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Emcor takes over Headington maintenance

Facilities management company Emcor has taken over the multi-million contract to provide mechanical, electrical and other maintenance services at the University’s Headington sites – Old Road Campus and the John Radcliffe, Warneford and Churchill hospitals.

The contract lasts five years, with the option to extend it for another two years; Estates Services will manage it. Emcor is taking over from previous maintenance contractor Interserve. Most of the site-based Interserve staff have moved to Emcor so their expertise and knowledge of the sites will not be lost. The company will provide a fleet of electric vehicles to help move engineers around from site to site, reducing environmental impact.

The contract was awarded in December 2018 after a long and rigorous multi-stage tender process involving many bidders. Since then there has been a major mobilisation effort involving Estates Services engineers, the Facilities Management team and departmental building managers. Estates Services would like to thank all the Headington area building managers for the invaluable support they have provided during this process.

Renewal of St Mary’s Church trees moves forward

The University Parks arborists have been working with the City Council, Church staff and other stakeholders to plan a long-term replacement for the beloved almond tree outside St Mary’s Church on the High Street.

The almond tree was famed for its beautiful blossom in springtime, but had become a danger to passers-by and was fully removed in January after one of its main limbs collapsed last year. Replacing it with another almond tree, or with anything else from the same family, would increase the risk of disease.

In its place is now a ‘Judas tree’, which will produce large quantities of pink blossom not unlike the almond’s but is not closely related to it. The other small trees on the strip of land between the church and the High Street are also being replaced with newly-planted almond and Kashmir rowan trees.

New entrance to Ashmolean completed

New Ashmolean front doorThe project to replace the revolving door that forms the main entrance to the Ashmolean Museum was finished on schedule at the end of January, allowing the museum’s major new exhibition of works by Jeff Koons to begin as planned in early February without visitors having to use a temporary entrance.

The problem with the old door was that its imposing size and weight meant most people needed power assistance to be able to move it. But there was very little space between the floor the door rested on and the roof of the museum café and gift shop area beneath. This meant a bespoke door motor had to be installed, which has made mechanical problems difficult and expensive to repair.

The new door is much smaller – 2.5m tall rather than 4.1m – and far lighter, so no power assistance is needed; its upkeep should be far more straightforward.

The Conservation & Buildings team who managed the project also took the opportunity to improve the accessibility of the smaller doors to either side of the revolving one for disabled visitors, making one door an entrance and one an exit to promote a steady flow of people, adding power-assisted opening and installing clearer signage.

Old Boys High School Cupola restored

Old Boys High School cupola before restorationConservation & Buildings team members moved quickly to avoid further damage after part of the cupola at the top of the Old Boys High School on George Street, home to the Department of History, was found to have fallen off this winter.

Members of the Building Inspectors team within Conservation & Buildings had noticed some damp in the roof. Assuming that the problem was probably blocked gutters, they had scaffolding put up and went up for a look. What they found was much more worrying – one of the pilasters (ornamental wooden pillars) that are mounted to the outside of the cupola had come loose and bounced down into the sump gutter around the edge of the roof, smashing roof tiles in three places on its way down.

The team quickly took action, drawing on contingency funds within the budget and engaging specialist contractors. After replacing the broken tiles they set to work restoring the decayed oak woodwork of the cupola. The pilaster that had fallen was too rotten to put back, and a replacement has been made and installed. The others were removed and repaired, replacing decayed wood.

Old Boys High School cupola after restorationThe team also restored the wood around the cupola windows and treated everything with preservative before restoring them to place. Considering that there is no record of any major repairs to the cupola in its nearly 150-year life, it has endured the elements remarkably well and should now last for many decades before needing any more attention.

The team even discovered the old school bell still hanging in the cupola – it is still perfectly sound but has probably not been rung for decades. They would ultimately like to get the clock above the building’s main entrance working again, if budget is available for it.

Completed in 1880, the Old Boys High School was designed by T. G. Jackson, also responsible for iconic Oxford architecture including the Bridge of Sighs and the Examination Schools. By the time it closed as a school in 1966, its former pupils included T.E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) and Ronnie Barker.

Can you give this magnificent doorway a home?

Wooden arch looking for a homeEstates Services staff are looking for departments that might be interested in having a splendid but very large Indian carved wooden archway installed in their buildings. The arch is enormous – 4.5m high and 2.5m wide.

As it’s made of solid teak, it’s incredibly heavy, and when it was removed from the Old Indian Institute in 1974, engineers decided it was too heavy to risk putting back in – they weren’t sure the building’s floors would take it. So the frame has been in storage ever since, although the doors it once held have been returned to the Old Indian Institute and are now on display there.

This is a beautiful piece of Indian wood carving, probably from the 19th century, and deserves to be on display rather than gathering dust in storage. If you think you may have room to display the arch in your building – and if this building has really strong floors – please contact Michael Gray, Interim Head of Conservation & Buildings, on

DLO maintenance team being installed at ROQ

The DLO is continuing with its plans to install a maintenance team at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, based in a hitherto-vacant space in the basement of the Andrew Wiles Building.

The team will be fully in place by summer. They will use an existing mechanical workshop, and a new carpentry workshop is being set up in the space along with a small welfare and changing area. The team are expected to comprise around six mechanical maintenance specialists, a plumber and a member of the building maintenance team.

They will look after maintenance not only around the ROQ but also in other nearby parts of the estate including the University offices at Wellington Square, the Ashmolean, the Malthouse and the departments along the north of St Giles’. The move will not only mean these places get better maintenance; it will also ease congestion at the DLO headquarters on South Park Road, which is becoming acute after a series of successful recruiting exercises have brought the DLO back up to near full strength.

Joiners continue work on Innovation Building outdoor furniture

New benches at Innovation Building Feb 2019The DLO Joiners are finishing off the custom-made benches and other outdoor furniture in the new Wooded Walk outdoor area behind the recently-opened Innovation Building at Old Road Campus.

The new furniture is made of extremely durable and sustainable Accoya wood, and should help turn the area into a pleasant outdoor working and recreation space for Old Road Campus staff.

The team have been working on numerous other projects around Oxford, including:

  • Creating a bespoke door for installation in the South Stairs at the Bodleian, matching the other wooden doors nearby
  • Creating doors and renovating wooden gates for installation at King Mill House at the edge of the grounds of Magdalen College
  • Continuing with the programme to replace all fire doors in the Engineering department’s Thom Building – most of these have now been installed
  • Building fitted bookcases to hold sheet music in the organ loft at St Mary’s Church, replacing existing prefabricated shelves that were no longer fit for purpose

Conference brings the future of farming to the Exam Schools

One of the UK’s leading forums for the agricultural industry returned to the Examination Schools in January, with speeches from HRH The Princess Royal and Environment Secretary Michael Gove. The Oxford Farming Conference attracted more than 600 delegates from all over the industry, from farmers and government officials to scientists and representatives of big retailers and food companies. They discussed some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the sector in the UK, from the impact of Brexit to the potential of new technology to transform how we produce our food.

The Examination Schools is one of the venues within the Oxford University Event Venues portfolio, which is part of the Facilities Management team. The Exam Schools is a popular commercial events venue as well as serving its primary purpose as the location for students to sit their exams. The first farming conference in Oxford took place in 1936, so the event has a long history as a vital forum where the industry’s future is shaped. To find out more about the Examination Schools, or any other Oxford University Event Venues, visit

FM staff help with SU refurbishment

Oxford SU after refurbishment - wide Members of the Facilities Management team have helped transform an unexciting space in the Oxford SU offices into vibrant facilities that are popular with students. The Oxford SU moved into its new premises at 4 Worcester Street in late 2017 and the team were clear that the property needed redecoration to turn it into a more appealing space for students.

‘We were moving into this fantastic new space, and really wanted to capitalise on the change,’ said Aman Ubhi, Head of Business Development and Operations at Oxford SU, explaining that the new offices enabled the team to provide students with multi-use space, but that many didn’t seem keen on using a ‘Student Zone’ that looked dull, formal and uninviting. The team decided to redecorate the space with the Oxford SU brand colours to enliven it and break it up into distinct areas, and approached Facilities Management for help in making this happen.

‘FM were great,’ Ubhi says. ‘They were supportive and did everything in their power to get things moving quickly.’ Ubhi says the changes have improved the look of the space hugely – ‘it looks bigger, it’s certainly brighter and students comment on it daily’ – adding that rooms are booked far more often following the changes – so much so that the Oxford SU management team sometimes struggle to get a meeting room themselves.

Live theatre dining taking off at University event venues

In 2018, the Oxford University Event Venues team and catering partner Compass launched live theatre dining at the Sheldonian Theatre and St Luke’s Chapel. This offers guests a unique live experience with chefs preparing their food in front of them. The event organiser can choose how much interaction the chef and the guests have, with options available including running commentary or a question and answer session.

This service is growing in popularity, with two well-received recent events opting for it. One of these took place around Christmas time with Executive Chef James Larkins answering guests’ festive food queries. In March the OUEV team will be launching their new-look menu, featuring exiting new additions such as street food market stalls and an expanded range of formal dining options. To find out more about the Oxford University Event Venues portfolio of venues, and event catering options contact

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