Executive Board: ‘Covid-19 will affect campus building plans’

20 Nov 2020 ,

The corona crisis has had little impact on the University's household budget, but the same can’t be said of its building plans. Working from home will become more commonplace than in the past, which may mean a smaller demand for new construction. The money that is freed up can then be used to hire new staff.

Working from home was fine in mid-March but staff are now eagerly awaiting a time when they can be back in the office ‘as usual’. The Executive Board anticipates, however, that we will continue to work remotely more often even after the corona pandemic. Vice-chair Wilma de Koning has stated that “The recent staff survey shows that 65 percent of employees want to work from home for at least a quarter of the time in future.” This will affect the future look of the campus.

Initial plans were to drastically remodel the university site in the coming years. After the completion of the Maria Montessori building (for the Faculty of Social Sciences), there were plans for a possible new Humanities building on the site of the Spinoza building. The Erasmus building would then provide student accommodation and a conference centre.

More flexible

The Executive Board will soon be taking a good look at the form these plans will take after the coronavirus pandemic. Vice-chair Wilma de Koning: “At present, each faculty has its own building, but perhaps we’ll need to be more flexible in the future.” After all, if people continue to work more from home, the average occupancy of offices will decline. De Koning estimates that this could be up to 60 percent. “We want to think more closely about the implications of this hybrid work. It means you need less space per FTE (full-time employee, ed.).”

‘The Faculty of Science supports a reduction in the number of square metres per FTE’

De Koning cites the Huygens building as a case in point. “There is currently support for reducing the number of square metres per FTE from 15 to 10. This means we can use the building more efficiently. I think it’s great that this has happened.” And it’s sorely needed: The Faculty of Science expects to grow next year by 187 FTE. As a result of discussions within the Faculty, less money will now need to be spent on renovation or new construction. It can instead be spent on other things, such as hiring even more new staff.

From bricks to people

This shift in resources from “bricks to people,” as the Executive Board calls it, could also be made elsewhere on campus. “It’s a dial that you can turn. What does it mean for the Erasmus building, and for any new building for Arts and the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies? Should we demolish the Spinoza building or perhaps renovate it after all?”

The magic word here is ‘support’. In the coming months the Board will investigate which plans have the most support: office space or additional people for research and teaching? “We can only spend the money once.” By the summer of 2021, there needs to be clarity about which way the scales will tip.

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