1 December 2017 • Gideon Wille
Students make winning plan for former office building
How seriously would you like to work on your degree programme? The students taking the minor ‘Facility Management & Real Estate’ are definitely getting serious. Their assignment wasn’t just on paper this time, but was about making a plan for a real building to be judged by a jury of professionals. Finally, regional television broadcaster TV West dropped by to film the result. The Hague University of Applied Sciences: learning plus having fun!
In an isolated spot in the Moerwijk neighbourhood is a vacant building that used to serve as offices for the municipality. Looking closely, you can see charming 1950s architecture, but it wouldn’t be easy to transform it into building bustling with activity. This, then, was the assignment handed to around fifty students taking the Real Estate minor: come up with a plan. Go ahead – let your imagination run wild, as long as you can support your ideas and stay within budget.
Out of the small groups of students that worked on this project, one group’s efforts were judged the best. This was ‘Harmonia’, a plan submitted by Margriet van der Zon, Sanne Soekhai (both in Facility Management) and Naomi van der Meer (Small Business & Retail Management). Margriet: ‘We conducted research in the neighbourhood by interviewing local residents, people who worked there, and people waiting there for the tram. From this, we concluded that what people wanted was a supermarket and a place to interact with each other. People in the neighbourhood would also welcome more students.’
The three students based their concept on the findings of their interviews. Sanne: ‘We wanted to focus on what the community would get out of our plan. Our concept thus included solar panels on the roof, a greenhouse and/or community garden, and student housing. Half of the housing would accommodate international students and the other half would be designated for Dutch students. With this concept, Dutch students could help the international students with things like finding their way through municipal red tape. At the same time, the foreign students could serve as a source of information for Dutch students who would like to study abroad.’
The students also wanted to attract businesses that would be appropriate for their concept. Margriet: ‘Good examples would be tutors or language courses aimed at helping international students. We didn’t want any men running around in expensive suits in our building. On the other hand, we had to be realistic, so we took a good look at the financial aspects. This was the hard nut to crack for this minor, but we thought our calculations would work. We had to leave out certain things in our plan to make it feasible for the building to show a positive financial return after 10 years.
This minor is offered by the Facility Management programme but is open to all students attending THUAS and other schools. This time, the participating students came from Architecture and Construction Engineering, Small Business & Retail Management, European Studies, Marketing, and Climate & Environment. Margriet: ‘We had an advantage in that Naomi came from Small Business, so she could view it all from a business standpoint whereas we were more oriented to the social aspects. It was a good combination. She gave us tips for pitching our recommendations: selling your concept is also important. You have to write everything up well to make it attractive. In other words, we had to present our plan as if we were a business – not as students with an assignment. This was where Naomi came in, and the jury appreciated our approach so much that we came out on top.’
A motivating factor
Serious students are taken seriously. Authorities in The Hague’s municipal government uploaded the plan for inclusion in their own knowledge base. Sanne: ‘What made this minor so interesting is that we got to work on a real case: an existing building due for redevelopment requiring a concept that would be assessed by a jury of real professionals. This was motivated us to get really serious. We could also build up our networks; I immediately requested a connection with the jury members on LinkedIn. I really got a lot out of this minor. Not only did I learn a lot, but I also got to hear guest speakers from the world of real estate. You get to hear both stories: one from your lecturers and another from the professionals. One of these speakers, for example, spoke about building information management models – a new way to analyse a property. That was really useful.’