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On Tuesday 24 October St Edmund Hall celebrated the ground-breaking ceremony for the College's new Passivhaus student accommodation and communal facilities with landscaped and biodiverse gardens at Norham St Edmund (their postgraduate accommodation site).

Hall alumni, staff and students, SDC Construction, and Wright & Wright project lead partners Clare Wright and Naila Yousuf gathered to hear speeches by the Rt Hon the Lord Patten of Barnes CH, Visitor of the Hall and Chancellor of Oxford University, and Principal Professor Baroness Willis who spoke about the importance of the development in providing accommodation for all the Hall’s undergraduate students during the entirety of their course for the first time in the College’s history. This was followed by the formal ground-breaking of the soil and a drinks reception on site.

The project brings together several strategic aims for St Edmund Hall: helping ensure that the College can meet its goal of accommodating all of its undergraduate students, moving towards becoming net zero in energy use, improving access, encouraging biodiversity, and catalysing a creative and inclusive college culture.

Currently, St Edmund Hall cannot house all its undergraduate students in existing halls or houses for the duration of their course, leaving them to find their own private accommodation in their second year in one of the most expensive UK cities. Therefore, this new project is an urgent priority for the Hall as it will save students approximately £2,000 in housing costs, improving access to higher education by attracting those from lower income backgrounds.

“This once-in-a-generation development for the Hall of 127 study bedrooms and communal facilities embodies care for two precious things – our students and our planet. It will enable the Hall to meet its goal of accommodating all of its undergraduates, inspire a creative and inclusive college culture and lead the way in environmentally sustainable design.” 

– Professor Baroness (Kathrine) Willis, CBE, Principal, St Edmund Hall

The residential development will be a pioneering model of sustainability, with new construction designed to rigorous Passivhaus standards (the industry gold standard for energy efficiency), and the Victorian villa (number 17) refurbished to Part L Building Regulations compliance. Energy for the 4,600m² development will be obtained from air source heat pumps and bi-solar green roofs reducing the College’s costs and boosting sustainability. The landscape and ecology strategy is designed to improve and enhance biodiversity, with an 88% net gain over the site. This new accommodation will welcome students in the autumn of 2026.

A new, Passivhaus student campus for one of Oxford’s oldest colleges achieves increased accessibility, inclusivity, and biodiversity net gain through a holistic architecture, landscape and ecology design strategy.

Architectural CGI rendering of a street with several Victorian and contemporary brick buildings along a paved road with a man walking from the left.