6.9 Campus Services
The appearance of the campus in 2021 was characterized by alternation between joy and disappointment. Joy emerged as there was again room to meet, sit in lecture halls, and study in Library or CUBE. Disappointment emerged several times as we noted that the coronavirus pandemic was not over and we reverted to the partial closure of the campus. In 2021, we realized what the campus means as a meeting place. Considerable effort was also devoted to its further development. The campus now extends to the Spoorzone. Together with the municipality of Tilburg, the area vision document known as Kenniskwartier (Knowledge Quarter) was prepared and unanimously approved by the City Council. This vision document describes the future image of the area between the Warandebos and the Ringbaan-West. Our University figures prominently within this image. The University’s role includes new construction and renovations on the Warandelaan, as well as the expansion and renewal of the Sports Center on the Reitse campus, the redevelopment of Meerkoldreef, and the realization of student accommodations. Considerable work on these plans was done in the background during 2021. We have also started to develop a new strategic campus plan, in line with the new institutional strategy. This campus plan will be completed in 2022.
The appearance of the campus underwent drastic change in 2021, due to the demolition of the Prisma building, a dated structure that will make way for a temporary parking lot in 2022 and, in a few years, for a new multifunctional building. We also invested in the expansion of catering facilities, in part to accommodate growth in the numbers of students and staff. In late 2021, a new Grab & Go location was completed in Montesquieu, and we realized the expansion of the company restaurant with the addition of several hundred seats.
We did this in a completely circular manner, including the re-use of materials from the Prisma building. During the demolition of this building, 22% of the materials released were put to a new use (e.g., 1,600 m2 of ceiling components). Parts that could not be re-used were recycled. The majority (77%) of the materials were recycled, including nearly two million kilograms (4.4 million pounds) of metal and more than seven million kilograms (15.4 million pounds) of concrete. To make this possible, the project was carried out in two phases. The work during the first phase consisted primarily of dismantling, so that as much material as possible could be re-used. The heavy, load-bearing construction was not addressed until the second phase. We will be expanding this construction method in the coming years, and it will become a pillar of our new strategy for buildings and land.
One relatively small but no less important project is the renovation of Vigilant, the centrally situated building that houses our security services and in which all our security infrastructure is brought together. This is one of the last buildings that was still heated by gas, and it is now being switched to a more sustainable source of energy. This is one more step toward completely phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
In addition, part of the Tilburg School of Theology building next to the Olympia building was demolished. The land that became available will be used for the temporary expansion of sports facilities until new construction is complete.
A pandemic can sometimes offer opportunities. Over the summer, we refreshed the design and layout of the most heavily used building on campus, the Library—nearly 20 years after it opened in 1992. The Library aligned its facilities to meet student demand by introducing more and a greater variety of workstations (including self-study spaces) and increasing the size of the Study Café. The space needed for this was obtained by reducing direct access to books: part of the collection was relocated within the building and is now in compactor cabinets. Due to delivery problems resulting from COVID-19, not all new furnishings had been delivered yet. Students have embraced the use of the new concentration workstations with great enthusiasm.
The floor coverings on all three floors of the Library were replaced with a fully circular new floor covering. This sustainable flooring is made up of pieces of carpet with minor defects that would otherwise have been discarded at the production line.
One development that was particularly evident in 2021 was the shortage of raw materials and capacity in the construction market. This affected several projects with disappointing prices and long delivery times. This development is expected to continue, and it will require us to take a critical look at the future and how we will develop and realize our real estate projects.
Student growth in recent years has been higher than what the current real estate strategy could anticipate. For this reason, we acquired the Meerkoldreef site in early 2021. In only a few months, Facility Services and Library and IT Services prepared this former Fontys education building ready for use and included it in the schedule.
In 2021, the zoning process was started for the new education building, which is planned for the TIAS parking lot. The procedure has yet to be completed, and it generated resistance from the adjacent Torenbuurt district. Preparations for the building were nevertheless started, in cooperation with the contractor.
In 2021, a new catering vision was implemented on campus by initiating collaboration with new partners. The choice of operators focused on the aspects of health and sustainability. In terms of sustainability, efforts include encouraging reductions in meat consumption, adopting a focus on reducing waste, and using sustainable means of transportation. Vegetarian food is the standard option for receptions and meetings. In addition, students and staff are encouraged to make healthy choices. There is a wide range of products with less salt, fat, and sugar. Finally, individuals with a distance from the job market will be employed more often.
Unfortunately, situations relating to the pandemic made it nearly impossible to provide any services at full force. This was due in part to the difficulty in engaging new staff, however, although it was primarily due to the COVID-19 restrictions that severely limited the use of the campus.
The continually shifting rules relating to the pandemic posed a true challenge to the opening and services of the Library. The Library was also closed during the summer, due to the renovation. This was not much of a hindrance, however, partly due to the limited presence of students. Limited services were provided from another building on campus. The Library also handled the process of issuing a new university card to the University’s nearly 22,000 students and staff in 2021. The Brabant Collection realized two photo exhibitions despite all the COVID-19 restrictions: Monastic Life in the 1960s at Museum Krona and Melancholy and Reality in the Green Forest at Gallerie Pennings.
Sports and exercise
In 2021, the sports program made the greatest possible use of the space allowed by the COVID-19 restrictions. Unfortunately, these facilities were also subject to heavy national restrictions. Our season pass holders were compensated by extending season passes for the same period at no cost during periods when exercise was virtually kept to a minimum.
Student sports associations have been through a difficult time. They had few training opportunities compared to other years, league competitions stopped midway, and there were virtually no tournaments or social activities. Nevertheless, membership in several student sports associations grew in the past year. Social bonding combined with the opportunity to enjoy exercise is something that the pandemic has only made more valuable to students.
In 2021, a survey was conducted among the student population and the users of our sports facilities. Plans call for renovating and expanding these facilities, due to the high pressure that they face. Response to this survey was high, such that the results are representative of the entire University community. The results were discussed with the EB and parties in the representative bodies, and they provide input on the desired program, the location of the new sports building to be developed, and the subscription fees people are willing to pay. This fine process in 2021 reflects a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm. Although no investments in teaching or research are involved, sports clearly serve as a unifying element that should be provided on a vibrant and attractive University campus. New facilities and a broader range of offerings are sorely needed in order to keep up with other universities. This project will be included on the agendas of the EB and the University Council in 2022.
Encouraging sustainable behavior. As a University, we are making a concerted effort to reduce our carbon footprint. Most of this footprint is due to the travel of our growing population of staff and students. The mobility policy has been translated into concrete measures to encourage students and employees to make more sustainable choices for the modes of transportation used to travel to and from campus, as well as for business travel. The shared bike/share car pilot project that was launched in December 2021 assists employees in this process. Employees can use an app to make a business trip on one of the available shared bikes placed at various locations on campus or reserve a shared electric car from Warandelaan. Students may also use the shared bikes. We will be monitoring the success of this project in the coming year. Furthermore, we have created additional opportunities for employees to finance the purchase of a bike (or e-bike) through the Options Model. This effort has been successful. In 2021, more than 100 employees bought bikes for sustainable commuting.
In the past year, the shortage of student accommodations has been increasingly prominent in the news throughout the country. Tilburg is also struggling with an increasingly visible shortage. To this end, the Tilburg Student Accommodations Covenant for 2020–2025 is aimed at expanding the housing supply by 1,900 units by 2025. Current plans call for approximately 1000 units, but their development is extremely time-consuming. There is active collaboration with the municipality of Tilburg, housing corporations, and market parties on new initiatives to achieve both temporary and permanent housing units. Last summer, The Garden was completed next to the Avans property, and construction in several places within the Knowledge Quarter is already underway or being investigated for new tasks. Construction projects nevertheless call for a realization period of several years. It is therefore expected that, like in many other student cities, the availability of student accommodations will continue to be severely lacking in the coming years, much to our regret.