So many tags for student accomodation

Just wanted to map a students dorm and got very confused with all those tags available:

I am sure this makes life much harder for app developers, who wanna make use of OSM data. Best would be to clean them up somehow.

guest_house=student_accommodation is not about dorms. They are =guest_house for students.
I prefer residential=dormitory over residential=university if they are off campus, as that may be interpreted as for staff. And there’s overlap in postgrads “working” in the university. There are also houses for university executives that don’t fit. Staff would have standard apartments, or better.
I imagine university= may be a better solution if it’s inside the amenity=university , to avoid any overlap or dispute with how to apply landuse=education vs landuse=residential . Fundamentally, landuse= is best not used as a PoI feature.
amenity= will have issue with collegiate systems serving both accommodation, and some teaching or other curriculum. Although, some such colleges are non-residential to offer these experiences to those living in their own accommodation.

The guest house option is either wrong or not related to term-time student residences.

Part of the problem is that there are now a huge number of quite different options for student accommodiation. In the UK there standard term used is “purpose built student accommodation” (PBSA) and these can be individual apartment blocks, large complexes of apartment blocks, student hostels (where I do think the dormitory tag is OK), halls of residence, college buildings (Oxford/Cambridge and a few recent universities where student rooms, academic residences and teaching areas are all mixed together), old mansions repurposed (UK, Spain …), fraternity and sorority houses, and so forth.

I suspect that amenity=student_accommodation is best adapted to encompass most of these different forms whereas amenity=dormitory and building=dormitory is less flexible (even if more widely used)


I appreciate that building=dormitory is no longer the only option, because that tag reduces what should be a point of interest to an architectural building classification. (One wonders, what is the prototypical dormitory architecture?) I spent my university years living in dorms that were mere building:parts conjoined with non-dormitory facilities. Except they didn’t meet the architecturally-focused definition of building:part, either. So they were just null=dormitory until amenity=dormitory and amenity=student_accommodation came along.

On the other hand, amenity=student_accommodation is overly specific in a different regard: it assumes dormitories are only for students. Yet there are also dormitories for teachers, and in some industries like mining, there are dormitories for employees, though corporate housing can also describe these facilities.

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Interior-wise, I presumed building=dormitory doesn’t have a washroom in each flat. Otherwise, they should be =apartments .
For housing in general, amenity= shouldn’t be used. Lot-resembling home areas, housing estates, gated communities, and apartment complexes ,which are lumped in landuse=residential (+ name= ), are in need of a new top-level feature. This could be applied to dorms, and other housing facilities. (Quasi-relatedly, landuse=industrial as a PoI has also been discussed in recent times)

My alma matter is a campus university, which has a large number of accommodation blocks on the campus.

These are (mostly) tagged as building=residential + residential=university.

I wonder if the amenity key is really appropriate. What we’re in effect tagging is residential properties - which I don’t consider an amenity. It’s just that this type of residential property is only available to a specific type of tenant. I wonder if it might be worth adapting the social_facility:for=* approach, e.g., accommodation:for=students?

Also worth noting that “dormitory” is an Americanism. In British English, these are typically called “halls of residence”.

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At least from a UK perspective this is a bit “perfect being the enemy of the good”. There used to be lots of these things which would have all matched the dormitory tags., but today not-so-much.

When I was in my twenties I had friends who lived in Nurses Homes, such as this one. I think they have more-or-less all gone (at least in part because Nursing became a graduate entry subject). Usually what survives are dedicated apartment blocks (just as for much modern student housing). Doctors also had quasi-dormitory accommodation in their messes. The Harwell atomic energy research site had quite a few dormitories, with some people living their for years. The police station at Paddington Green had a small tower block above the main building which housed junior police officers (called a Section House). Confusingly many of these were described as hostels. There were similar places in London for new graduates starting their careers (a colleague lived in one in 1979).

Now in any UK city which has a university what feels like the majority of new building projects are new-build student accommodation, or conversions of existing buildings (anything from a disused pub to large office blocks). (@SomeoneElse worked in one that has been converted in this way). Right now within a kilometer of me there is a 400 bed block which opened last year, a 600 bed complex (4-5 six-storey blocks and some other facilities), a 200 bed project which has started & stopped 3 times, a planned 400 bed project on land between the others. A little further away is Deakin’s Place, a 700 bed monster: itself opposite an 8 block development of 10 years ago.

The city centre is rife with conversions and new blocks are being built beside the railway station and on former industrial land nearby. Virtually all of these are shared apartments for students, not dormitories, so can be tagged building=apartments, but it would be nice to be able to say they are student accommodation as well. The sheer number and variety of such developments is something we need to capture properly.

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“students” would be something of an outlier among the other values. I suspect that it might “surprise” a number of data consumers.

Sorry - singular form is preferred so “student”.

Yes, this would be a new value but it would be for a new key too (accommodation:for rather than social_facility:for) so I doubt any data consumers would be using it to start with anyway.

ETA: the accommodation:for tag could be expanded to other uses too (some of which are used in social_facility:for), e.g., women-only accommodation, veteran-only accommodation, elderly-only (tagged as “senior” in OSM) or even new values like military-only, employee-only etc. Haven’t really thought on this too much though!

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Ah! OK - I hadn’t grasped that bit.

I think the classic “hall of residence” might be a UK particularlism: many were deliberately modelled on Oxbridge colleges. But they are quite distinctive, although individual parts of a hall consisting of just study bedrooms could be reasonably tagged as building=dormitory. But as an ensemble they are much more than this with a house for the principal, staff flats for tutors, library, bar, dining hall (originally with high table/formal dinners) etc. and so forth. In many cases it’s not simple to split the bits up either.

Note that they are also often used as conference accommodation, and for tourism, out-of-term, so not quite residential either. Most contracts with students are for 30 weeks or thereabouts. The private housing usually has minimum contracts lasting 40 weeks or more. At University of Nottingham overseas students who need accommodation through the year all get moved to one hall out of term.

Definitely some mileage in this, particularly for seniors. We have a whole range of different sheltered housing types for older people ranging through from classic almshouses, private apartments or houses with a warden, social sheltered housing and entire complexes (‘villages’).

building=apartments is the other tag that historically shoehorned a point of interest into a building classification. This makes it awkward to map, say, the apartment floors of a downtown high-rise that are known by a particular name, perched above a department store, a hotel, or offices. building:part=apartments or landuse=residential residential=apartments for a set of floors?

Funnily enough I came across just such a student residence on top of a hotel only the other day. building:part can sort of be used to do the job, but that is not its original purpose, and if the building is at all complex such usage will be a mess. This problem is related to some of those described in [Do we need more subdivisions? - #8 by SK53](Do we need more subdivisions?), albeit in the Z-axis rather than X/Y.

Whereas many of these mapping issues disappear in the noise of so many other tags, I think it is well worthwhile exploring them. I’ve always thought a less appreciated aspect of OSM is the exploration of things people want to find on maps, but which are either not shown at all, or in a limited way.

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