Brae House

The development included the demolition of the existing structures and construction of a 422-bedroom student accommodation and associated management suite and facilities around a central courtyard.

Location: Edinburgh
Client:  Watkin Jones Group
Cost: £14.5m
Completion: 2015

Consisting of 401 cluster beds and 21 studios, the main structure consists of a concrete frame from basement to first floor where a transfer slab supports masonry walls and precast concrete floors to roof level. Externally the facades are a mixture of stone, render and glazing to the external façades.

Ground levels were reduced on site by up to 10m with 150m of contiguous piled retaining wall around 3 sides of the site retaining the adopted road along one elevation and existing residential properties to the rear.

The topography of the site dictated that foundations were a combination of piles, leanmix and pads onto rock.

Key challenges

Site conditions posed multiple challenges in respect of both design and construction including:

  • Contamination related to the historic use of the site as a brewery
  • The presence of both recorded and unrecorded deep wells again related to the historic brewery requiring foundations to be designed to bridge the wells which had to be retained
  • Rock outcrops encountered during the contiguous piling operations resulted in the re-design of basement areas and foundation strategy.

The design of the basement and below ground areas to introduce natural light was carefully developed and co-ordinated with the architect.

areas to introduce natural light was carefully developed and co-ordinated with the architect.


The development has made the most of a site which had previously been overlooked. The decision to create a contiguous piled retaining wall around three sides allowing deep excavation ensured that bedroom numbers could be maximised whilst ensuring the height and scale of the building did not restrict views to Arthur’s Seat.

The use of traditional blond sandstone facades creates a classic but modern look and can be considered an exemplar of what can be achieved with student accommodation.