28 Mar 2013

The biggest estates issues facing universities this year

We asked university estates professionals at the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) conference earlier this week, what is the biggest issue facing them this year. Sorting through the pile of answers from a broad range of universities across the country, some common themes come to light. 

Perhaps to be expected in the current economic and higher education climate, the issue of budget and funding was top of the list for most directors. Directors are concerned about achieving their targets and aspirations with constrained budgets, and have to work harder to find further capital funding. Linked to this issue, is the requirement to comply with additional regulations even when capital is scarce. 

Instigating and managing the change to new ways of working using the estate was also at the forefront of estate directors’ minds. With the pressure to achieve greater utilisation levels across the estate, there is a clear focus to rationalise space within existing buildings and, significantly, shift to an open plan environment, with a move towards shared collaborative spaces, flexible breakout areas and hot desking.

Sustainability and energy efficiency continues to be a hot topic, as the estates professionals we spoke to seek to make lofty targets a reality. As measuring multiple facets of energy output becomes more accurate and widespread benchmarking more accessible, managing carbon emissions and energy efficiency is one of the main items on their agenda. In fact, general efficiency across the university estate, from maintenance to procurement was highlighted in our conversations, especially with a plethora of 1960s buildings requiring upgrades. 

It is also worth picking out a few other topics that the directors we spoke to underlined as being a priority for them this year. Future proofing the estate, particularly through the provision of ICT infrastructure, was highlighted, as was a shift towards outsourcing non-core services. High quality in both refurbishments and new buildings was seen as vital in maintaining good student experience survey results, both during major developments that can be disruptive, and in providing facilities and accommodation that both attract and retain students. 

See the word cloud above for a visual representation of our conversations. 

For a short video about the world-class NMR facilities at ADP-designed Millburn House at the University of Warwick, click here (Opens in new window. Clip starts at 3 minutes).