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New heating for Oriental InstituteHeating at Oriental Institute

Building Services mechanical engineers and contractors have started a project to replace the antiquated heating system in the Oriental Institute. Combined with improvements made by the Conservation & Buildings team in recent years, including a new insulated roof, this should make the building far more energy-efficient and comfortable. This will not only mean it is more pleasant to work in; it will also help the University achieve its emissions-reduction goals.

At present most of the building, built in 1962, is still heated by its original ceiling-mounted radiator panels. These provide little fine control over the temperature – the whole system can only be on or off. This is a particular problem because the building has large windows that mean the rooms on one side get very hot on sunny days while the other side of the building remains cold. The plan is to disconnect this system, and replace it with conventional radiators with thermostatic valves that will for the first time give users a way to control the temperature of particular rooms beyond simply opening windows if conditions become uncomfortably hot. Work started in October 2017 and is expected to be finished in late summer or early autumn 2018.

Plant room audit on the wayAudit Shutterstock

The Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) is preparing for a comprehensive audit of the University’s plant rooms – around 1,500 of them.

This will identify potential health and safety issues, such as difficulties accessing these University spaces safely, problems with electronic access control, fire hazards or the use of plant rooms as storage areas or to house other equipment that should not be there, such as uninterruptible power supplies (devices that let buildings switch temporarily to battery power if the mains supply fails) – a practice that can pose serious safety risks.

The audit should help drive up safety standards and policies across the University estate. The DLO will initially assess a small sample of plant rooms in order to determine the resources needed for an estate-wide audit, and which issues it should include.

SLO Conference in March

The annual conference for Security Liaison Officers (SLOs), organised by Security Services, will take place in late March. SLOs form a vital link enabling the flow of information between departments and Security Services; college Head Porters are also being invited to attend.  This is the fifth annual conference, providing an opportunity for SLOs, Security Services staff and Head Porters to network and share information about the changing security issues facing the University. Speakers will address themes from the University Strategic Security Threat Assessment, including crime, IT security, terrorism, and protest and occupation threats. Suppliers of products including CCTV systems, radios and alarms will also be in attendance. The conference will take place in the Medical Sciences Teaching Centre in the Science Area on Thursday 22 March, from 9am to 3.15pm. A buffet lunch will be provided. For more information, email richard.mason@admin.ox.ac.uk.

PSG training dates for 2018Save the date

Capital Projects team members have arranged Project Sponsor Group training for the following dates in 2018:

  • Wednesday 14 March

  • Wednesday 2 May

  • Thursday 5 July

  • Wednesday 12 September

  • Thursday 22 November

All sessions run from 10-11.30am and are held in The Malthouse, Tidmarsh Lane. Please contact Linda Ranford to reserve a place.

Local Plan update

Cherwell District Council has finished its public consultation exercise on its plans for new housing development north of Oxford, and is now reviewing the responses it received. The key issue under consideration is the release of green belt land to help meet Oxford’s need for new housing. In its current state the proposed plan includes the creation of 1,950 new homes and support facilities including a secondary school on land around Begbroke Science Park, and 1,080 more homes on land just north of Oxford, including 530 on the current North Oxford Golf Club site. There will now be a public inquiry in summer 2018 before plans are finalised.

Oxford City Council’s submission draft Local Plan is due for publication in summer 2018. The University has already provided significant input to this Local Plan and will continue to work with relevant stakeholders to help ensure it aligns with the University’s strategic interests. The University has also provided extensive feedback on Oxford 2050, the City Council’s long-term vision statement aimed at guiding development into mid-century. This document will be published in March 2018.

Tracking ash dieback from the skiesShutterstock image - Ash dieback

The Wytham Woods team are working with academics including Professor Paul Newman of the Department of Engineering Science – a leading expert on robotics and driverless cars – to monitor the spread of ash dieback through the Woods. Scientists are developing drones that can use multispectral imaging to spot infected ash trees; in October and November they carried out test flights to gather data on how much the drones could carry and which wavelengths of light would reveal the disease most clearly. After the results are analysed, the first research flights should take place in spring. Initially the flights will be manually piloted but the eventual hope is for the drones to fly autonomously. Professor Newman’s group are interested because navigating the three-dimensional space above the Woods poses new challenges compared to moving around in two dimensions on a road.

Development Framework Plan moving to next phase

Oxfordshire County Council is set to join the Development Framework Plan (DFP) as a key stakeholder, coming on board with the Plan’s originators the University, colleges and Oxford City Council to guide its future development.  The DFP aims to provide strategic direction to the development, planning and management of property assets in Oxford city over the coming decades, focusing on several sites that are expected to be the location for particularly significant development. These include the Headington hospital sites and Begbroke and Oxford Science Parks.

The intention is that the DFP will continue to evolve in response to the needs of stakeholders. It has been well received and is a useful piece of evidence to support the Oxford City Local Plan, and inviting the County Council to join as a key stakeholder is the logical next step in its evolution.

Bee hotels to go up around OxfordBee hotel Nigel at Wytham

Oxford’s solitary bees – members of species that spend most of their lives alone rather than living in a colony with many others of their kind – will be getting luxurious new accommodation under an initiative run by Estates Services staff as one of the first contributions to its recently-launched Biodiversity strategy, alongside plans to build a ‘swift hotel’ in the University Parks. Numerous ‘bee hotels’ – collections of bamboo tubes that provide ideal homes for the unsociable insects – are already in place around Wytham Woods, but the team are now working with Environmental Sustainability to find places for 60 more around Oxford. Solitary bees perform an important role in ecosystems, particularly for their work pollinating flowers, but many species are in long-term decline, in large part because they have fewer and fewer suitable places to live. The hotels will start going up in March or April; staff who would like to help out by installing one in their college, department or facility should contact sustainability@admin.ox.ac.uk

Wytham Legacy Fund prepares to launch

The Wytham Woods team are preparing to launch a fundraising campaign aimed at raising £75,000 to support education and public-engagement projects, as well as science in the Woods – in particular, it will help keep long-term studies going in limited form for a year or two if other sources of funding temporarily dry up; for instance, to keep basic monitoring going so that the value of the continuous long-term dataset is preserved. £20,000 has already been raised. If you would like to contribute, either as an individual or as an institution, please contact Nigel Fisher, Conservator of the Woods.

 Wytham Chalet refurbishment expected to start in autumn 2018

Plans to refurbish the genuine Alpine chalet in Wytham Woods – among the most visible legacies of the ffennel family’s ownership of the land before they bequeathed it to the University – are set to turn it into a research hub with lab space and accommodation for scientists. The project is now underway and making good progress. The design has been finalised and the University is awaiting feedback on its application for planning permission.

A survey is now being carried out to determine the exact whereabouts of the breeding colony of pipistrelle bats that lives nearby. It is likely that work will have to wait until around September 2018 to minimise disturbance to the protected creatures – this will be after their breeding season but before they are looking for places to hibernate.

Estates Services Induction session in April

The next Estates Services Induction will take place on the morning of Thursday 19 April. It will offer the opportunity to meet senior management and find out about the range of services the department provides. To find out more or reserve a place, contact estates.communications@admin.ox.ac.uk. 

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