UU gives up over a third of its building stock, sells University College property

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The UU is disposing of its international campus at the Kromhout terrain. Additionally, all UU departments will have to significantly reduce their square footage in the coming years, by an average of 35 percent. With these decisions, the university hopes to limit the constantly increasing costs of the university’s real estate. In return, 800 million euros of investments in improved buildings are planned.

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The drastic measures are part of a renewed strategic housing plan (link to intranet). Faculty employees will receive more news this week on what this will mean in the coming years – and it’s quite a lot.

The university says the buildings on the international campus at the Prins Hendriklaan are immensely outdated. The monumental status of the terrain, which was bought by the university more than twenty years ago, makes renovation and new construction next to impossible. The relatively great size of the property also means maintenance is very expensive. In the coming years, the university wants to try to find alternative housing for both UCU’s education and the dorm rooms of its 700 students – possibly in the Utrecht Science Park. The actual closing of the terrain will not happen before 2025.

Aside from University College, the study programme Economics and the programme Politics, Philosophy and Economy (PPE), which are also housed on the international campus, will also have to move eventually. It is as yet unclear what will happen to these two programmes and their staff. It’s uncertain whether all elements of the faculty of Humanities and the faculty of Law will be able to find a place in the city centre, or whether perhaps a small part will have to move to De Uithof.

Second life for Kruyt building
Another significant operation is planned for the faculty of Humanities and the city centre library. In the library buildings, books will have to make way for workplaces of the faculty of Humanities. Again, it’s as yet unknown who will have to move to the Drift. The department of Media and Culture Sciences (MCW), currently housed at the Muntstraat, is rumoured to be one of the possible candidates.

The plan also announces that the Kruyt building, like the Van Unnik building, will be given a second life. Tests have shown that redevelopment while in use is possible, without far-reaching disturbance for the research. That means the Science faculty will receive a cheaper, more flexible, and more sustainable home than the two new buildings that had originally been planned, according to the university board. Among others, employees from the Ornstein building will find a new home in the Kruyt building, but it’s said there will also be enough room to accommodate the expected increase of the number of employees of the faculty.

The UU announced earlier that the veterinary faculty will invest significantly in the demolition of building and new buildings. In the long term, the plan is for the faculty of Social Sciences and the Corporate Office to move as well. Both the Langeveld building and the Administration building in De Uithof do not comply with the new standards. The intent is to house their employees in the new centre of the Science Park as much as possible.

Reduction of floor space
One ambitious element in the new plan is the drastic reduction of the floor space the university has available for offices, laboratories and education. The floor space is set to be reduced by around 35 percent, from 300,000 square metres to around 230,000. That means buildings will have to be used more efficiently, and the number of buildings will be reduced as well. The university currently owns over 150 buildings.

The university especially wants to cut back on office space. Research has shown that the UU owns a relatively high number of workspaces, which are often not optimally used on top of that. For that reason, the UU has decided to set a standard of 0.9 workplaces per fulltime job. This will lead to different office concepts compared to what employees are currently used to, says Fiona van ‘t Hullenaar, director of Corporate Real Estate & Campus in the interview DUB had with her and university president Anton Pijpers. She acknowledges that the plans might lead to some resistance amongst employees, and that a shift in culture is necessary. “But we’re going to assist the faculties and departments in this.”

The university board says the measures are needed to prevent the housing costs from skyrocketing. At the moment, the housing costs of the university’s real estate stock already amount to around 15.5 percent of the university’s turnover. If no action is taken, then eventually, 20 percent of the turnover would be spent on housing costs, calculations show. The university board thinks this is unacceptable.

Two years ago, after all, the board had made an agreement with the university council that 15 percent should be the maximum. At the time, a maximum was established on the university’s investments as well. Given the issues with large, asbestos-filled Uithof buildings at the end of their lives, and the outdated building stock in the city centre, around 900 million euros of desired investments were planned. That was too expensive, the University Council and the Executive Board declared at the time. Up until 2027, the investments should not exceed 720 million euros. The Court of Auditors, after several scandals with real estate costs at other educational institutions, had also called for restraint.

More sustainable and healthier
The new plans include a total investment of 827 million euros until 2027, and over a billion euros until 2032. In time, those expenses will ensure the 15 percent rule will not be exceeded. On top of that, the new strategy is meant to lead to a future in which the university’s buildings connect to important standards for education and research more, such as interdisciplinary collaboration, digitalisation, and community. The intent is to have university buildings made nicer and healthier to work in, and a lot more sustainable: a 65 percent CO2 emission reduction is planned.

Given the rising costs of construction, the University council agreed with this argumentation for the increased investments. President Anton Pijpers says the size of this task is unprecedented for the UU, and the biggest of all Dutch universities. “But it’s not a prestige project. We’re doing this for education and research.”

 

New corporate housing plan: 'Some mourning, but we'll have something beautiful in its place'

On Monday, around noon, students and employees received word that their University College will have to move within five to ten years. The university is selling its resplendent campus property at the Prins Hendrikstraat. The English-taught programmes Economics and Politics, Philosophy and Economics that are currently housed on the International Campus will also have to find a new home elsewhere.

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