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Taylorian roof repaired 

The Conservation & Buildings team and external contractors have overhauled the roof and external elevations of the Taylor Institution on St Giles.

In the process they replaced six damaged roof slates – a major undertaking as each one weighs 125kg and is almost a metre wide and a metre and a half long. Moving them into position so they could be secured using the existing slate cover plates was extremely difficult. The team also carried out minor repairs and repointing to chimneyheads, repaired and redecorated the building’s cast iron roof lights, and cleaned and repaired the stone statues on the external wall that faces St Giles. The flagpole above this elevation had become loose and dangerous, so the team took the opportunity to secure it back into position while the scaffold was in place.

On these outside walls, Conservation & Buildings staff and contractors serviced and overhauled the building’s existing timber and metal windows, redecorated where necessary and renewed existing pigeon protection measures. All works were carried out from a full building scaffold, which was protected by an alarm system due to the site’s proximity to the Ashmolean and its priceless contents.

New buildings under FM managementAnna Watts Building

Several new locations around the University estate are now using FM building management services. FM now manages 50 buildings across the University estate.

The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at 41 and 47 Wellington Square is the latest addition. The Faculty is one of the world’s leading centres for the study of European languages, literature and culture. Senior Facilities Manager Greg Demetriou-Swanwick is responsible for the building’s management.

Boundary Brook House, near the Old Road Campus in Headington, is also now being managed by FM. It is under the control of Toby Christensen, Implementation Manager, who oversees the process of bringing new buildings under FM management; in due course responsibility will move to a permanent Facilities Manager.

Finally, the new modular structure (pictured) at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter site, known as the Anna Watts building, is being managed and supported by the FM Team on the ROQ. It will be used for research and teaching by the Experimental Psychology department until a permanent replacement for the Tinbergen building is available. Ian Hope is its Facilities Manager.

Plant rooms moving to Salto

The Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) audit of plant rooms across the estate is starting in earnest, after the completion of trial audits of a handful of locations such as the Science Area boiler houses, the Rex Richards building, the various University offices on Worcester Street and the Manor Road building. Ultimately all the plant rooms will move onto the Salto access control system. This will deter unauthorised use of these spaces – which are all under the management of Estates Services – and  provide an access audit trail so that if problems later appear, it will be clear who has been in the room.

In the meantime, building users are reminded that plant rooms should not be used for storage; this can restrict access and cause hazards – for example, several plant rooms across the estate have been used to store potentially flammable batteries. Departments are asked to check the contents of plant rooms and move anything that should not be there as soon as possible.

Maintaining fire breaks

The Safety Office is carrying out an audit of the status of fire compartmentalisation in buildings across the estate, starting with those thought to be at greatest risk in the event of fire.

Conservation & Buildings team members, meanwhile, are working to address some of the problems that the audit has already brought to light. Many of these have to do with fire compartmentalisation features that are either inadequate or have been damaged by work done after they were installed. For example they are currently creating a fire compartment around the electrics in the main staircase of the Bodleian Library, and will close up several gaps in firewalls in the Engineering Department’s Thom Building while they are on site to install new fire doors. More work to restore damaged fire breaks is likely to be taking place all over the estate in the coming years.

If contractors will be doing work in your building that involves drilling holes in firewalls to install pipework or cabling, it is vital to make sure they re-seal these holes appropriately. Failing to do so can severely compromise the fire protection the building was designed to offer, putting property, and potentially even lives, in danger. If you discover a breach in a fire break please contact Steve Emery, University Fire Officer in the Safety Office.

MEES regulations make it illegal to let energy inefficient buildings

New lettings and renewals of existing lettings are now subject to legal regulations known as the Minimum Energy-Efficiency Standard (MEES), introduced in April 2018. These rules stipulate that an Energy Performance Certificate rating of E or higher is required before any building, whether commercial or residential, can legally be let, subject to limited exemptions. This means works to improve the building’s energy efficiency may be needed before any tenancy can begin. The rules apply regardless of whether the space is let at market rates or to other academic organisations, or to any other third party, for a token rent – or even for no rent at all. In some cases exemptions can be applied for but this is time-consuming and complex.

It is essential that departments consult the Asset Management team (assetmanagement@admin.ox.ac.uk) before considering subletting space in their buildings. The Asset Management and Legal Services teams within Estates Services can give advice on all aspects of the letting process including what to do if there is a third-party occupation in a departmental building that was not set up in accordance with all appropriate procedures and may therefore need to be formalised.

Pressure washers causing costly damage to paths

The Conservation & Buildings team have highlighted a growing problem arising from the use of pressure washers to clean paths and paved areas.

They remove paving slabs’ hard, smooth outer layer, exposing the porous stone beneath and making it easier for algae and weeds to get a foothold– once pressure washing has started, it will be needed more and more often. Pressure washers also tend to blast mortar out from between the paving stones, which leads to cracking and can allow rainwater to flow into areas beneath-ground level such as basements and light wells, damaging building interiors. Pressure washing can even damage the bottom of nearby buildings, which are hit by a mixture of water and dirt rebounding at high speed off the ground.

According to Head of Conservation & Buildings, Emilia McDonald, repairing the damage being caused is already costing tens of thousands of pounds a year. Her advice to departments is to use a stiff brush and soapy water or, if necessary, specialised biocidal products or even professional steam cleaning.

Rolling space survey programme on the way

The Information Management team are setting up a rolling programme to carry out space surveys of every building in the estate at least once every three years, as opposed to every five years currently. These will check and refresh the team’s space information, but departmental colleagues are encouraged to tell the Information Management team about any changes to their space as they happen, whether these are structural alterations or simply changes in a room’s use. There is no need to wait for the annual space return or a periodic survey to report such changes – please email estates.info@admin.ox.ac.uk to do this. The team are also working with the Planon team with the aim of making the CAD drawings showing departmental space allocation more accessible to departmental users.

Delayed housing projects restarted

Two projects being run by the Residential Accommodation team have re-started after lengthy delays caused when their previous main contractor went into administration.

Building contractor Kingerlee has now re-started work on the Overford Farm project, in which dilapidated farm buildings are being turned into housing. The work is expected to finish in mid-late July. Meanwhile Beard has been appointed to finish the delayed refurbishment of graduate housing at Alan Bullock Close (pictured); the building firm recently started work and expects to finish in late September.

Building Security Plans and Emergency Action Plans

In response to the University Physical Security Policy, staff in University buildings continue to work hard to produce building Security Plans and Emergency Action Plans (EAPs). So far, 133 completed plans have been shared with Security Services and 78 more are in progress. In the coming months Security Services staff will contact those tasked with developing any outstanding plans to support their development. Please direct any queries to lesley.nesbitt@admin.ox.ac.uk.

After many years of falling crime rates across the City, the police now report increases – particularly in property crime (theft and burglary). More crime is also being reported across the collegiate estate. Introducing and maintaining a building Security Plan is important to protect the University’s assets and deter would-be offenders. Security Services are also working with building occupants to test their EAPs. So far staff who have taken part in these sessions have responded very positively. If you would like to participate, please contact richard.mason@admin.ox.ac.uk who can assess your needs and run the table-top exercises.

Sherrington Building refurbishment will improve comfort and energy-efficiency

The Conservation & Buildings team and contractors are carrying out a large-scale refurbishment project on the front of the Sherrington Building in the Science Area, replacing almost all of its original steel-framed windows so they meet modern energy-efficiency standards for the first time, as well as carrying out other repairs such as repointing brickwork high on the building to stop water getting in.

The external refurbishment will also greatly improve the building’s thermal efficiency. This will make it far more comfortable for its users, the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics.

The project will also make a big difference to the Sherrington Building’s appearance, particularly since the team are seizing the opportunity to clean its brickwork while the scaffolding is up. The windows should all be replaced by the end of June. A separate internal refurbishment project is also underway.

Parks team carry out landscaping across Oxford

University Parks gardeners have been working on landscaping at Exeter College’s new Cohen Quad site in the former Ruskin College building on Walton Street. They have filled six planters with shrubs and herbaceous plants and also beautified the building’s rooftop garden with climbers and ground cover. The team have also undertaken work within the college itself, renovating the borders in its Fellows’ Garden and installing an irrigation system that will provide the plants there with a more reliable water supply while also reducing wastage.

Team members have also been working on a variety of other projects, including:

* Spending around three weeks re-laying turf around recently-replaced metal lawn edging and re-shaping borders at the Botanic Garden.

* Upgrading the gardens at residential properties in Wytham ahead of the arrival of new tenants, on behalf of the Residential Accommodation team.

More buildings added to Access Guide

The Access Guide, maintained by the Conservation & Buildings team, is a valuable resource that gives disabled people all over the University detailed information about the accessibility of buildings across the estate. Recent additions include the St Cross Building, the Bodleian Law Library, the Medieval and Modern Languages department at 47 Wellington Square, the Ruskin School of Art’s facilities on Bullingdon Road and the High Street, and the recently-completed Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in Mansfield College. The team are now working on further entries, which will include the new Iffley Road Sports Centre and Somerville College. If you have any questions or would like to report a change in a building’s accessibility, please contact access.guide@admin.ox.ac.uk.

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