuasive attraction. Centrally located between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the nine-storey building is only a stroll or cycle ride from both. It is also close to shopping, entertainment and café areas, including the iconic Lygon Street.

However, D1's most appealing student draw card, after its situation, is its sense of community – much like a mini-campus in many ways. The very bones of the boutique apartment block help illustrate the activity of the building, as Shane Rothe explains.

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"The first two floors of D1 comprise a double-height podium, incorporating a café and communal spaces," says Rothe. "Above this, a white alucabond facade wraps around the exposed corner of the building, signalling its presence to the street. This facade cantilevers out and climbs the upper seven levels of the structure."

At ground level, the café provides a gathering point for students and also draws passers-by in from the street. On the level above this, accessed via security doors, a spacious communal lounge is furnished with contemporary, comfortable furniture. A large plasma screen hangs on the wall, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the greenery and bustle of adjacent Lincoln Square. Natural light floods through this large, inviting communal space. D1 also features a communal laundry, a bicycle park and car parking for all students.

On the floors above the café and lounge, there are 93 student residences. These are fully managed, much like a hotel, by UniLodge Australia, with the responsibility of cleaning, plumbing, security and so on removed from minds focused on more academic pursuits.

High-end design and materials have gone into the fully furnished apartments – enhancing both student comfort and marketability. Each apartment offers a bathroom, kitchenette, wardrobe, a single bed, a study desk, modest living space and a balcony. As with the D1 lounge, floor-to-ceiling glazing maximises natural light. Perhaps going against the traditions of student accommodation these upmarket spaces have wool loop pile carpets underfoot. The kitchens have stone benchtops, a Blanco gas hotplate and microwave oven and a stainless steel-faced refrigerator. Bathrooms include a Pozzi Ginori Lavabi wall-mounted basin and semi-frameless glass shower screen. The built-in wardrobe has frosted glass doors and the rest of the furniture – from sofa to ergonomic desk and chair – is equally well considered.

In terms of embracing the age of technology, the D1 apartments are as savvy as the building's security systems – in fact a television is linked to the entry door intercom. High speed wireless internet connections are found in all apartments, the D1 Lounge and the café. Telephone via voice-over IP provides inexpensive phone calls – an important consideration with many overseas students studying here, a long way from family. There is the option of having real-time video telephony with other users within the building, or video conferencing with other computers anywhere in the world. The apartments are also cabled for Foxtel and digital television reception.

Modern technologies, the upmarket, managed nature of the units and high level of security all make the units a sound financial proposition for the owners – often the parents of the students who inhabit them.

The building's six-star energy rating not only respects the environment and saves on energy bills but also signals the sheer forward-looking nature of D1.

"The energy-efficient thermal mass of the concrete masonry construction, comprehensive use of double glazing, and D1's solar orientation all contribute to a building that is built for today but also for the future," says Rothe.

"Elements such as low-emission building materials and the bicycle park at basement level contribute to this modern, environmentally conscious design ethos."

D2 is set to be built along very similar lines to D1, and both developer and architect are considering a D3 in the not-too-distant future.

Maybe the last word on D1 should also be the first thing that occupants, guests and passers-by see when they approach the building.

Piccolo Developments has brought art to the streets, literally, by organising a competition for the Victorian College of the Arts. The prize winners have had their digital artworks writ large on D1's exposed facades.

Director of Piccolo Developments Michael Piccolo says the approach was to create accommodation that goes beyond creating a building for students to live in.

"We developed the competition as a way of giving back to the community, and also to support the students of Melbourne."

First published date: 22 June 2007

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Credit List

Location D1, D2 apartment blocks, Melbourne
Developer Piccolo Developments
Architect Shane Rothe, RAIA, RotheLowman
Interior design Penny Stokes, RAIA, RotheLowman
Construction company LU Simon Builders
Structural/civil engineer John Mullen & Partners
Mechanical and electrical engineer Andrew Lingard & Associates
Quantity surveyor Rider Hunt
Cladding Alucobond
Roof Sonaguard Trafficable Membrane over concrete slab
Facade design Rendered pre-cast concrete
Window/door joinery Commercial aluminium-framed windows and doors by Pacific Shop Fitters
Hardware Locksmith Supply Company
Balconies/balustrades Pre-cast concrete upstands and cantilevered frameless glass
Blinds Roller blinds by Interior Solutions
Tiling Honed bluestone slabs for entry foyer from TTI Stone; mid-taupe, fully vitrified ceramic tiling in apartments from National Tiles
Flooring Studio carpets, in dark sepia, from Edwardstown Carpets
Wallcoverings Paint on plaster, Dulux Pepium Quarter
Feature wallpaper By Gotham Dorman from South Pacific Sahco Marburg Paper
Ceiling Dulux Peplum Quarter on plaster
Veneers Laminex Giallo
Lighting Lighting Electrical Distributors; custom feature light by ISM
Workstations, office chairs, reception furniture InSitu Furniture
Kitchen equipment Blanco Appliances
Bathrooms Reece Projects
Security systems Expert security
Signage Adherrettes/Sign Solutions
Graphic design Cornwell
Elevator services Otis Elevator Company