“The WUR has a lot of real estate and a lot of real estate-related projects. Apart from maintenance, we now have about 180 projects running, involving 22 project managers and technical building managers. Then it is extremely valuable that we work with a consultancy that knows us well. Valstar Simonis has been coming here for years and understands our organization and our dynamics.” These are the words of Eric Steinebach, head of Construction & Housing Management at WUR. We talk to him about the framework agreement between WUR and Valstar Simonis, which came into effect on 1 May 2019.
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is a partnership between Wageningen University and the Wageningen Research Foundation. The university is known as the leading and most sustainable university in the world. The University of Wageningen is relatively small compared to other universities in the Netherlands; the research branch, on the other hand, is extensive.
“With a floor area of 650.000 m2 GFA, we are one of the educational institutions with the most real estate in the Netherlands,” says Eric. “A lot of that real estate is used for research and that branch is always on the move. This means that we have to constantly redesign our research rooms: a different layout, different climate requirements, different lighting, different equipment… you name it.” Because WUR has so many real estate and real estate projects, it would be difficult and time-consuming to put out a tender for every consultancy assignment. That is why in 2019 – after a European tender – a framework agreement was concluded with two consultancy firms: Valstar Simonis and Royal HaskoningDHV. “We deliberately opted for two parties. This has the advantage that we realize a broader base in terms of knowledge. In addition, we can now organize a 'mini-competition' every now and then and select the best supplier for that assignment.”
Half word enough
Christian de Vos, advisor and branch director in Apeldoorn, is the central point of contact for WUR on behalf of Valstar Simonis and he says that many different questions are asked for advice. “Because we have been working for this client for a long time and so often, we can always switch quickly. Often half a word is enough. We know the organization well and understand that sometimes we have to wait a little longer for approval and sometimes we have to take immediate action. That dynamic also makes it fascinating and it is good to see that our advice really adds value.”
Gasless in 2025
WUR is the most sustainable university in the world and Eric emphasizes that he would like to keep it that way. “Our ambitions are great. We want our campus to be gas-free by 2025. The great thing about this organization is that we first set a goal and then look at how we can achieve it in the most economically responsible way. This means that we sometimes make investments that we do not recoup, but do contribute to our sustainability ambition.” Christiaan explains that Valstar Simonis has made an inventory for this challenging purpose which buildings can use gas in which way. “A ATES ring has been installed and the WUR will be equipping all buildings with heat pumps in the next five years. Completely gas-free will be difficult for the time being: researchers use gas burners in the laboratories and there is as yet no good alternative. 100% gas-free is therefore not possible; we aim for 95%.”
The transition to a gas-free campus is just one of the many projects Christiaan and his colleagues are working on. WUR also focuses on healthy buildings, so topics such as ventilation, lighting and a legionella-safe water supply receive a lot of attention. Eric: “The post-corona era requires different, flexible office concepts. Again, we desperately need our consultants.” Eric and Christiaan say they are satisfied with the current collaboration. They are both happy with the short lines and the mutual understanding and trust. Eric adds: “I myself have worked at Valstar Simonis and know from that time that customer satisfaction is of paramount importance. I am now on the other side and experience it that way too. We really do it together and then you go the farthest.”
This article previously appeared in Valstar Vision, no. 13. Read the entire Valstar Vision here .