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Lights, Camera, Action! Radcliffe Camera on Night of Heritage Light - copyright NOHL, SLL & Dan Patton

The Estates Services electrical engineering team organised a pre-Christmas event in the Divinity School to mark the last activation of the Radcliffe Camera’s temporary new lighting scheme, installed for the Night of Heritage Light in September.

This saw some of Oxford’s finest buildings receive a new lighting scheme designed free of charge by members of the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL). The recent event aimed to stimulate discussions about whether the Camera should be lit up for part of the night on a permanent basis; in the meantime the temporary lighting scheme has now been removed.

Vulnerable buildings protection revamped

Security Services staff have completed a review of security arrangements for all the unoccupied buildings in the University estate. They have drawn up a plan for intensive patrols around these properties for 24 hours, which can be quickly activated if Security Services receives intelligence that an occupation is likely; this plan was tested several times in December. Security Services also reviewed how Estates Services staff responded to the occupation of Osney Power Station in January 2017, making recommendations such as a full audit of keys for empty properties – these have since been put into practice. 

New helpdesk helps Bodleian stay on top of maintenance

The Estates Services Systems Administration team have provided the Bodleian with helpdesk software to allow it to track progress on maintenance requests.

The new system, which went live at the end of November, is a smaller-scale implementation of the Planon database that the University uses to hold information on everything from maintenance jobs to catering orders and bus pass requests across the estate. It helps Bodleian maintenance staff manage their workloads and ensure jobs are done in a timely fashion; it also enables the staff who reported problems to monitor progress on fixing them. ‘The system gives us a lot more control,’ says Scott Foulon, Facilities Manager at the Bodleian Libraries. ‘It helps us stay on top of things and make sure that jobs aren’t neglected.’

Until recently the Bodleian was using an email-based system for maintenance requests that had been implemented in a hurry when earlier custom-made software reached the end of its usable life. The email-based system did not allow jobs to be tracked consistently, so there was a risk of requests being lost in the inbox. At present the system only handles reactive maintenance requests at the central Bodleian sites, but the library’s facilities management team are now working with Systems Administration to incorporate planned preventative maintenance as well to help them understand and plan for the full range of jobs that need doing.

Duke Humfrey’s Library successfully re-litDuke Humfrey's Library re-lit

The new lighting system in Duke Humfrey’s Library is now in place and working. The LED-based scheme brings many benefits – it uses far less electricity than the previous mix of halogen and fluorescent lamps, and it makes the library an even more beautiful place, with better illumination for its rare books and stunning painted ceiling.

Estates Services electrical engineers and external contractors took care to minimise disruption to the library’s users, cordoning off one small area at a time. They worked closely with Bodleian staff and other stakeholders including Historic England and the City Council to ensure the results met exacting standards of conservation.

The electrical engineering team are also working on a major project to re-light the Manor Road Building, which holds several departments within the Social Sciences Division as well as the Social Sciences Library. The project involves replacing fluorescent bulbs with LEDs in around 2,500 light fittings, and is not expected to finish until 2019 at the earliest.

Tim Cook opens new innovation centre

In October Apple CEO Tim Cook opened The Foundry, the Saïd Business School’s new entrepreneurship centre. Members of the Asset & Space Management team helped make the new centre a reality, playing an important role in negotiations between Saïd Business School (SBS), the University and Nuffield College, which owns the property, on the terms of the five-year lease under which SBS occupies it.

The Foundry aims to encourage entrepreneurship and the commercialisation of the University’s research by bringing together students from many disciplines, from engineering and medicine to history and philosophy, and encouraging them to share ideas and create innovative ways to tackle social and business problems. Housed in a renovated Victorian ice factory on Hythe Bridge Street, the centre features an incubator space for accelerating new ventures, flexible collaborative working space, presentation areas and a cafe.

New bone collection room at Tubney

Conservation and Buildings staff have almost finished turning a little-used double garage on the grounds of Tubney House outside Oxford – home of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) – into a dedicated facility for studying animal bones. Dr Caroline Pond, a retired senior scientist in the Zoology Department and the Open University, and former undergraduate tutor of David Macdonald, WildCRU’s founder and Director, has donated her collection of animal bones to WildCRU. She also provided funding to create facilities to house them and to create a quiet work space for the so-called WildCRU Panthers – residential diploma students, often from the poorest countries in the world. The converted garage will feature display cases for the bones, as well as tables and other study facilities. The brick floor of the Grade II listed garage was overlaid with an insulated suspended wooden floor on pedestals, thereby conserving it for the future. An inner layer of insulated timber stud construction separates the room’s new walls and ceiling from the garage’s solid-walled construction with a ventilated airspace, enabling it to meet building regulations on energy conservation.

Keble Gates to move a short distanceKeble Gates to move

Laing O’Rourke have started work on moving the Keble Gates from their current location leading into the University Parks from Parks Road to a new location a short distance away, leading from the Parks into the landscaped area outside the Beecroft Building.

The current gateway will eventually be replaced with new fencing and borders, but in the meantime a temporary entrance will be installed there to allow continued access to the Parks until the new gateway is finished and the Beecroft hoardings removed.

Mind Foundry moves into Ewert House

Mind Foundry, a University spin-out company, has leased space in Ewert House in Summertown to support its continued growth, moving in in December. The highly successful company seeks to commercialise the expertise of University researchers in machine learning by creating software that can help organisations solve problems by unlocking insights hidden deep in the data they hold.

Improving the University landscape

ROQ Link Rd Before-and-After

The University Parks team have been working on numerous landscaping projects around Oxford aimed at improving the University’s outdoor spaces for the enjoyment of staff, students and the general public.

They have been spreading and contouring a large quantity of soil taken from the Mansfield Road sports field site on part of the central area of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ). The soil was displaced during the installation of modular buildings at Mansfield Road. Eventually it may be moved elsewhere, perhaps back to its original location, but in the meantime spreading, levelling and seeding it at the ROQ will improve the appearance of this part of the large empty central area there (near the neighbouring Somerville College accommodation) and make it easier to maintain, enabling the team to mow regularly so that the soil becomes part of an attractive lawn.

Parks gardeners have also been beautifying the Old Road Campus (ORC), landscaping the road behind the Big Data Institute and Kennedy Building. The ORC Link Road now features 11 custom-made steel planters with a powder-coated finish. Seven of them will hold trees with uplighters, while the others will be planted with shrubs and herbaceous plants. The gardeners also planted a hedge of Purple Leaf Sand Cherry running alongside the ramp leading to the cycle store at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genomics.

Finally, Parks staff have also been involved with renovating Oriel College’s middle quadrangle. They have removed all the existing plants except for trees, refurbished tiles and border edging, dug over and heavily composted the borders, designed and installed a new planting scheme and added more stainless steel wires for plants to climb up.

New O&M philosophy document published

Estates Services has published a new document setting out the requirements for the information that must be provided when projects are carried out. This information will enable both Estates Services and departmental occupants to operate, repair and maintain buildings throughout their lifetimes and eventually decommission them safely and efficiently.

The document forms a detailed guide to the information that must be provided when projects are handed over; it aims to ensure Estates Services and building occupants have all the information they need in convenient format, to help reduce dependence on printed manuals and to ensure that building information in electronic formats is comprehensive and accurate. It also aims to ensure that ongoing management of building records is carried out to a high standard. It should ultimately ensure Estates Services captures more of the necessary information about new buildings in order to maintain them effectively over their lifetimes. The new document is available online.

Queen Elizabeth House cleaned

Queen Elizabeth House Before and after

Queen Elizabeth House on Mansfield Road, home to the Department of International Development, has benefited from extensive external work by the Estates Services Conservation & Buildings team. The original stone building, now Grade II listed, was constructed in 1898. Its façade has been cleaned of soot, transforming its appearance from the street, and in the course of the works several other defects were discovered and put right, including structural cracks to the chimney, rotten roof timbers and stonework that had been eroded so badly it needed to be replaced. These repairs were added to the project without compromising the team’s commitment to finish work before the start of Michaelmas term.

New windows for Tubney cottage

The DLO joiners have replaced the windows of a cottage on the grounds of Tubney House, the home of the Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Two rooms have had rotten sash windows replaced entirely, while six dormer windows have also been renovated. The building is listed, so the new windows had to match the old ones exactly. All were made of Accoya wood, which should last 50 years before needing replacement; the joiners also took the opportunity to test a new paint that is specially designed to be applied to Accoya. This needs only two coats of the same paint rather than the successive coats of primer, undercoat and gloss topcoat needed for more conventional painting systems. If it performs well over time, this paint could be used much more widely, saving the University time and money.

New partitions for Clarendon BuildingDLO Joiners - Clarendon Building partitions

The DLO joiners have built and installed several wooden, glazed partitions to divide up a large room on the top floor of the Clarendon Building into three smaller offices. The partitions are large pieces of furniture, made of strong but light tulipwood and faced with oak. The joiners refurbished the Clarendon Building some years ago and made similar partitions for various other rooms in the building. The glazed elements have been treated with translucent film that provides the illusion that the glass has been engraved.

Overford Farm and Alan Bullock Close projects on hold

Work has stopped for the time being on two projects being run by the Residential Accommodation team, aimed at refurbishing graduate accommodation at Alan Bullock Close and turning disused farm outbuildings at Overford Farm in Wytham into housing units. This is due to building contractor Knowles & Son entering administration in late 2017. The work at Alan Bullock Close had just come to the end of Phase 3, so the enforced halt coincided with a natural break in the programme. The team is using the delay to re-evaluate both sets of plans to ensure that they deliver value for money and appropriate specifications. Both projects will re-start with new contractors in due course.

Planning fees rise

Recent changes to planning regulations mean the fees that must be paid to local authorities on applying for planning permission have risen by around 20%. Central government agreed to the increase because all local authorities committed to ensure that the additional money would be re-invested within their planning departments.

Anyone who is involved with applications for planning permission should take these changes into account. The increases do not apply to applications for planning permission submitted before 17 January, the date on which the new regulations came into force. If you need more information about the changes, or want to discuss their implications, please contact Rebecca Horley, the Estates Services Town Planner, at

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