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University announces development partner

The University has announced a major new development partnership with Legal & General.

The financial services group will provide up to £4 billion of funding over the next decade to deliver a series of key projects for the University.

The long-term partnership will lead to the development of thousands of homes for students and staff, together with world-class science and innovation districts.

The first projects under the partnership will be:

  • Redevelopment of graduate accommodation in Wellington Square, Court Place Gardens and Ewert House
  • Construction of graduate accommodation at Osney Mead
  • Construction of new innovation quarters at Osney Mead and Begbroke

It is intended that the first projects will be ready for occupation in 2023. The partnership will fulfil the commitments in the University’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan to provide at least 1,000 subsidised homes for staff, and at least 1,000 more of affordable graduate accommodation. Teams within Estates Services including Asset & Space Management and Legal Services worked closely on the joint venture partnership.

Tomorrow's Oxford Heads appear on Broad Street

New sculpted heads recently appeared outside the Museum of the History of Science – the result of the ‘Tomorrow’s Oxford Heads’ project, a temporary art installation taking place between 17 June and 21 July.

The installation comprises two plaster heads on plinths at the entrance of the History of Science Museum, as well as a large pink head on the cobbles east of the museum’s entrance. Michael Gray, Acting Head of Conservation & Buildings, was closely involved with the project, and the DLO Joiners helped build the bases on which the plaster heads sit and then helped install them. Security Services also played a role, helping the organisers carry out a risk assessment before going ahead with the plan.

Created with the support of the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Fund, the project aims to stimulate dialogue about how the University can make public sculpture in the city more diverse and more representative of the city’s people, supplementing the all-male line-up of stone heads that currently sits outside the Sheldonian theatre with women and members of other under-represented groups. The installation, the result of a competition to choose an artist, complements the current display in the Weston Library on the ‘History and Mysteries of Oxford’s Broad Street Heads’ which focuses on the past and present state, meaning and importance of the large sculptures outside the Sheldonian Theatre and History of Science Museum.

Central Conservation Area extended to cover Science Area

The City Council has approved an extension to the Central Conservation Area boundary to include the Science Area, despite the University’s representations that this may affect the financial viability of future projects there. This is disappointing news, but the Council has provided assurances that the change will only affect demolition of buildings and the erection of flues, and that therefore its impact will be marginal. Beyond this there should be no substantial extra burden of process and costs to the University.

The Council’s intention is not to preserve particular buildings in the Science Area, but to ensure that any replacements maintain the area’s scientific character. A detailed management plan will now follow, clarifying this and addressing the University’s concerns. The Town Planning team within Estates Services will monitor the progress of the management plan and assist in its preparation to ensure it focuses on the delivery of world-leading science to facilitate innovation, research and teaching. The Council had originally proposed to add the Keble Triangle, buildings in the ROQ and the Nuffield College-owned land between Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street to the Conservation Area too, but the University managed to persuade it not to do this.

Wytham Woods helping sequence genome of every UK speciesBlue bells at Wytham Woods

The Wytham team are taking part in an ambitious new effort to sequence the genomes of all UK species, after joining the Wellcome Trust-funded Darwin Tree of Life project. There are some 66,000 plant, animal, microbe and fungus species in the UK, and over the next decade the aim is to sample genetic material from them all. This is the UK contribution to an even bigger effort to sequence the DNA of all 1.5 million complex-celled lifeforms on Earth. The knowledge the project provides will help protect and restore the UK’s enormous variety of natural life and will transform scientists’ understanding of how ecosystems work. Wytham is an ideal place for this kind of science – it is home to a huge variety of species and we know a great deal about them after decades of study.

Security Services holds another successful SLO Conference

The annual Security Liaison Officer (SLO) Conference, organised by the Security Services team, took place in April. This was the sixth such event, bringing together people from all over the Oxford security community to share knowledge and discuss shared challenges. This year’s conference focused on protective security across the University estate and on security-related concerns arising from mental ill-health and rough sleeping.

The event included an update on the overall security picture in Oxford from Paul Sullivan, Head of Security Services, as well as presentations from guest speakers including Thames Valley Police and City Council officials. Attendees included the Security Liaison Officers who form a link between Security Services and the wider University, as well as college head porters. There were also trade stands run by private-sector security and technology companies. The keynote speaker was Christine Clarke, an expert in how first-responders can provide help and support to people experiencing mental health crises in a campus setting. She will be returning in September to provide in-depth mental health first-aid training to Security Services officers.

Feedback on this year’s conference was very positive. If you would like to be notified about next year’s conference, please contact Richard Mason at richard.mason@admin.ox.ac.uk.

 Childcare Services buildings come under management of FM team

The buildings occupied by the five University nurseries run by Childcare Services are now run by the Facilities Management team.

New lab with leaves videos released

Two more instalments in the popular and long-running Laboratory With Leaves series of videos about the science that goes on in Wytham Woods have recently been released.

Still from Wytham Woods Lab with Leaves Bees video The first of the new videos, launched in May, deals with Oxford researchers’ efforts to record the mechanics of flight, from mighty eagles to tiny finches. The results of this work could ultimately help drones fly safely through cluttered environments.

The second video came out in July and is about bees and the citizen science that is happening at Wytham, in which members of the public are helping researchers understand the remarkable variety of them living in and around the Woods. The people behind Oxford Plan Bee have also been working to put specially-designed bee homes all over the city to help increase numbers of these vital pollinators.

Estates Services staff to contribute to lime mortar workshop

Several members of Conservation & Buildings team and other Estates Services teams attended a workshop organised by the School of Geography & the Environment and Cliveden Conservation in May, with the aim of helping create a mobile app that will enable homeowners to make decisions on repairing old buildings in a way that respects their construction and avoids damage.

Many old buildings were made with lime mortar, which is breathable and has some flexibility to cope with structural movements. Repairing them with modern Portland cement-based mortars can be damaging, but many homeowners and builders do not know this. Even if they are aware of the issue, they often find it hard to access the information they need to make repairs with lime effectively.

The workshop brought together 27 experts on the issue, including academics, builders, architects and engineers, to discuss problems and opportunities in the field. The results of the workshop will now be used to develop a mobile app, which will enable non-experts to input basic information such as their location and stone type, and to receive clear guidance on how to proceed with repairs and what kind of mortar to use. Historic England is interested in using the app to help homeowners and others make better maintenance decisions.

Joiners work to improve Oxford environment

The DLO Joiners have been working on a variety of projects all over Oxford, improving the estate by creating new fine furniture and refurbishing existing woodwork. Recent activities include:

  • Creating bespoke replacement sash windows for one of the five University nurseries in Summertown
  • Installing a wooden handrail for the riverbank area where the Magdalen College punts are moored
  • Carrying out alterations in the Sackler Library, replacing slanted bookcases with normal vertically-aligned ones to increase their book-holding capacity
  • Making improvements to the reception desk at the Exam Schools
  • Creating art storage boxes to hold some of the art collection of one of the colleges
  • Building a large ramp at the St Cross Building to make the stage in the Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre accessible to people in wheelchairs

All DLO teams move to three-day SLA

After the success of the Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) Plumbing team’s move to a three-day Service Level Agreement, all DLO teams have now made the same shift. This means that all jobs put on Planon will receive an initial response within three days, although it may take longer for the problem to be completely fixed, particularly if parts need to be ordered. If a job cannot be completed within three days, updates on its expected completion date will be made available on Planon to keep users up to date on progress.

Until now the DLO has worked to a confusing variety of timescales depending on the exact nature of the job, so this general move to a three-day SLA should provide customers with a more consistent and predictable service.

 FM Team restructured

The Strategic Facilities Management team has been restructured into four business units – FM Operations, which mainly deals with the management of facilities on the estate for departments and other parts of the University; FM Contracts, which manages external contractors such as catering supplier Compass; Shared FM Services, which includes numerous services that are available across the University such as the University Print Studio and University Mail Service; and Oxford University Event Venues, which handles making University buildings such as the Sheldonian Theatre and Examination Schools available on a commercial basis to customers looking to hold events (from conferences to small dinners) there.

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