Working life after MBE: Dennis Tran

Dennis Tran | Gemeente Rotterdam

My name is Dennis Tran, currently I am working at the Municipality of Rotterdam as project secretary. Last January (2021) I graduated from Management in the Built Environment in the subject of CLT – Community Land Trust (collaborative housing). The project was individual, which made it challenging but even more rewarding.

I have been active in the board of BOSS in the position of RECD in the year 2019-2020. Unfortunately the RECD had to be cancelled due to Covid, but the year was still fun and worth it. I learned a lot while preparing for the RECD which I still use to this day. Often these skills go unnoticed while you learn them, as they are not really measurable – however you will notice that you gained experience later in life.

After MBE
Before my P5 I already started my job hunt, to make sure there was something when I was finished. Covid was challenging when graduating (more than it is while working, as I can visit a lot of clients now). My laptop was metaphorically speaking staring at me from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep. However, it all worked out in the end.

MBE prepares you really well for the working life. The knowledge you acquire is readily applicable when you start working in the field. Next to this, the active participation in BOSS (committee, board) really helped with this. The soft and hard skills I developed during this time were recognized and appreciated. With the confidence I gained from this, and my graduation project I applied for a job at the municipality.

I just started in the position of project secretary – working directly under the project manager. However I have a lot of my own projects, and the project manager acts more as a coach. The work environment is great, diverse projects and a lot of trust which really helps get started. Currently I have six projects I am working on, differing in size and where they are in the development phase and their characteristics.

The work I do is for the PMB, the project management bureau – you can see them as the developers of the city. There is a common misconception that the municipality can be a bit stuffy or old, but this is not at all the case. The projects are challenging and the work is demanding and rewarding at a high pace. As we have to follow the same regulations as ‘regular’ developers, the bureau acts as a common developer but for the city of Rotterdam.

My favourite current project is the Floating office Rotterdam, I am in charge of the interior – from walls to curtains. It is nice that the project is so diverse and big. This challenges me to learn from every step.

Right now I really enjoy my place at the municipality of Rotterdam. However, I have a dream to get my hands on the whole of the supply chain in the built environment – with as the ultimate goal a holding of my own. You have to dream big, otherwise you can just as easily not dream.

Remember that students are the product of the university, this means that you do not have to stress about your work. When you can honestly say you have learned your course objectives, you should not have to stress about the deadlines. The quality of your work does not always represent what you actually learned.

Besides this, you will probably never do something as academic and research as you do during your graduation. This is challenging, but can be a good reminder to push through.

Women in the real estate and construction industry: Changing the glass ceiling to open doors

Changing the glass ceiling to open doors

An exploration of the glass ceiling and glass cliff in collaboration with DWIRE .

The glass ceiling, and the lesser-known glass cliff, let you to believe that it is almost impossible for women to succeed at the top of the business. Working hard to move up the ladder, only to find out that the absolute top is being held from you by some outdated phenomenon. This cannot be true. What is it that women encounter that sets them back? In this article, we research the topics mentioned above using literature and a survey conducted with Management in the Built Environment (MBE) students and recent graduates. These findings were discussed in a conversation with the organisation of Dutch Women In Real Estate (DWIRE). 

DWIRE was founded in 2007 and has around 200 active female members, working in the real estate business. Within the organisation, the main focus is sharing knowledge, strengthening the network and creating more visibility for female real estate professionals.

In the conversation for this article, DWIRE was represented by Annieke Smith and Claudia Heimensen. 

Annieke graduated in 2012 from the master Real Estate & Housing at TU Delft. Currently, she works as a development manager at Herkon B.V. and focuses on the development of future proof utility- and housing projects. Annieke has more than 8 years experience in the construction and real estate sector, and previously worked for J.P. van Eesteren | TBI. Furthermore, she is the secretary of the board of DWIRE.

Claudia graduated from her master of Architecture at TU Delft in 2009 and is currently working at real estate developer Provast. Her focus is the (re)development of high quality inner city projects. Claudia has over 10 years of experience in real estate, and formerly worked for Dura Vermeer, JLL and Konder Wessel Vastgoed. Lastly, she is a member of the current DWIRE board.

National statistics

It is generally known that studies and professions that are technically orientated are mostly male-dominated. This distinction is already visible during the study. Looking only at architecture and construction, 28% are women and 72% are men (CBS, 2019). Here at the faculty of Architecture at TU Delft, the division is 48% women (Bachelors, n.d.) From this number, even fewer women end up working in the industries mentioned before. Only around one-fifth of women in 2019 with this kind of education was working in the corresponding industry – of men this was over 50% (CBS, 2020). 

These numbers make that the total number of women working in the building industry is not even close to the number of men. In the higher functions, the percentage of women is even lower. Next to women being less represented in the industry, this might also be due to the glass ceiling. This is a widely-known phenomenon, also in the building industry. This term is defined by Oxford Languages as ‘’an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities’’.

Survey results

Before the conversation with DWIRE, the survey results showed that within a total of 54 responses (31 female, 23 male), 78% of the respondents are still students. Of the respondents 78% is familiar with the term the glass ceiling; the glass cliff is less known, only 32% know this phenomenon.

After the master track MBE, alumni mostly end up working in the building and real estate development sectors, project management, consultancy, in the (not-for-profit) housing sector, and in the urban development sector (TU Delft, n.d.). This will be the main industry covered in this article, in the Netherlands.

It is affecting minorities and women around the globe and through different industries in their professional careers. In a world like the building industry, the glass ceiling can be particularly frustrating when working your way up the career ladder. This frustration, and possible fear of not succeeding, is something that is already on the minds of students. From the survey it becomes clear that 74% of women expect to encounter the glass ceiling, while 21% of male respondents expect  to encounter it. Put simply, the majority of women expect the glass ceiling. A reason for this given is that the real estate world is still really a man’s world, and this is difficult to change. Moreover, there is the matter of combining a career with being a mother. Is it possible to continue a career as a mother at the same pace of your peers? However, a different opinion is also present. Here is no concern for the glass ceiling, as being self-confident and driven will help to eliminate the threat. This compliments the thoughts that the ‘man’s world’ will have changed by the time of graduation of current students.  


The conversation with Annieke Smith and Claudia Heimensen from DWIRE opens with this concept of a ‘man’s world’. A dad picking up his kid from school is perceived as a changing society – but a mum working full time and providing for her family makes her a bad mom. How come we are still stuck with these prejudices? This really specific perception of good versus bad needs to be broken, the traditional patriarchal role models are not something to hold on to.

Both women from DWIRE were once at the beginning of their career mistaken for the lady serving coffee during a meeting and had to prove themselves worthy afterwards. They explain that the mistake does not mean that the men in the meeting do not respect you – you just have to prove yourself harder because you are of a different gender. Women have to put an extra step in, cannot permit themselves to be shy, and they have to be active in conversation and tell people why they are present in this meeting. Let us not forget that a young man has to prove himself in the industry as well, and they need to work just as hard. However, the positive side for him is that the patriarchal rules are in his favour, and so he will not be asked to serve coffee and to explain his role at the table. 

The fact that the majority of women in the survey expressed concern for the glass ceiling raises concern, as agrees DWIRE. Why be afraid of something you do not know yet, why not fight for your place? Because you should not have to, but here we are. DWIRE’s advice would be to not be scared to fail. Just try, and do not blame the glass ceiling the instant you fail. Your learning curve is defined by failure, not you, and new opportunities present themselves afterwards. If you are unsure of yourself, remember that bringing yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes is needed to achieve your goalsThis might be a different approach than is in your nature or character. So will you fail when you prefer to work differently than this? No. You can work in your own way and deliver work of quality in many, many ways. A big attitude is not necessary, your work is. If a certain attitude was the only way to success, this would eliminate the majority of people, and all kinds are needed. 

Adding on to the glass ceiling, there is such a thing as the glass cliff. Again, Oxford Languages states that this term is used ‘’with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high.’’ As a study done by Harvard Business Review revealed, if the business is doing well, current leadership (statistically often still men), can stay on. If not, and change is needed, women are most often seen as the most opposite to current leadership and therefore deemed a good intervention and new approach to the problem (Vox, 2018; Harvard Business Review, 2014). This fact, however, sets these women up for failure in a more subtle way, as they come in to mitigate a problem that might be undoable.

How well known is this term within MBE? 51% of women expect to experience a glass cliff situation, while no male expects to encounter the glass cliff. There is awareness of the existing biases with regards to  minorities, but also a belief that anyone who is willing to work hard is welcomed into the business. It is also expressed that as you keep pushing doors open and deliver good work, the glass ceiling or cliff is a political term. 

The term glass cliff is a new given for Claudia and Annieke, and they have not seen this in practice yet. A phenomenon that they have seen is the so-called krabbenmand effect – loosely translated as the crab’s basket effect – where women get intimidated by other women and try to undermine each other. Both DWIRE women have experienced these feelings towards other women and have had women project similar feelings onto them. They wonder why – why let each other down when women should be supporting and helping each other, especially when more women are needed in the business.

This brings up the quota for a certain number of women to be hired in a firm. DWIRE explains that a quota is not always the best option – some decisions may become forced when a certain number of women is required to attain. You should not want to hire women just because of gender, you want to hire them because of their skillset. A quota will of course help to get more women in the top of business, but might also be a reason for some women to not apply for the job – as they want to be chosen because of experience and not their gender. People should make these decisions based on intrinsic motivation. 

The current developments of sustainability, climate goals, and social perspective in a long term vision are in favor of women. Often women are associated with, and have more specific knowledge about, these topics. While men on the other hand are more associated with short term performance and efficiency. The needs are changing to the long term perspective, creating an environment in which women will appear more often in strategic positions that cater to the long term need.


To conclude this paper, wouldn’t the world be a bit better if we would work from our motivation, intrinsic good ideas and let each other work in a respectful way? We are not there yet, as becomes clear from the sources in this article, but steps are being taken and the business is indeed changing. Until there is equal understanding and equal possibilities, women will work even harder for them. Lastly, some advice from the women at DWIRE: do not be afraid of the industry! Explore, find your strength and go for it. When exploring and growing, make sure to find a mentor. This can be anybody (check your LinkedIn already!), and can help and advise you along the way. Your network is everything, do not underestimate its importance to help you grow. 

If you ever want to talk about experiences or are in search of a mentor to boost your career, do not hesitate to contact DWIRE. Become a member after your graduation and extend your network in the real estate market.



Bachelors. (n.d.) Bouwkunde Technische Universiteit Delft. 

CBS. (2020). Emancipatormotor 2020.

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek. (2019). In een derde van beroepen op hoogste niveau is meerderheid vrouw.

How Women End Up on the “Glass Cliff”. (2014, 1 augustus). Harvard Business Review.

Stewart, E. (2018, 31 oktober). The glass cliff and why struggling companies promote women, explained. Vox.

TU Delft. (n.d.). Career prospects.

Working life after MBE: Cas Bonnema

Cas Bonnema | EDGE

Cas Bonnema graduated at the chair Design & Construction Management. During his time at MBE he was an active BOSS member, and was chairman of the RECD. While graduating he interned at EDGE, where he is still working today! Right now, Cas is part of the board of the BOSS Alumni and is busy with the delivery a big project of EDGE, the Valley.  

Hi! Please introduce yourself. 

My name is Cas Bonnema and I graduated at Design & Construction Management master-track. Since two years I am working at EDGE.

What is your experience with BOSS?

I entered the new board of BOSS a week after I decided to follow the MBE track, so for me it was a great way to get to know a lot of people and get insights in the master track at an early stage. As the ‘chairman’ of the RECD I had to assemble a good team and improve the organization of the great event. At the edition of the year after, conversations with EDGE started during the one-on-one meetings – so that also illustrates the possible long term benefits of BOSS activities.

Currently, I’m part of the board of BOSS Alumni. We organize project visits and drinks throughout the year and an annual study trip abroad. Graduates can join BOSS Alumni for free in the first year. A good way to meet and share experiences.

How do you feel about the prepartion of MBE for the real ‘working life’?

The master-track MBE provides a good overview of all the disciplines and facets within real estate. During the master I found out that property development was what I wanted to practice. I conducted my graduation research while doing an internship at EDGE, primarily assisting on a project named Valley. After graduating I was fortunate to start working at EDGE and at the same project, so in that sense it wasn’t a major transition.

You are working at EDGE, what kind of company is EDGE?

EDGE (former OVG Real Estate) is one of the larger commercial real estate developers in NL with a broad portfolio of (future) projects across The Netherlands, Germany (Berlin, Hamburg), the US (New York, Boston) and London. EDGE is known for developing highly sustainable, healthy and smart office buildings – with a shift towards more mixed-use projects including dwellings, retail and cultural amenities. In addition to delivering outstanding projects we’re aiming to guard these qualities during the usage phase by operating our future EDGE buildings, and offer smart data-based services for tenants and landlords. Therefore, the companies EDGE Workspaces and EDGE Next were recently launched.

Do you have a favorite project you worked on?

Working at EDGE on an exceptional project as Valley, also in my hometown, is something I really cherish. I work together with great colleagues and interact with several key stakeholders in the industry. Due to the size and complexity of the project and the diversity of work I keep on learning a lot.

Within EDGE, are there any specific sustainability ambitions?

We have a dedicated division for innovations within the company, besides the beforementioned smart-related developments within EDGE Next. In every new project we challenge the status quo of sustainable/circular and healthy buildings and implement better and new interventions.    

Do you have certain goals for the future?

The delivery of Valley this year! After, I definitely want to keep growing as a developer by working on different projects within EDGE. In the future I might aim for a more entrepreneurial role as well.

What advice would you give your younger self, related to your graduation?

Choose a slightly easier topic! Yet that was my main motivation.

Lastly, if students are interested in working at EDGE, are you hiring?

Every year one or two graduate interns are being hired. EDGE is therefore always looking for students with interesting graduation topics who eventually would like to start working on our projects.

We are looking for a new board!

New board

BOSS is looking for a new board to lead our association! Do you want to organize events for your fellow students in the field of real estate? And are you looking develop your professional skills and build your network? You can now apply for a position in the 29th board! Below, you’ll find more information on each role. If you need more information, do not hesitate and contact one of the current board members, we’re happy to answer all your questions! Interested? Fill in this form:

Chair: As the chairperson of BOSS you act as a true ‘spider in the web’. You keep the overview of our association and make sure that all board members have the resources and support they need to get the most out of their roles. You are able to focus on the main lines and do not get lost in the details. You like to ask critical questions. Are we on track to reach our targets or do we have to adjust our course? Is BOSS still carrying out its mission and vision as it is supposed to? The chairperson also understands that the association is part of a larger system and therefore invests in and maintains contact with external parties, such as senior partners, the MBE department, and other study associations. Are you able to keep your cool during challenging times and lead the association toward its objective? Then you are the one we need to fill in this role!

  • Goal oriented
  • Overview
  • Reliable
  • Representative

Secretary: As the BOSS Secretary you’re the main contact for all BOSS members, as well as the right hand of the chair. Together with the chairman and treasurer you are leading the association on a daily basis to provide a stable basis for the other board members. In addition to this, you’ll be in contact with a lot of external parties, ranging from TU Delft’s dream teams to student initiatives from inside BK. Furthermore, you are in charge of almost all communication, including the newsletter, and you will be the chair(wo)man of the publications committee. Are you assertive, well structured, and like to be involved in all assets of the association? Then the secretary role might be the one for you!

  • Assertive
  • Representative
  • Structured
  • Team player

Treasurer: As the BOSS treasurer you are the financial backbone of the association, and you are mainly focussed on setting up (financial) contracts with partners and companies for the events that BOSS organizes. At the start of the academic year, you will set up the main financial plan for the year to come. You think about a realistic perspective on how the BOSS study association can maximize their income and use this income for all the different events throughout the year. You have contact with external parties, mostly companies and partners of BOSS, and you have a crucial role in the financial health of the association. Within the board, you predominantly have contact with the chairman, the secretary, and company relations. Furthermore, you’ll work with the treasurers of each committee.

  • Structured
  • Financial interest
  • Reliable
  • Realistic
  • Transparent

Education: As board member and the BOSS Education chair(wo)man, you are responsible for maintaining the quality of education and the experiences of students of the MBE master track. Together with your committee, you will ensure this goal by acting as a link between the MBE students, the MBE department and practice. Lunch lectures, theme days and other activities will be organised to achieve this goal. In addition, you are in charge of the promotion of BOSS and the MBE track among bachelor students together with the MBE department. Do you want to let your creativity run wild to maintain the quality of education and promote BOSS among bachelors? Then the education role might be something for you!

  • Communicative
  • Professional
  • Controlling
  • Creative

Real Estate Career Day: As board member and the BOSS Real Estate Career Day (wo)man you’re responsible for the biggest national real estate career event by and for students. Together with your committee, you are in charge of the organisation of the whole event, and you’ll make important choices in the preparation of the event to create a unique Real Estate Career Day. You make a plan for the months of preparation and keep an overview of all committee members to make sure all deadlines are met. In order to have smooth preparation you maintain good contact with both the faculty, the companies and the students.

  • Leader
  • Professional
  • Representative
  • Structured
  • Communicative

Company Relations: As board member and the BOSS Company Relations chair(wo)man you are responsible for the contact with companies. Together with your committee, you contact new companies and stay in good contact with existing partners. In addition to this, acquiring companies for the Real Estate Career Day falls to your responsibility. Next to this, formal and informal events will be organized by you and your committee for BOSS and her students. Drinking beer after serious events is also important to broaden your professional network. Are you a potential business (wo)man and are a representative contact for BOSS as a study association? Then Company Relations is perfect for you!

  • Representative
  • Communicative
  • Assertive

Activities: As board member and the BOSS Activities chair(wo)man you’re responsible for all kinds of different activities that will take place during the year. Together with your committee, you will make sure that besides the serious study lives, students can also have some fun! Within this function, you have the opportunity to be creative and flexible when organising the events. A selection of these activities are the (after exam)drinks, treasure hunt, the Christmas drinks, the BOSS Rally, and the Gala. You will promote these activities among the students and make sure the activities will run smoothly. Do you like to have fun, be creative, love to organise, and work together? Then the activities role is something for you!

  • Creative
  • Structured
  • Communicative
  • Flexible
  • Team player

Studytrip: As the board member who organises the BOSS StudyTrip, you are responsible for the biggest BOSS event of the year. Together with your committee, you will set up a study-related trip for approximately 25 students and two professors to travel to interesting locations around the world. On site, you will visit companies and cultural highlights that correspond with the study element and theme of your trip. Prior to and after going on the trip, activities and business tours will be organised by you and your committee. So grab your calendar and block summer 2022 if you’re interested in this position!

  • Team player
  • Adventurous
  • Curious
  • Optimistic

Themeday 2 of 2020/2021: Albert Heijn Real Estate

Albert Heijn Real Estate

In the early morning of January 14th, Daniël (Company Relations committee) woke up at 7 o’clock and hurried towards the Albert Heijn XL of Delft-Zuid. His mission was to pick up the lunch packages and disperse them over a large area which beloved participants call home. Due to the incredible resilience of a recent virus, Theme day 2 had to take place online. For the second Theme day of the year CR teamed up with Ahold Delhaize, the biggest food-retailer of The Netherlands.

The day started with a warm welcome from Larissa Staal. This was followed by a short introduction on the history of the supermarket-chain of Albert Heijn and the distinction between Ahold Delhaize and Albert Heijn Real-Estate. After this fun introduction came a lecture on Ahold’s location strategy & expansion management, which was followed by a second lecture on Asset Management in which Ahold explained its own experiences through an actual case of their own. The Asset Management lecture was followed by a case regarding a potential Albert Heijn location and whether or not Ahold should invest in it. This took place in breakout-rooms and, if the later-on reactions reflect the general opinion, it was very much enjoyed by the participants! After this case a short break was introduced in which some participants, depending on whether Daniel had made it to their house, were able to enjoy the lunch Ahold had provided for the students. When the break was over Ahold resumed with a little lecture on sustainability, remodeling and the timeline of Albert Heijn showing how the enterprise evolved from a little shop into a nation-wide retailer. In this lecture, Rens elaborated on how Albert Heijn had tackled all the great obstacles and changes in society in order to become the company it is today.

Around this time Daniel had finally accomplished his mission of delivering all the packages. After this came a second case in which students were asked to brainstorm about the supermarkets of the future and what that would entail for everything regarding its real estate. After this case the results were discussed and the official part of the programme had ended. The participants were then invited to ask several questions to the speakers of the day whilst enjoying their lunch, organised by Ahold. There was little time for Ahold to give elaborate answers to the participants as the end of the themeday approached and the students were bound to get back to their studies.

All in all we would like to thank Ahold for an amazing collaboration and we would also like to thank the students for participating so actively. We hope everybody enjoyed the second themeday and we hope to see you at our next events! Keep an eye on the BOSS Instagram!

Working life after MBE: Lena van der Wal

Lena van der Wal | RE:BORN

Lena graduated from MBE in 2020. During her time at the faculty she was an active BOSS member and functioned in the 26th board of BOSS, with the organisation of the study trip being her responsibility. In her graduation, she focussed, together with Marcella Wong on social entrepreneurship and integrated area development with special attention to social impact. Next to her studies she started her own company: Walden Studio. After her graduation, she continued Walden Studio and her graduation internship at RE:BORN Real Estate became a fulltime job. At RE:BORN she focuses on future innovative real estate, and is a project developer. 

What did your study career look like? I started my studies not in Delft actually, but in Groningen. Here I finished a bachelors in Autonomous visual arts, followed by two years of work before starting my bachelors’ of Architecture in Delft. After the bachelor, I finished the mastertrack of MBE.

You were active at BOSS during MBE, what is it that you did these times?Within the BOSS Board I organised the study trip. We went to Chili and Peru, with ‘Change making in the Built Environment’, as the theme. The trip was great, we visited lot of social enterprises and NGO’s who were a lot more ahead when it comes to social impact, than in the Netherlands. As the social problems are much more visible in Chili and Peru, building companies have innovative solutions and work on this in a proactive manner. 

Organising the study trip was in ways almost harder than starting my own company. You have to get something off the ground with no money, and no story when you start – while also carrying a lot of responsibility. Besides learning a lot, it was great fun! I am still in good contact with the committee. 

What about your graduation? My graduation was part of the Explore Lab, and it was a project together with Marcella Wong. Focusing on social entrepreneurship and integrated area development – in particular the social impact of projects. 

The outcome was impact development – how does one develop with the goal of making social impact. Not greenwashing, but actually started from a point where you can do something good with real estate as a means. I graduated in 2020. 

 After graduation my graduation internship became a job at RE:BORN Real Estate. Marcella and I started at RE:BORN at the end of 2019 for our graduation internship. After we finished MBE, we both started with full time jobs at RE:BORN. The switch from study to work was easy, one of the factors for this was that I was already involved with the company. And besides this, the MBE masters does prepare you for the working life!

About RE:BORN Real Estate… The company is fascinating and great! First off, they work with an interesting internal structure, best compared to a holocratic approach. This means that everybody works from their own powers and capabilities. As a result, you work in more of a circle manner than a hierarchical manner – this gives you responsibility early.

RE:BORN is still quite a young company, they just entered the scale up phase (after the start-up phase). Work is dynamic, new and changes quickly. Personally I work as a leadlink for the RE:FUTURE branch of the company. The work consists of studies, experiments and work on a toolkit to provide a futureproof vision of RE:BORN. We believe that real estate should be flexible and able to change with times, sustainability and users. The world changes, but real estate does not, and this should be different! – treat real estate like lego and make it relevant every time. To show this, we are also working on a prototype. 

Besides this work, I am also active as a real estate developer within the company. Having multiple roles and responsibilities comes with the holocratic approach. It is great that my current work corresponds with my graduation. Marcella and I brought a new kind of thinking to the company – and we still work on this, making sure we have an impact strategy and also keep track of the impact on a social, ecological and economical level.

You also started your own company whilst you were still studying, can you tell me about it? Yes! I started Walden Studio with my brother, when we were both still studying. It started about five years ago, as a bureau for small and self sufficient architecture – it was a side business for us both. We did a lot of projects together, and were in the news a lot – doing smaller and eventually bigger projects. It actually blew up a bit too early, as we were both still studying when clients treated the company as something we both did full time. However, trying projects, pioneering in a field and learning along the way is great. 

Lastly, do you have some advice for your younger self? Don’t work too hard, you are probably already more valuable than you realize! Enjoy the moment when it is happening, you can spend your whole life learning and working. Futermore, for all the MBE ladies, do not be afraid to aim for a leadership position or your own company. Let’s all support eachother in these ambitions, especially (and despite working) in this still mainly male sector. We need more girls on top! Let’s dare to have that ambition!

The Global Urban Lab | TU Delft & BK Initiative

The Global Urban Lab | TU Delft & BK Initiative

Development of sponge cities, urban renewal decision making in China, underpinning housing policy as design for values and management of low-income condominiums in Bogotá. – just a grasp of the topics covered by the Global Urban Lab. 

As a part of the TU Delft | Global Initiative, the Global Urban Lab is a communication and action platform with the goal to bring visibility to TU Delft staff and students doing work on the urbanisation on the Global South. With a team of around 80 staff and students, the Global Urban Lab works tirelessly on creating a platform that encourages learning, meeting and collaboration between universities, researchers, and practitioners in a transdisciplinary manner.

This platform is international, it focuses on the urbanisation problems of the Global South and uses its knowledge and capacity to generate solutions to the known problems. It is a space for experimentation, informing, initiatives and research. 

The Global South can roughly be defined as the areas of Latin America, Africa and Asia. This makes the topics covered by the Global Urban Lab very diverse. The last year has been filled with public events, eg. BK initiatives (1Million homes, or African Perspectives) and UTC’s (Urban Thinkers Campus – part of the UN Habitat movement). All these events happen over the course of several weeks, or months, and have more than one publication, lecture or other part to participate in. 

The last UTC, Manifesto for the Just City, focussed on the right for housing in a sustainable way. As the GUL says: The Just City is not only a place that allows all its citizens to live a healthy and accomplished life, but also a city that allows the planet to regenerate itself and fosters civic life and democracy, affording all its citizens the right to the city. ”

Students from over a 100 universities came together to discuss this topic and learn from lectures of professionals globally. After attending diverse conferences during a month, they wrote a manifesto, to propagate beliefs and solutions on how a Just City should be created. Over 50 manifestos were submitted, these can be read online at the Global Urban Lab website or TU Delft repository. 

Furthermore the Lab wants to share alternative views and knowledge with a positive collaboration from all over the planet, working together to develop alternative solutions for political and environmental unrest. When all the current urbanising cities are developed sustainably, a lot of the current world problems will be solved, says Roberto Rocco (member of the GUL team and Associate Professor of Spatial Planning and Strategy at the Department of Urbanism). He goes on to say that we need to listen to and learn from each other. Collaborating with people around the world brings out the best and we share challenges we need to solve together. The silver lining of the Covid pandemic has been connecting further and globally than usual – the connections were almost magical. 

Listen to the latest podcast of BOSS to hear more about what Roberto has to say. If you are interested in the topics covered, or in joining the Global Urban Lab, you can find all their information on their website, Do not hesitate to reach out to them, for more information or any questions.

Campus Real Estate Management

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.”

Students in practice- Liesbeth van Walsum

Students in Practice- Liesbeth van Walsum

Rebel was founded in 2002 and operates within five markets: area development, transport, sustainability, care and the social sector. Liesbeth’s team focuses on real estate and area development. We interviewed her to get to know more about Rebel, her work there and what a typical day at the office looks like at the Rebel headquarters.

How did you get in contact with Rebel?

“It was a coincidence, really! I had already started graduating and just finished my P2 presentation. I hadn’t planned on graduating at a company because combining writing your thesis with an internship can be quite difficult. Then I was cc’d in an email from my graduation supervisor Erwin Heurkens. He had gotten in touch with someone he knew from back in the days. This man worked at Rebel and asked Erwin if he knew anyone to join the Rebel team. They were – and still are – growing quite fast. I had never heard of the company, but I became very enthusiastic and before I knew it, a meeting was planned. My graduation subject matched Rebel’s expertise very well, so I changed my plans!”

What does a random day in the week look like at Rebel?

“It’s quite difficult to describe one ‘standard’ day. I don’t just work on my thesis there, but also work as a full member of the team two days a week. In practice, it’s either a full day of working or a full day of thesis writing. A random day looks as follows:

07:35     I take the train from Delft – where I still live – to Rotterdam.

08:00    Arrival at Rotterdam Blaak, I make my way to the office – a five minute walk from the station.

08:10    At the office! I find myself a spot to work for the day. There are flex spaces everywhere, so some floors are more suited for working in silence and others are more suited for meetings. I’m usually quite early, so I take my time to get a coffee and truly wake up.

08:30     I start by checking my emails: has anything happened overnight?

09:00     I prepare a meeting, which broadly means that I read the necessary documents and formulate questions for my colleagues.

11:00     With two senior colleagues and one fellow junior colleague, I have a mobility meeting. We work on several workprojects and always try to integrate the knowledge of the different Rebel-teams. For this specific tender, we combine input from the real estate and mobility team. We look at traffic standards, important or problematic junctions and public transport in combination with attractive area development. For this project, we implement the STOMP method: a method whereby access by foot, bike and public transport is prioritized over parking places and car accessibility.

12:00    I make my way to the top floor of our building for lunch. All Rebels have lunch together, which makes it a nice opportunity to get to know colleagues that I do not work with. On average, about 70 people are present at the office on a daily basis. But because of the consultancy Rebel offers, many people are on the road a lot.

12:30     I continue working on the mobility vision at my desk.

19:00     A bit later than planned, I email my colleagues my share of the elaborated vision, after which I take the train back home to Delft.

00:00     My collegue emails me the definitive version.

Everyone at Rebel works very hard, deadlines are part of the job. But the teams also value quality time together. Every Friday, we have a VrijMiBo (Friday afternoon drinks) at the White House just accros the square of the Rebel office.

On a graduation day, I don’t always go to the office. I can also work at home or at the TU for example. But it’s nice to be able to go in full focus at the office. Currently, about six other graduate interns are working at Rebel. It’s very nice to be able to talk with them about the sometimes challenging graduation process. A few weeks ago, we got a request from the company to organise a Kitchentalk. These Kitchentalks are intended for knowledge sharing and keeping each other up to date: you can present an interesting project you’re working on, or ask for input when you’re dealing with a problem. These take place about once a month and the atmosphere is very informal. With all the graduates, we will soon present our research objectives and outcomes to all curious and interested Rebels.”

What do you like most about the company?

“It’s a very young company, founded in 2002, so the founders were about my age when they started. The average age right now is about 30, so quite youthful! Also, what we do is very interesting I think. Its financial-strategic advice work, but with the intention to do something good for society. Rebel was founded to ‘make the world a better place’: the idealistic undertone is still here, which I like a lot. Also, everyone is super enthusiastic about their work and really likes their job. There is attention for knowledge sharing and learning from each other. What is best for the project? Colleagues from other teams are very often involved and there’s no hierarchy: as a junior, you’re taken just as seriously as the seniors.”

What  are your plans for the future?

“Working for Rebel! In August, I will start working there full time and hopefully I’ll find a place to live in Rotterdam as well.”

What  advice do you have for future graduates?

“I would definitely advise everyone to graduate at a company, especially if you haven’t done an internship yet. Combining graduation with work is very nice! You may risk taking a bit longer to finish your thesis, but I found it very valuable to take that extra time: I’ve learned so much! Get the most out of your graduation experience I would say, those few months really don’t matter.”

Working life after MBE: Sarah Heemskerk

Sarah Heemskerk
Sarah HeemskerkProject Manager at abcnova
Sarah Heemskerk graduated from MBE in 2017. During her years at the faculty, she was an active BOSS member and functioned within the 24th BOSS board. In her graduation research, she focused on Design & Construction Management, with a focus on leadership styles of project managers. After finishing her Master, Sarah started working as a project manager at abcnova. She focuses on both social and commercial real estate there. We interviewed her to get more insight into her day-to-day working life and how she looks back on MBE and BOSS.

Working life after MBE: Sarah Heemskerk

How did you experience the master track of MBE?

I experienced MBE as a very informative and fun Master track. The different ways of working throughout the track have appealed to me very much. In particular, working in groups has taught me a lot. Also, I find the small distance between students and professors very positive.

You spent quite some time as an active member and board member of BOSS. What were the most important things you learned during your time at BOSS? And what was your favorite moment/event?

During my Master, I have indeed been closely involved with BOSS. In addition to organising a large-scale event and leading a committee, I consider the development of a large network in the real estate world to be the most important development. My favorite event was the study trip to Miami and Havana that I have organised.

What took place after you gratuated? How did you career develop?

After my graduation, I travelled for two months first. I’m still very happy I did that, because during work, it’s difficult to get such a long period of time off. After my journey, I came back to abcnova, where I had previously done my graduation internship.


abcnova is a leading project- and consultancy firm for the built environment. We translate the plans and ambitions of our clients to financially feasible and sustainable solutions. We provide a grip on processes and projects and thereby achieve concrete and nice results. We do this through project and process management, through smart and progressive advice and by excelling in special expertise. This includes sustainability and earthquake-resistant construction. We are the best partner in real estate and area development in terms of know-how and hands-on.

You worked as a project manager at abcnova for one and a half year now. What has been your experience so far? What was your favorite project you got to work on and why?

During my time at abcnova I learned a lot. During my internship I already had the opportunity to participate in projects and it became clear that you actually learn the most in practice. At abcnova I get the chance to do many different types of projects. For example, I have already been involved in the development of various primary schools, but also in a major commercial renovation project in which 107 apartments are being realised in a national monument. In addition, I have contributed to the writing of various housing advices. I find it difficult to pinpoint a favorite project, I am mainly happy that I can develop in a broad sense to find out which direction I ultimately want to go.

What are you currently working on/what will you be working on in the future?

I am currently working on various projects:

  • The renovation of a primary school in Broek in Waterland. We are currently looking for a construction team partner with whom we will further develop the current Final Design into a specification. That means that I am speaking with various contractors to choose a suitable partner.
  • The renovation of a monumental building into rental apartments in Warmond. The Realisation phase of this project is about to start, with asbestos remediation taking place first. At the moment, my work in this project mainly consists of consulting with the contractor and installer.
  • The preparation of housing advice for a commercial organisation in Renswoude. Because of a growing number of employees, a lot of pressure has been put on the number of workplaces at the headquarters of this organisation. In addition, the installations are very outdated and do not meet the requirements of the growing number of employees. We are currently drawing up the frameworks for the project, which serve as the basis for a decision document for managing board. For this, we prepare a report based on consultations with the client, the architect and the installation consultant.

What advice would you give yourself – with the knowledge and experience you have obtained over the last years – if you were to graduate now?

I would advise you to always keep an eye on your development. During work it is easy to lose yourself in projects, but keep thinking about what you want to achieve. Which projects do you want to do and what can you learn from? That way you can always steer in the direction that you want to go.