Long-term partnership for new learning environments

Why the city of Vienna, Austria, is designing new school buildings to be educational campuses.

A modern campus offers optimal conditions for learning and working as well as leisure activities. These conditions include a pleasant atmosphere, flexible and functional spaces, opportunities for interaction, and short distances. The city of Vienna, Austria, is currently creating several educational facilities simultaneously that meet these requirements. The city is taking an equally innovative approach to financing: A public-private partnership model for construction and operations ensures that the campuses are and will remain sustainable, efficient, and economical.

The university campus was initially established in the eighteenth century in the wide-open spaces of America. All the university buildings – from the auditorium, laboratories, banquet hall, sport facilities, administration buildings, and library to cafeterias and dormitories – were grouped close together on the outskirts of cities. Since then, campuses have moved from the outskirts to the city center, although in a modified form. Today not only university students but also kindergartners can attend an educational campus, whether they’re in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East. What has stayed the same are the concept of short distances, the link between intellectual work and leisure time, and the shared space that can be used for research, instruction, and leisure alike.

Vienna as a campus city

The city of Vienna is clearly committed to this connection between education and leisure: Several projects to construct new campuses are currently underway. The city’s objective is to interweave the new kindergarten, school, and leisure education facilities in order to improve the quality of education in the urban space. School buildings play a key role, because that’s where children spend the entire day. The infrastructure should make it possible to alternate between learning and leisure over the course of the day, and the buildings should permit concentrated work as well as periods of rest and creativity.

Vienna has good reason to invest in new schools: The city on the Danube is the fastest growing metropolis in Europe. It also has an outstanding reputation in the area of education. Boasting 200,000 students, it’s the largest university city in the German-speaking world.

 

The “Christine Nöstlinger” campus on the site of the former North Railway Station opened in time for the 2020/21 academic year. It wasn’t built for university students alone: It also serves about 1,600 children aged zero to 14. In an area of 30,000 square meters, this multifunctional, all-day, year-round educational facility accommodates a triple gymnasium, two fitness rooms, a music school for the city of Vienna, an event hall, creative spaces, a cafeteria, medical services, and other facilities.

Innovative financing model

Vienna is breaking new ground, and not just with its educational approach and building architecture. The city has also chosen an innovative approach to financing the new educational campuses that conforms to the specifications of EU funding rules. It has entered into a long-term public-private partnership (PPP) with Siemens Gebäudemanagement & -Services G.m.b.H. (SGS).

 

What’s unusual is that as the general contractor, Siemens is responsible not just for the construction of a campus but also for building operations for up to 25 years. During the approximately two-year construction period, Siemens advances payment as the consortium leader. The city pays nothing during this period: No payment is due until the occupancy phase. Once a campus opens, the city pays a fixed monthly flat rate that covers construction and ongoing operational and financing costs over the contractual period. When the contract ends, ownership of the building is transferred to the city or municipality in a properly maintained state.

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This financing solution has tremendous benefits. “The lifecycle-oriented allocation guarantees sustainability and manageable costs,” explains Manfred Völker, CEO of Siemens Gebäudemanagement & -Services G.m.b.H. (SGS). Both partners have a stake in building operations being as efficient as possible. “For the North Railway Station campus, we’ll use our power-monitoring tool, Navigator. This cloud-based platform with the MindSphere operating system for controlling networked sensors enables us to operate the buildings efficiently and keep power consumption within defined limits without sacrificing comfort,” says Völker.

Considering that 80 percent of the costs for a building over its entire lifecycle aren’t accrued during its construction but rather during its operation, it’s doubly important to have the support of a technology group for operations management.

Minimal power consumption guaranteed

In the lifecycle model on which the Vienna PPP is based, Siemens has developed an offer specifically aimed at public institutions that combines all its experience in the construction and operation of buildings that are equipped with state-of-the-art energy and control technology.

 

The reason: As their populations grow, many cities and municipalities run into difficulties financing the necessary infrastructure from their current budget. That’s why it makes sense to choose a lifecycle-oriented financing approach when building hospitals, long-term care facilities, university buildings, and schools – and collaborate with a reliable contractual partner over the long term.

Siemens bears the risk

“The more difficult, the better,” is how Völker describes his approach to infrastructure projects. These undertakings are anchored in assigned roles: City representatives contribute their expertise and define the requirements, quality, and cost framework, and Siemens provides the planning and building expertise. “Our specialty is achieving the best possible outcome in terms of lifecycle costs as the sum of construction and operating costs,” says Völker.

 

The formula for success is to implement the project as scheduled. Anyone who modifies the plans and is unable to keep up with the cost of materials or maintain performance can expect that there will be construction cost overruns. “We guarantee a fixed rate of power consumption and fixed emission levels. If we’re not able to achieve that, then we pay. But that’s never happened, because our solutions work,” says Völker.

 

The city of Vienna also appears satisfied. The campus at the North Railway Station isn’t its only collaboration with Siemens: The educational campuses currently under construction in Seestadt Aspern Nord and the Aron Menczer educational campus in the Aspanggründe urban development area will open their doors in September 2021. The groundbreaking ceremony for the recently commissioned educational campuses in Atzgersdorf and on Deutschordenstrasse in western Vienna took place in June 2020. The “ONMMS Wanda Lanzer” school in Stammersdorf has been in operation since 2018.

December 21, 2020

Picture credits: Siemens AG

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