Putting people first | The way ahead for the Facilities Directorate

Ann Allen, Director of Campus Innovation and Development, outlines how the Facilities Directorate is putting people at the heart of everything it does to create an inspiring campus of the future.

Putting people first | The way ahead for the Facilities Directorate. Ann Allen Inside Track. February 2023

“You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” 

This quote from Walt Disney struck a chord when I first came across it. For me it refers to that magic moment when you see facilities and buildings in use for the first time. I joined the University last July and it was clear to me that the campus was exceptional. But it wasn’t until the students arrived in Welcome Week that I really appreciated its value and inspirational quality  

But this quote has another meaning, too. I’ve spent my whole working life in property and construction, and I’ve always found the spaces that work best are the ones that start with the users – the people – in mind. 

This may seem an obvious point but you’d be amazed how often it’s missed by over-eager architects and construction companies. If you’ve ever consistently struggled to find your way around a building or got lost in a new development, it’s likely that the end users weren’t properly considered.

The Facilities Directorate (FD) isn’t just about properties, but everything we build on our campus and every service we provide is preceded by consultation with the people in our communities. The new lecture theatres in Roger Stevens and Esther Simpson are a great example of how feedback from students and staff informed design, as touched on in this video by Michael Hern, our Teaching Space Support Team Leader. Similarly, Margarita Bosnjak, our Interior Architect and workplace strategist, explains in the first of a new series of FD features how she creates environments to serve the needs of others.

Thinking big picture

People are at the heart of the FD’s first business plan, too. Titled Our Way Ahead, the plan was published today (13 February). It’s our first because I’ve decided we will be able to support the people in our communities – and therefore the University strategy – more effectively if we work collaboratively across our services, rather than separately, as was previously the case. To this end, I’m also regrouping the services we offer so we can work more seamlessly.

Considering our campus users at the very first step of our work – our business plan – gets us off on the right foot. Everything that follows, everything we design and build – a welcoming gym, outdoor spaces that inspire, menus offering great choice for everyone, student accommodation that suits different needs – must be done with that big picture in mind.

Working in partnership

I’m building on great work and solid foundations. Our FD people are hugely diverse and highly skilled, and I’ve been struck since the day I started nine months ago how much everyone cares about getting it right. So, as well as enabling people and services to work together more effectively by regrouping them, I’m putting our people at the centre of our business plan through a work strand called People and Culture. This will include:

  • providing colleagues with clear expectations, purpose and values
  • re-emphasising the need to ensure all staff work in an environment that puts health, safety and wellbeing at front of mind 
  • rewarding and recognising staff, both as individuals and team members; and 
  • encouraging continuous improvement and new ideas. 

The People and Culture working group is comprised of colleagues from across our services, and this strand will also include the establishment of a staff voice forum – a mechanism through which everyone can be heard so we work as a partnership.

Enabling dreams

Encouraging partnership is also at the core of the new Digital Learning Accelerator build in EC Stoner, due to open in April. This will provide space for staff and students to collaborate across faculties on innovative, creative and entrepreneurial projects and activities, including student start-ups and developing new approaches to learning. 

To my mind, this is the perfect preface to what is to come. Later this summer, we will begin the process of redeveloping our campus to ensure it meets the needs of our communities far into the future. Our message will be bold: place-making is not about building stuff but about enabling dreams and turning them into reality. We look forward to working with you and our students to find out what you want and need. 

Posted in: