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Operon to build and manage student rooms at Aston University

15 July 2008

Operon has created a partnership agreement with Aston University and Bank of Scotland Corporate to finance, build and operate over 3,000 new en-suite student rooms in a £214m scheme. The three parties have formed a registered charity - Aston Student Villages - and will co-own the new development called the Student Residences Project.

The charity will finance, build and operate the project for a 37-year period, at the end of which full ownership will revert to the University. The charitable approach to financing student accommodation has been developed by UK Structured Finance Limited and will enable the University to focus its capital resources on the enhancement of its academic and research activities.

Operon is responsible for the design of the M&E and infrastructure services for the scheme as well as providing the facilities management and life cycle services over the 37 years.

The complexity of the demolition and phasing of the new building, and the involvement of a third party combined heating and power company, has required considerable co-ordination and planning by the design team, which includes Lewis & Hickey Architects. Construction of the first phase of 1,350 rooms is planned to start in summer 2008 ready for occupancy by 2010, with the next phase of 1,000 rooms following on immediately and due for completion by 2014.

The proposed plan, which includes the demolition of two 1970s tower blocks, has been developed in conjunction with Birmingham City Council Planning Department to ensure it was sympathetic with existing buildings in the area. The residual 650 units comprise of Lakeside, an existing accommodation unit built around seven years ago.

Martin Corbett, group managing director of Operon, said: “We are proud to be involved in this prestigious scheme in association with Aston University. We have had input into the scheme from inception using our design expertise and our in-house environmental division, GENEX, to ensure a sustainable and economic whole life solution. We recognise this is a long term partnership and we will utilise our facilities and property management expertise to ensure the buildings are kept in pristine condition to enhance the student experience.”

Aston University director of estates and facilities, Garry East, said: “We are pleased to be working alongside Operon and have been truly impressed by its pro-active support throughout this exceptional project. Operon’s track record in this field leaves us with no doubt that we have made the right decision and we look forward to a true partnership arrangement that delivers the highest level of support to our students.”

Operon took over the FM services for the existing buildings in April 2008 and will provide maintenance, repair, cleaning and life cycle replacement over the 37 years.

Operon employs over 1,200 people and has a turnover in excess of £50million. The Company operates via a number of divisions comprising Facilities Management, Design, Construction, Environmental and Energy Management (GENEX), Catering, Private Finance Partnerships and Central Support, in the United Kingdom and Internationally. It is Investors in People, Positive about Disabled People and PAS: 99 Integrated Management Systems accredited.

Operon, Bridgewater Place, Water Lane, Leeds LS11 5BZ Tel: 0870 2 330 330.

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