Multi-storey car park on a foggy day

Facilities Directorate Staff Bulletin – November 2020

Reflecting back over the summer months, teams across the FD spent a great deal of time and effort to reopen buildings on campus. It was certainly not an easy task, requiring a collective effort and high levels of coordination across the FD, in particular Estates and Health and Safety teams, together with our academic colleagues and central services. The majority of buildings are now reopened and working well in support of student learning, student experience and University research. Thank you to each and every individual across the FD who supported this reopening project, it was certainly no easy task!

As students returned and we moved into the new academic year, I have been extremely proud of our teams in Residences and Catering who have demonstrated such care and commitment to our students in Halls, supporting isolation needs and finding innovative solutions to the challenges faced. Our teams in Sport and Physical Activity have enabled students and staff to exercise and play sport safely and our cleaners and security staff who have ensured that campus remains a safe environment. Further details on this breadth of activity is included below.

In September we also welcomed our new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, who joins from Imperial College London. The recent Working Together webinars hosted by Simone were a great opportunity to hear from our new VC, and the senior leadership team at the University. They give insight into the University priorities moving forward, which include the focus on digital transformation and ensuring we build back better after Covid. I would recommend listening to them on the For Staff website if you have not already done so.

With the latest Government news this week, some elements of services have been forced to close their doors and further challenges for us likely lie ahead. However, I have no doubt that we will face this next stage with the positivity, resilience and commitment you have all demonstrated so far.  As I write, the first potential vaccine has just been announced which could help get things back to near normal by spring next year… let’s all keep our fingers crossed!  Thank you again for all your continued hard work during these difficult times.

Dennis Hopper
Director of Campus Development, Facilities Directorate


How do the latest lockdown measures affect FD Services?

Campus will remain open and will continue to operate in a Covid-secure way, with the safety of staff and students remaining our top priority.

Students are being encouraged to remain in their current accommodation until the end of term (11 December). By remaining in Leeds, students will be able to get the maximum benefit from teaching and learning activities and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that are provided face-to-face, as well as benefit from the support and camaraderie of those in their immediate households.

Cafes on campus will remain open for takeaway services and the Refectory will continue to provide a seated service – for students in catered halls only – and a study space for all students.

All sports and physical activity facilities will close until 2 December, with the exception of those provided for elite or academic purposes.

Working arrangements

Our general principle remains that staff who can work effectively from home will continue to do so, coming onto campus only where that is necessary to deliver or support research, student education or the student experience, or because of another agreed reason to work on campus.  Previously it was communicated that this arrangement would continue until at least the Christmas break, but it is now clear it will last well into 2021.

Working from home can be challenging for some and the University are continuously reviewing the provision of wellbeing, health and support services to colleagues who continue to work from home.

If you are working on campus on an ongoing basis or a one-off visit, it is important that you follow the safety measures in place and agreed working on campus processes.

A tremendous effort to re-open campus

Over the last few months, we saw a phenomenal team effort across Services in the FD to re-open our campus buildings, which has been an integral part of the University re-entry process and above all, to ensure we continued to maintain safe environments for our staff and students.

The details below give a sense of the enormity of this project and the teamwork that has been required to ensure success:

  • Estates Maintenance ensured all building utilities such as water hygiene testing and alarm testing was all compliant and operationally safe.  The handy gang team fitted over 2000 hand sanitiser dispensers across different locations on campus.
  • Estates Capital Development drew up plans of all sizable academic buildings over the summer, indicating the approach required internally for social distancing (one way systems, access to floors, kitchens, toilets, maximum capacities of teaching spaces, offices, etc.) with signage and hygiene point locations. Members of the team were also seconded as Facility Managers, where they assisted Schools and Services in the coordination and management for the re-entry to buildings.
  • Our mechanical and electrical engineers worked with other Estates colleagues to ensure that building ventilation and electrical systems were fully serviced and operationally ready for the start of the academic year.
  • The Estates Project Management office team meticulously managed the processes and procedures involved in successfully re-opening the buildings.
  • The FD, Marketing, Sales and Communications Team communicated information on building re-opening to all students and staff by providing weekly updates on the dedicated University coronavirus website. In addition to creating communications plans for building users to follow and designing all social distancing signage.
  • Health and Safety were heavily involved in making the buildings Covid secure, through identifying all health and safety requirements, implementing social distancing signage for each building and gaining approval from the University re-entry Group to enter buildings.
  • Cleaning Services ensured all re-opened areas were thoroughly cleaned ready for occupation in a Covid secure environment, delivering an enhanced cleaning regime and keeping the sanitiser points maintained.
  • The Facilities Managers coordinated activities with the Faculties and supported the Covid re-entry response.
  • Security Services reviewed access arrangements for all buildings prior to opening to ensure any new arrangements were safe and secure.
  • The Facilities Support Team and Estates planning and information teams worked to prepare the teaching space to ensure it was Covid ready prior to opening which included the removal of furniture from over 160 rooms throughout the campus. Locking and access arrangements for all the buildings that were opened were reviewed and reconfigured.

Sustainability collaborations

It’s been a very busy few months for the Sustainability team who have been integral to setting up the University’s Coronavirus reporting system, reopening the Bike Hub and welcoming two new interns to the team.

As students returned to Leeds in September, the University needed a way to support students and staff who tested positive for Coronavirus. As the Sustainability team already run the city’s Universities and Colleges Neighbourhood Helpline, the service was perfectly placed to design and run the University’s new Coronavirus reporting system. The team is now managing this system to report on positive cases and ensure staff and students are getting any help and support they need.

Working alongside colleagues in central communications, the Sustainability team have created guidance to support students in private accommodation. This forms part of the main university Coronavirus website and includes information on how to keep yourself and others safe, understand the rules in place around social distancing and highlights the fines and sanctions students could face if they break these rules.

As part of the University’s ongoing commitment to maintaining an inclusive community, the sustainability team have led an initiative to join forces with Leeds Beckett University to help further tackle antisocial student behaviour in our wider community. The universities have funded additional Leeds Antisocial Behaviour Team (LASBT) and Police patrols with the aim to reduce noise and nuisance behaviour in areas where students live.  Read the full story on the University Webpage 

At the beginning of October, the University’s new cycle to work scheme launched. After months of hard work with the Sustainability and the Staff Benefits teams working together to find the best option for our staff, the new provider, Cyclescheme, was appointed.  This is a positive enhancement to the existing University sustainable travel package and the main benefits of the new scheme include:

  • Increase in the upper funding limit from £1,000 to £3,000 to enable colleagues to source a wider range of electric and accessible/adapted bikes and safety equipment.
  • A network of over 2000 independent cycle stores nationwide for staff to select a bike and safety equipment that is right for their lifestyle.

It is hoped that this change will enable more people to give cycling a go. Find out more about the scheme on the HR Staff Benefits Webpage.  

The University Bike Hub has reopened after working closely with colleagues in Estates and Health & Safety. Staff and students can once again hire bikes or get help with bike maintenance through a new appointment system to ensure social distancing rules can be followed for everyone’s safety.  For more details visit the Bike Hub webpage.

In October, the team welcomed Zoe Gilbank and Phoebe Jarvis who will be working with the team for the next year under an internship as Sustainability Projects Assistants. They will be involved in a mix of projects from Blueprint to community engagement and the team is excited to have them with us and see what fresh perspectives they can bring.

Conferencing supporting students and external partners

Since late August, the Conference Office has worked closely with the International Student Office to provide a welcome and self-isolation support service to students from outside the UK. The two departments have collaborated to support all enquiries prior to and after arrival. They set up and managed a registration system for all international students to confirm their arrival date, transport requirements, self-isolation food box, kitchen and bedding pack needs. They provided a welcome and transport service from both Leeds Bradford and Manchester Airports and during the “normal” meet and greet period additional staff provided a welcome in Leeds Train Station.

To date, the team have registered over 1800 students from over 80 countries. Helped 1166 students with self-isolation food boxes, helped 1039 students with transport from airports and provided 60 bed and kitchen packs.

The team have continued to support the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust with their International doctors and nurses recruitment by providing accommodation across the University’s residential portfolio. Cloth Hall Court also continues to support the Nightingale Court, as well as welcome meetings for up to 30 people in a socially distant capacity.

As a result of the pandemic all events for the charity Communication Matters, a Positive Impact Partner, were cancelled, so, in partnership with MEETinLEEDS the team set up some virtual events, using Aventri, to help raise awareness and vital funds for the charity. The twilight sessions had both academic and social elements and were held every Thursday afternoon in October.  Activities involved a virtual balloon race, a virtual disco, a performance from the amazing ‘Sing Out Loud’ alongside keynote speakers and presentations.

Estates – Capital Development Team

Over the year, many of the larger building projects continued on site and Capital Development project managers and clerk of works managed the projects in terms of quality, programme, cost and risk, but with the added complexity of ensuring that contractors had policies and procedures in place to maintain social distancing and hygiene practices. This led to the University enhancing the contractors’ welfare facilities with more toilets, offices and break time accommodation. With lengthened timescales of work activities, the team reorganised the site programme due to fewer operatives allowed on site because of social distancing and assessed the impact on vertical supply chain risks as many suppliers had furloughed their staff.

After the Grenfell disaster, organisations were requested by the government to ensure that their buildings were safe in case of fire risk. To meet this requirement the Capital Development team have undertaken a complete fire risk survey of all our residential accommodation and academic buildings, with rectification works undertaken where any weaknesses were encountered.

FD Finance

In July, the FD Finance team were busy completing the financial year-end. The FD is a large, complex organisation comprising of multiple different business models, and the accuracy of the forecasts and quality of the results is a true testament to the team’s work. The first updated forecast of the year has also just been completed, this allows us to track our financial position and the good news is that we remain on track to deliver cost savings and reductions that we identified and communicated to the University back in May/June.

The team continue to work on a variety of projects across the FD; they are currently reviewing all spending requests up to £5,000. This helps ensure we manage the way we spend our money in the FD. They continue to provide support on the large construction projects including the Generating Station Complex and Spen Farm, for which they have developed a new charging model to help recover money from research projects and make the Farm financially secure.

The team is currently recruiting to fill the vacancy previously held by Shelley Fox, with an ambition to bring in a slightly more senior post holder who can develop commercial strategies, work on day-to-day finances of the commercial aspects of the FD and provide deputy cover for the Head of Finance. In the meantime, Louise Larkins is looking after SPA, with support from Robert Dewar. Ryan McDermott is looking after Catering, PCB, Mailroom with Kev Stephenson’s support, also Campus Support with Dionne Walker’s support. The team are managing well but during peak periods may be somewhat delayed in responses.

Sport and Physical Activity keeping the University community active

Prior to the recent national lockdown, Sport and Physical Activity services worked hard to put in place Covid-secure measures to reopen facilities and this enabled nearly 11,000 unique visits to the pool, gym and exercise classes, and nearly 4,000 unique visits to our outdoor sport campus. The team received positive feedback from students and customers alike. Thanks go to Cleaning Services, Estates Services, Health and Safety Services and Leeds University Union (LUU), who have supported this excellent collaboration and hard work.

Most of the outdoor and indoor student Gryphon Sport Clubs returned to training at The Edge, Cromer Terrace and the outdoor sport campus as well as various facilities across the City.

Whilst the new national lockdown means that facilities must once again close (with the exception of those provided for elite or academic purposes), growing numbers have been signing up to take part in keeping active virtually. The staff virtual run relays, organised by the Get Out, Get Active team had 90+ staff members signed up for the Halloween run in October. Read more about the events here and why not sign up to one of the next events?

Cleaning Services keeping us safe

Cleaning Services have reviewed how they operate in the short term to support the start of the academic year and reviews will continue as the situation and demands change. Currently, there is a dedicated day time housekeeping team who regularly sanitise main touch points in all open areas, mid-day teaching space check and sanitise, check clean and sanitise washroom areas. In addition, there are battery operated sanitiser sprays for large area sanitising such as stair handrails and lecture theatres, a specialised sanitiser coating product is used in these areas periodically as well as ongoing touchpoint sanitising.

There are dedicated team members working around the campus checking and filling all the hand sanitiser units every day, so if you come across one that is empty don’t worry it will be filled soon and there will be another one close by for you to use in the meantime!

Thanks go to the team for always promoting the upmost professionalism whilst carrying out their work. They have had to adapt to very different way of working and are front facing in controlling the risk of infection through the cleaning methods and products being used.

As we all continue to work together to reduce the risk of the virus please remember that the most important control of infection for individuals is washing hands regularly and thoroughly, if no hand wash facilities are available please use hand sanitiser, wear face coverings and observe social distancing.

If you have a cleaning or sanitising related queries please email the Estates Helpdesk


The Refectory team have been working around the clock to ensure that home-style cooked food and essentials are being hand-delivered to students self-isolating in halls on campus. The operation, run from the Refectory kitchen, involves chefs preparing fresh meals each day for any catered students who are self-isolating.  The team recognise the importance of eating well for physical and mental wellbeing and have made it a priority to support students’ eating habits during isolation.  All planning and preparation has centred on the individual needs of the student and ensuring that the food delivered is healthy, nutritious and enjoyable.

Despite challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Great Food at Leeds (GFAL) team have continued to work towards the end of 2020 target to remove single-use plastic from their operations. As part of this work, GFAL are once again accepting reusable cups for hot drinks after developing a new procedure to ensure the safety of their use for both staff and customers, reducing the number of single-use cups being used across campus. Working alongside Sustainability, the GFAL team also introduced on campus disposable cup recycling bins which have separate sections for lids, cups and waste liquid to make it as easy as possible for customers to recycle any disposable cups still being used. The new coffee-cup shaped recycling bins can be found in the Refectory, The Edit Room, Café Maia at Ziff, Loma and Café 7, read the full story on the Sustainability website.

The Refectory team are also celebrating as they recently retained the Gold award status for sustainable business operations, with an increase in score from last year.  The Refectory received high marks for initiatives around reducing single-use plastic, tackling food waste and sustainable fish swaps.  Read the full story on the GFaL website.

Security Services

Security staff continue to work with the highest commitment and dedication in supporting staff, students and visitors during this unprecedented period.  Lately, the team have been involved in several initiatives aimed at student safety since the start of term; these include Operation Walksafe and the Student Ambassador Programme.

Operation Walksafe takes place every year where the team ensure the safety of staff and particularly students during Fresher’s week. This year has inevitably been very different from previous years, but the team continued to offer the service which has been extended to the end of term.

Security Operations Manager, Steve Sloan, was seconded to coordinate the Student Ambassador Programme which commenced in early September. This is a programme to assist and orientate new students to campus, assisting them with wayfinding and helping to answer any questions they may have especially on Covid 19 guidelines.

The team wished a fond farewell to Jon Turner, long-standing Shift Manager, who retired after 34 years, service. Jon was thanked for his dedication and commitment throughout his career at the University.  In August they welcomed two new recruits and saw PC Charlotte Maude commence a six-month role as the Police Higher Education Liaison Officer and congratulations go to Malcolm Dawson, Head of Security who has been appointed the Security Institute Representative on the Advisory Board of ProtectED.

Residential Services supporting students

The Residential Services team has had an extremely busy few months since the start of the new academic year. A new contactless and staggered arrivals process had to be created to enable students to move in safely via booked time slots, which ran very smoothly. Once students arrived the Residence Life team ran a series of virtual welcome events to help new students settle in and meet new people in a safe and enjoyable way, and these were attended by over 700 students across all the events. As well as this, the Residence Life Wardens held virtual welcome talks to help students to settle into their halls.

A key part of the Residence Life team’s role this term has involved supporting students who have been self-isolating inside residences. This has involved offering them pastoral support, as well as advice and guidance on how they can get food delivery or do their laundry during this time. The new self-isolation webpage has given students lots of useful information, and the team have been running regular Zoom calls with students to help them through self-isolation.

Managing discipline and the new social distancing rules inside of residences has also been an important challenge. As part of the arrivals process, the team worked with the FD Marketing & Communications team to create a guide and a video for students explaining how social distancing would work in accommodation. Enhanced disciplinary regulations and accommodation contracts were created to include the new social distancing rules, helping to ensure the comfort and safety of all staff and students in residences.

In collaboration with the FD Marketing & Communications team, Residence Life also created the No Tricks, Just Treats Halloween box for students. This was a box of Halloween-themed goodies including sweets, recipes and ‘Stick the Fangs on the Vampire’ game given to every household in residences and proved a huge hit.

Marketing, Sales and Communications

Over the last few months, the team have collaborated with the Student Communications team to find innovative ways to engage students, supporting a range of University-wide projects. These included ensuring a successful student ‘welcome to campus’, promotion of the additional campus study spaces, filming and creating the important reassurance ‘safety for students’ video and continuing to engage students with campus activities that enhance the student experience.

Digital channels have become ever more important and the team have been working hard to ensure that all FD websites are compliant with the accessibility legislation. This work is now almost complete and with IT for final checks. This includes the development of the new Sustainability website which launched recently.

As the construction of the Sir William Henry Bragg building draws closer to completion a series of workshops with stakeholders have been undertaken by GFAL to determine a name for the new café in the building.  The chosen name for the new café brand is ‘1915’, named after the year in which the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Sir William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays. The name will now go through all the necessary legal checks and brand registrations.

The team are saying farewell to two colleagues, Vickie Hesketh (Digital Marketing and Communications) who has a new role at the NHS and Mike Walker (Marketing, Sales and Communications for SPA) who has a new role with ODPL. The team welcomed two new student interns to the team: Abbie McGurk working on digital communications; and Howe-Yee Law working on graphic design projects.

Leeds Carers appointments

Carers Leeds offer free confidential telephone appointments to University of Leeds staff who care for a family member or a friend with an illness, disability or addiction. The aim of these, 40-minute appointments is to provide a wide range of practical advice, support and information to working carers.

Upcoming appointments are available on 11 November 2020, the first appointment starts 9.10am and the last appointment starts at 1.30pm.

To book a telephone appointment, please contact the EPU on More details about support for staff with caring responsibilities can be found on our webpage.