Campus Real Estate Management

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Bart Valks
Bart Valks
Bart Valks is both a TU Delft campus manager as well as a PhD researcher at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. For his master thesis he designed a decision-making model for the TU Delft in order to provide the organization with a solution for renewing their portfolio of lecture halls. In his PhD on ‘Smart campus tools’ he researches how universities can make more effective and efficient use of their real estate and how technology can support them to achieve this.

Source: TU Delft

TU Delft Real Estate Managment

Every student knows about most of the faculty buildings on campus. But how is all of this real estate managed, and who is responsible for doing so? How does the university deal with trends and developments on campus? We interviewed Bart Valks of TU Delft to answer questions about his job & the current and future developments on campus.

  1. Can you give us an insight on a day of a TU Delft Real Estate manager?

“Well, my day is not that of a typical real estate manager – I work for three days in the week as a PhD researcher and two days in the week as a policy officer! Ideally, I start with focused work around 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM – this is mostly research. After a short lunch, the afternoon is filled with meetings, answering e-mails, working together with colleagues.

Within the project cycle, my team focuses on the connection between management and initiative: we analyse the current portfolio and determine which interventions are necessary. The team consists of asset managers, portfolio managers and policy officers.  The asset managers have faculties, services and other tenants as ‘customers’ with whom they discuss their accommodation needs. Policy officers develop and monitor policies for themes that are very complex, or for which consistency in the development is desired. At the moment education spaces, sustainability and mobility are the largest themes. Portfolio management is responsible for the campus strategy, where everything comes together. At the moment I’m working on the education spaces theme and on portfolio management.”

  1. How would you describe the current real estate strategy of the TU Delft?

“In the first 5 to 7 years of our strategy the main intervention is to move the Applied Physics faculty and QuTech to the south of the campus. Especially the growth of the faculty’s research and that of QuTech have led to an enormous increase in the energy demand. We expect that we can only supply in their needs for a few more years in the current accommodation. After that, a move is necessary.

Another very important requirement of our strategy is that we realise space for the growth of the university. We are realising new education spaces in Echo, but also working on the accessibility of the university through our mobility program.”

For more information on the Echo building see:

  1. What are your most important, key performance indicators?

“The primary KPIs we use to steer on the campus strategy are the amount of m2 per user and the amount of € per user: these KPIs indicate the quantity and quality of the campus. In addition, CO2 emissions are an important performance indicator. For specific themes we have more specific indicators.”

  1. How does the real estate strategy correspond to each faculty-specific strategy?

“The challenge is of course to align the faculty strategies to the campus strategy. We do that through a strategic process. What makes this alignment so challenging is that faculties think in horizons of 1-5 years, and real estate thinks in horizons of 10-50 years. That is why we work in a process where the campus strategy is updated each year through talks with all the faculties.

  1. What are the risks attached to development within the university sector? Regarding for example the pig-cycle of the construction industry.

“I think that the influence of the market cycle is not that high on universities. Universities have a fairly stable revenue, and very large real estate portfolios in which they invest gradually over a long period of time. In times of economic expansion you’re likely to pay more for a construction project, but during a recession you’ll pay less. If the investment level is constant, the effects cancel each other out.

I think the dynamics of the university itself are the biggest risk to development – although it’s also one of the great things of the university. Developments such as a sudden increase in students or the awarding of a large research grant can frustrate existing plans, because there is a sudden urgency. Most likely, the organisation you designed the brief for looks differently than you thought when the building is actually realised.”

  1. On which time frame is the decision making in the TU Delft real estate department based?

“There are different timeframes involved in our decision-making. Each timeframe is related to a degree of certainty. In our campus strategy we position our interventions in three timeframes in the next ten years. The projects that are positioned in the first timeframe (0-5 years) are relatively certain and are elaborated much more in the strategy than the projects in the third timeframe (8-10 years), which are only indicative. In order to decide which projects fit where in the strategy, we look at our whole portfolio within a timeframe of 30 years.”

  1. Is the TU Delft looking to increase the density of the current campus?

“Yes, we are. An example of this can be seen behind the Civil Engineering faculty. Here, we have realised P-Sports, a parking building which will enable us to build Echo and remove a number of parking spaces behind the faculty building. Increasing the density does pose a challenge – if we increase the amount of users on campus, we must also improve its accessibility.”

  1. Do you think the TU Campus could improve if more urban functions are integrated?

“Yes – I think the ‘Living Campus’ adds value to our campus. The concept of the ‘Living Campus’ is that the campus needs more than just good classrooms, laboratories and offices to be an attractive campus. That is why we have invested in our food facilities, and why there is student housing and a child day care on campus.”

  1. How does the TU Delft facilitate spaces for students to meet each other?

“Probably the foremost way we do this is through food and coffee! When we made a strategy for our food facilities, the locations of the food courts and coffee corners were carefully chosen with the idea of making them places to meet. The food court in Pulse and Coffee and Bikes are great examples of this. Also, you can probably think of spaces in your own faculty that already function as such a meeting space. Here, it is more about making small improvements to the furnishing.”

  1. What are the current trends for campuses around the globe that are relevant for the TU Delft?

“For many universities, keeping track of the trends in learning spaces and learning behaviours are always important. Years ago we thought online education would replace our on campus education. Now, the trend is much reversed as we see students come to the campus more than ever to study with their fellow students. Another trend that is relevant for universities is the increasing dynamics in student and employee numbers, and how to deal with this.”

  1. Do you believe education in the future will need as much physical space as it does today?

“Yes, maybe even more. The TU Delft believes in learning by doing, which results in a lot of project education and working groups on campus. Online education seems to be more like an addition, instead of a replacement education system. A possible change could be a more specific set of courses for each student to choose from.”

  1. Is there going to be a shift towards flexible spaces as a consequence of the increasing demand for office places?

“It is important to be precise with the meaning of the word ‘flexible’. In Delft, we will need to accommodate more people in the existing office space. ‘Flexible’ workspaces are a solution to this, but they come in many different shapes and sizes. Many people think of open office plans, but you can also make an office with silent rooms flexible. For many academics, a silent place to work is an absolute must – then we must design solutions that make this possible.

  1. Do you notice an increasing cooperation between the TU Delft and other universities And how do you deal with that?

 “If there is any cooperation it is focused on educational or research departments. Cooperation on the educational side of things leans towards programs which are located in two different cities. This is mainly a challenge of scheduling efficiently, which basically means facilitating spaces to deal with the expected number of new students. If this kind of cooperation would be established, distribution of students is based on the education programs of the actors.

For research it is basically the same, cooperation on projects is done together with other universities. However, each actor uses its own specific location for the research. One example of a result of cooperation between certain faculties is Holland PTC in Delft. This is a ‘proton-factory’ which obviously is based at one location. However, this kind of projects is predominantly decided on by the executive board. Only after that the real estate department has its say.”