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Holywell Millstream Bridge refurbishment completed on timeDLO joiners renovating Holywell Millstream Bridge

The DLO joiners have finished renovating the Holywell Millstream Bridge from the University Parks to Mesopotamia within the planned eight-week timetable. The bridge’s footway and hand rails have been replaced with custom-made new parts in decay-resistant Accoya wood and should now need no more work for several decades. The revived bridge officially opened to the public in January after work finished before Christmas. Conservation & Buildings staff managed the project and the various contractors employed on it, while University Parks gardeners took care of clearing vegetation before work started and are handling making good damage to the riverbank caused by the scaffolding erected during the work.

Exercise Good Shepherd improves University’s crisis response

An exercise run by Security Services in December helped prepare Estates Services staff to respond to an emergency by running through how they would deal with a fictitious incident of the kind that would cause the University to invoke the Bronze level of its Crisis Management Framework. On this occasion this was an accident outside a University property that injured a contractor and damaged a gas main.

As well as Security Services staff, the half-day exercise included everyone from building managers to maintenance operatives and members of the Estates Services senior management team, all contributing their expertise and working together to explore how staff should respond to situations as they develop and how the University can help them do this. Members of the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service also attended, providing invaluable input on questions such as how they would respond to particular emergency situations and how staff can liaise with emergency services most effectively. Managers are now working to ensure the lessons learned during the exercise are incorporated into standard practice. The exercise follows on from a similar one last year aimed at testing and improving the University’s ability to respond to a Silver level crisis.

New sites move onto central catering contractCompass Occasions menu Jan 2018

Four new cafes around Old Road Campus have moved onto the University’s central catering contract with Compass – the Big Data Institute, the Richard Doll Building, the Old Road Campus Research Building and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genomics.

The café in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics in the Science Area, meanwhile, will be under Compass management from March.

Planning and Housing Strategy Group

Members of the Asset & Space Management team are taking part in a major initiative aimed at driving forward the University’s aim of accelerating the creation of significant numbers of new housing units for staff and graduate students. Led by Dr David Prout, the recently-appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources), the newly-established Planning and Housing Strategy Group includes representatives from across the collegiate University and external advisors, and is targeting the construction of 4,000 new housing units for graduate students and University staff in the coming years. 

Drayson moves into BDI

Drayson Technologies, which works in fields ranging from digital healthcare to smart sensor networks, has moved into the Big Data Institute (BDI) building at Old Road Campus. It signed a temporary lease on part of the building’s lower ground floor in November 2017; its biotechnology incubator unit will now remain there pending the completion of building 696 later in 2018, which will ultimately house the BioEscalator centre and research facilities for Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk. 

Parks team helps Oxford cope with the snowParks team helps Oxford cope with snow

When snow blanketed Oxford in early December, several Estates Services teams including University Parks staff worked together to help keep the University and city moving. This was a particular challenge given the unexpectedly thick snow in certain areas such as Old Road Campus, and the freezing nights which created icy layers beneath the snow, making conditions underfoot especially treacherous and largely impervious to gritting. All Parks operational staff were quickly re-allocated to clear pathways and pedestrian areas around departmental buildings in the functional estate, including the History Faculty, St Cross Building, the University offices at Wellington Square, the University Club and facilities at Old Road Campus, the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter and the Science Area. This was the first real test of the snow-clearing equipment the team bought around five years ago as part of the University’s adverse weather plan. Parks staff also dealt with many calls to help with fallen tree branches caused by the weight of snow; for example they helped Residential Accommodation tenants in properties at Wytham and Parks customers around the city as well as dealing with damage to trees in the Parks themselves. All these problems were ably dealt with by Arboricultural Technician Dan Holden and his team of arborists. 

New data quality policy

Estates Services has created a new policy on data, intended to cement the importance of high-quality, accurate data and to support the University’s over-arching data quality policy. It will serve as the basis for protecting Estates Services from risks including inadvertently issuing misleading information, taking decisions based on wrong or incomplete data, breaching statutory data requirements or suffering serious reputational damage due to data-related issues. A data assurance risk register will be in place for each of the department’s key data returns, such as the space data it regularly reports to the University, along with suitable documented processes to ensure data is of consistently good quality and actions are traceable and repeatable. The new policy has been approved by Estates Services and by the University-wide Data Assurance Group. It is accessible online.

Anniversary celebrations continue for Wytham Woods

To mark 75 years since Wytham Woods entered the University’s possession, the Woods team has planned a series of events which will see members of the public engaging with Wytham’s scientific research more than ever before.

In October the team celebrated the anniversary with the ceremonial unveiling of a blue plaque. Raymond and Hope ffennell gave the Woods to the University in 1942, following the premature death of their only child Hazel, who had deeply loved the woods. Simon ffennell, a descendent of the family, unveiled the plaque in a ceremony at the entrance to the Woods, which was also attended by guests including local government representatives and academics.

An exhibition, ‘Into the Woodlands’, is now underway in the Wytham Room at the Museum of Natural History, organised by the Wytham Woods team. Eight hundred years ago, the Charter of the Forest gifted public access to enable all to use and enjoy Britain’s woodlands. Intended to mark this anniversary as well as celebrating 75 years of science in the Woods, the exhibition features woodland-inspired work by a number of writers and artists. It runs until late May in the museum’s Wytham Room.

Among the events planned for the coming months is an exhibition of photos of the Woods in the gallery space of St John’s College from 17-25 February. In April there will also be a Sylvan Cinema evening, in which a series of films will be screened outside the chalet, including the BBC documentary on an oak tree in Wytham, the team’s popular Laboratory with Leaves  series of videos and The Way through the Woods, an episode of Inspector Morse that was shot there.

April will also see a series of six lectures about the research that is taking place at the Woods at the Natural History Museum, and the following month there will be an exhibition at the Mathematical Institute focusing on the people who have done science at Wytham over the years. 

See the Woods website for more about forthcoming events.

Diversifying Portraiture at the Exam SchoolsDiversifying portraits

24 portraits from the Diversifying Portraiture exhibition at the Weston Library were installed in the Examination Schools – a building that is managed by the FM team within Estates Services – on a long-term basis in late January.

The Diversifying Portraiture project was intended to inspire students from all backgrounds to achieve more by showcasing a wider range of positive role models. The portraits commissioned covered people ranging from filmmaker Ken Loach to newsreader Reeta Chakrabarti, all of them nominated by University staff and students. There is evidence that being presented with role models who they see as similar to them can help people perform better in stressful situations, so the Examination Schools are a particularly suitable long-term home for the paintings.

Battery-powered equipment being tested in Parks

The University Parks team are trialling rechargeable battery-powered versions of horticultural equipment such as leaf blowers. These offer several advantages over the petrol-powered equipment that the team has historically relied on, including lower vibration and noise levels, making them more user-friendly for Parks staff. They could also lower fuel costs. If the trials are successful, the team will consider adding battery-powered items to its equipment pool on a permanent basis.

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