Hi Michael, you’re part of the crisis team for the faculty of architecture, what is your role in the team and what are you occupied with these days?
I manage the facility services team, the people with the blue vests and the TU logo on their upper arm. In general, we make sure that everything functions at the faculty. Part of it is managing the entrance systems. You can imagine that we had to act immediately the moment the faculty closed. We had to make sure that some people still had access, like the faculty crisis team, the guards, etc. Many other things needed to be organised, such as adjusting all services that normally take place, we also had to start emptying the fridges, watering the plants and a lot of other things you would not even think about at first.
That’s part of what we have been doing and we are always present at the faculty, just like the team in charge of maintenance and installations, who are making sure that the whole technical system keeps rolling. We are sort of the guards of the faculty at this point, there are always still people who try to get in, pick up something, print something. But there is a strict protocol that makes sure that not everyone can get in.
Right now we are busy preparing for the opening of the faculty. We need to make sure that we can keep our 1.5-meter distance when we open up parts of the building. What does it mean for the different departments, what is the total capacity in the current situation, how to deal with meeting rooms, can we use the atelier already? The latter, for example, will be a “no” for now. Many things need to be changed before this can work. We are looking at routes, preparing signposts and making one-way streets among other things.
Is the interior changing as well? In the sense that some rooms need to be turned around?
Well, luckily, the interior of the architecture faculty has a pretty wide set-up, but in some hallways, for example, there are couches on the side, those maybe need to be removed. It all depends as well upon the allowed capacity in the end. But doors, just like the ones used for the west-entrance, that are not transparent, need to be decided upon still. You can easily walk into someone and that’s exactly what we want to avoid.
What is the biggest challenge in the building?
For sure the routing, what is the most logical choice? You want to keep the measures as simple as possible. If you make everything into one-way paths you know for sure that it’ll be hard for people to adjust, so you need to make sure that people can keep their 1.5-meter distance, without too many adjustments, that’s the priority. Or the doors to the toilet rooms, you can’t leave them open, but you do need to know how many people are inside. And how do you manage granting access? We now check the protocol to see whether someone is allowed to be inside, but it becomes unclear if that becomes flexible.
Will the reopening of the building be in phases?
Well, I’m in the faculty crisis team, I’m mainly focused on the more technical side of it all. ESA is focused on the students and how the education overall changes. In my role, I advise about how we can use the faculty, what the maximum capacity is, etc. They have to decide what it means for the education program and who gets priority if we reach the maximum capacity.
Has anything crazy happened so far?
I must say, everyone is very obedient, people are very understanding. The procedure for entering the building is pretty strict after all. On top of that, people need to walk a long route to get somewhere. In general, this all goes very smoothly, people don’t try to enter the building secretly and again are very understanding and flexible.
Did you get any protest or critique the moment the faculty closed?
As far as I’m concerned everyone was very understanding and there was no critique whatsoever.
How have you experienced this time at the faculty so far?
Our team has been scaled down, we are only with 2-3 people present. Plus, there are some contractors in the faculty to make sure nothing stagnates and to prevent having to fix things last minute. Sometimes we try to do things in advance, but in practice, it is hard for the contractors to work and at the same time keep a distance. We always need to be careful. Most of the time there are approximately 10 people in the building, suppliers come frequently as well, just like the postman and sometimes someone external.
It is very quiet at the faculty and very strange to walk around. Sometimes I walk around to make sure everything is alright. The last time, for example, a sunblind smashed a window. Those are things you need to be aware of. Actually, it is a real pitty that such a impressive building is empty.
Do you have a favourite spot?
I really like the atelier on the second floor. It is very nice to see what kind of stuff has been made . And it's really quiet as well, which is very rare, that makes it a very interesting place.
What are you going to do with the studio tables, are you going to organise them differently now we need to have 1.5-meter distance?
What we are considering to do, but that’s something for future times because the atelier will be closed for now, is to remove chairs to reduce the capacity of the atelier.
The model hall is for graduates, is there a chance that they can graduate there in limited numbers from the first of June?
I can’t really say something about it, it’s on the agenda. For now, it remains a big question for everyone.
Do you think the faculty can open its doors on the 1st of September with the adjusted arrangements?
It really depends on the government and how all the measures develop. The intention is to open at a given moment, but we really need to see still what and who gets priority.
How is a crisis plan developed, where do you get the information to make one?
I talk with my colleagues from the faculty team about the measurements in the faculty regarding the 1.5-meter distance. They are active in other faculties of the TU as well. We exchange ideas, we approach other organisations. We have been talking to a hospital, for example. We thought hospitals would be more prepared already. We exchange ideas with other universities as well. I think caretakers are always very inspirational, they are very inventive because that’s the place where there is a lot of pressure. Overall, it is a lot of research.
We will face a lot of new challenges in the coming months, for which again we need to find new solutions. In general, this whole situation isn't fun, but it is an interesting time for the field that I’m working in. For facility managers, it is interesting to see how companies cope with the situation. It would be strange to say it’s fun, but I do think it is an interesting time.