Oulu city campus

In its meeting on 28 April, 2020, the Board of Directors of the University of Oulu made a decision to start project planning to build a 1st stage of a new campus in Raksila in Oulu city centre. The floor area of the plan is approximately 30 000 square meters at this point. The university will propose a change in the local plan for the Raksila area to the City of Oulu. Information about the campus project and answers to frequently asked questions are published on this page.

Oulu city campus pictures and illustrations (at UniOulu Material Bank)

The University of Oulu invites students and staff to virtual brainstorming to share their ideas on the new city campus. 

Questions and answers

In its meeting on 28 April 2020, the Board of Directors of the University of Oulu heard the results of the property strategy analysis and, based on this, decided to initiate project planning for the first phase of constructing a new campus in the Raksila district situated in the immediate vicinity of Oulu city centre. At least initially, the scope of the construction project is about 30,000 square meters of floor area, and its planning is estimated to take approximately one year.

Earlier on 20 November 2019, the Board launched an analysis to find financially sustainable, long-term university property solutions that support the university’s operations. The options explored in the analysis were a) maintaining the current building stock, b) partially dismantling the current building stock and constructing some new buildings on the university campuses, and c) constructing new buildings near Oulu city centre. In addition to the manageability of property expenses, the analysis examined the environmental impacts, accessibility and future pull factors of the campus. In the comparison of campus options, the feasible options turned out to be maintenance of the Linnanmaa building stock and new construction in Oulu city centre. Based on the analysis, the best long-term solution for the university is to construct a new campus in the central area of Oulu.

The cost analyses of maintaining the Linnanmaa building stock are based on the current lease agreements, the future renovation needs of the campus and the rent development forecasts. The analyses examined the construction of a new campus complex with a total floor area corresponding to the Linnanmaa buildings. However, a decision-in-principle to replace the entire Linnanmaa campus has not been made. Instead, the University Board decided to start the first phase of the project planning for the city centre campus, initially covering construction project for approximately 30,000 floor square metres. Any possible further project will require separate decisions, which will be made based on the prevalent situation at the time. The progress of the construction will be affected by the university’s existing lease agreements, the end dates of which place restrictions on the arrangements regarding the premises.

The University Board also decided that, during the preparation of the project plan, it will be exploring a wide variety of impacting factors and deciding on further measures At the same time, the Board expressed its willingness to participate in further planning regarding Linnanmaa, together with its interest groups.

Where and on whose initiative did the idea for moving the university to the city centre begin?

The initiative to explore the matter came from the University of Oulu’s Board of Directors in the context of strategic efforts.

 

The options explored in the analysis were a) maintaining the current building stock, b) partially dismantling the current building stock and constructing some new buildings in the university campuses, and c) constructing new buildings near the Oulu city centre. In addition to the manageability of property expenses, the analysis examined the environmental impacts, accessibility and future pull factors of the campus.

The cost analyses of maintaining the Linnanmaa building stock are based on the current lease agreements, the future renovation needs of the campus and the rent development forecasts, as well as their effects on the rent level based on completed renovations. The first calculations of the options were prepared by construction management consultants A-insinöörit Oy and, based on them, building a campus near the city centre would be a financially realistic alternative for the current operating model. Constructing new buildings in Linnanmaa was not seen as a realistic option in light of the potential benefits to be gained. 

Following this, another cost analysis was initiated by WSP Finland Oy. The aim was to replicate the results of A-insinöörit Oy’s analysis with regard to investment needs. The results obtained by WSP Finland Oy were well in line with those of the A-insinöörit review and the calculations produced by the university’s campus services. WSP’s results did not highlight significant new issues in terms of the Linnanmaa campus. 

Metropolia University’s Myllypuro campus, which was carried out as a new construction project and opened for use between 2019 and 2020, was used as a reference for the A-insinöörit cost estimate for constructing new buildings. Metropolia’s campus serves as a suitable reference as regards purpose of use, gross area and building quality. The actual final costs of the Metropolia matched the results of A-insinöörit’s analysis. 

The analysis indicated that new construction in the city centre can achieve a solution with neutral investment costs compared to maintenance of the Linnanmaa campus, by compacting the operations to require 20% less space. The Linnanmaa campus is extremely sparsely built and contains a lot of corridor and lobby areas that are difficult to utilise, which is what made streamlining possible. The calculations show that the rent level for the city centre campus will be lower than the Linnanmaa rent forecasts and the actual current rent level of the renovated spaces.

Once the financial realities of the city centre campus began to solidify, an analysis was started to determine how it would be possible to fit the university campus in immediate proximity to the centre of the city. The Raksila district was selected as the primary planning area due to accessibility through public transport and the excellent location. The university contacted architect Rainer Mahlamäki to obtain a report and preliminary plan on how the campus might blend in with the commercial activities in the Raksila market district. According to preliminary plans, the planning area has enough room for the buildings and also for possible future expansion in the area. In Finnish: Mahlamäki´s plan and illustrations (pdf). 

During the analysis, the campus options were assessed from a variety of perspectives, in addition to cost management: pull factors related to studies, work and the urban landscape, access to the campus, access via public transport, and the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of the campus.

The property strategy and campus solutions were decided by the university's Board of Directors, which consists of members elected by various personnel groups students, along with members from outside the university. The personnel and students were informed at the beginning of the analysis, and the process has sparked wide-ranging interest and discussion within the university community and among interest groups and city residents. The campus solution is a big decision, which will impact the day-to-day activities of university employees and future students in particular.

The university community will be engaged in the project planning process for the new campus.

Where would the new university campus be located near Oulu city centre?

In planning the city centre option, the Raksila district was selected as the primary planning area due to the accessibility through public transport, excellent location and sufficient room for construction. The area is close to the city centre, Kontinkangas campus, university hospital and PSOAS Välkkylä student village. Architect and professor Rainer Mahlamäki  prepared a report and preliminary plan on how the first phase of the campus could blend in with the commercial activities in the Raksila market district. According to preliminary plans, the planning Raksila area has enough room for the buildings and also for possible future expansion in the Raksila area, which are subject to separate decision.

Can the location still be changed?

Ensuring good accessibility through public transport has been a key decision-making criterion in the university’s campus strategy. Alongside Raksila, there are no viable areas in the immediate vicinity of the Oulu city centre with enough room for a university campus.

How can the location influence the university’s appeal? What aspects do students and young people find important in the study environment?

For young people, choosing where to study is a massive decision on an entire phase of their lives. When making their choice, students tend to also examine the cities themselves and what they have to offer. According to a student survey completed by PSOAS, the student housing foundation of Oulu, most students would prefer to live in the city centre, regardless of the location of the university. Naturally, the campus being located in the central area would bring studies, other life activities and the city’s cultural and service selections closer together, which we believe would improve Oulu’s image as a student city. A small carbon footprint and good accessibility are other factors that students find important.

The insufficiency of parking areas is a problem for the university even now. How can this issued be resolved if the land area is even smaller? How will ease of access be ensured?

An important starting point for the new campus has been to ensure accessibility and sustainability. The location enables more and more students, employees and visitors to access the campus on foot, by bike or on public transport.  Naturally, some parking areas will also be required. In this regard, we can collaborate with other operators in Raksila and the city centre.

What do the university students think about the city centre campus?

In a statement released in March 2020, the Student Union of the University of Oulu said that it is not opposed to the construction of new and up-to-date facilities closer to the city centre and its services. The Student Union's statement can be read here

How has the university informed city decision-makers and other interest groups about the plans?

The rector of the university has informed representatives of the City of Oulu about the property strategy efforts on a regular basis, and the City Council on two occasions. Once the planning area was specified, discussions have also been held with Arina and Kesko, which are leasing land in the Raksila market district. In addition to this, there have been preliminary discussions with numerous interest groups, such as Oulu Chamber of Commerce, PSOAS and representatives of the Student Union. In the project planning phase, the university will continue close cooperation with the city decision-makers and other interest groups.

What is the City of Oulu’s view on the university’s plans?

According to the city administration, the University of Oulu is an essential element to the appeal of the whole of Northern Finland. That is why the university being located in Raksila would be important for both Oulu and the entire region. The City of Oulu is supporting and assisting the University of Oulu in the project analysis efforts. During the planning efforts conducted by the university, the city will work with the university to determine the opportunities and limits of construction in the city centre area.

What does the university’s decision mean for the commercial premises currently on the Raksila site? How are the organisations operating there taking the situation?

The comments released by Arina management have emphasised the significance of the university in terms of the appeal and vitality of Oulu and Northern Finland as a whole. According to Arina, the upcoming solutions will be an investment in the future. Arina and Kesko are both prepared to work together with the university to determine how the university and commercial services should be situated in the area. The plans will be decided on by the City of Oulu, which also owns the site of the Raksila market district.

How much space does the university have in Linnanmaa? What will happen to premises that are left vacant?

The university will continue its operations on the Linnanmaa and Kontinkangas campuses even after the completion of the construction project, which has now progressed into the project planning phase. The premises to be constructed on the city centre campus can be designed to meet the future needs of learning, research and work from the very beginning. Decentralisation is increasing in the context of studies and many working functions, which why the campus must increasingly serve as a meeting place and collaborative environment. Even now, the Linnanmaa campus is more in need of smaller teaching spaces instead of large lecture rooms, and remote lecture attendance from home is increasing. Many premises can be built to suit a variety of purposes, which would slightly decrease the total need for space from the current level. Despite the efficiency of the premises, the campus will be designed to be comfortable and suitable for the scientific community.

The upcoming project planning efforts will define which functions the new city centre campus will hold. Once the functions have been determined, we will analyse how much space they will require, which will then help specify the construction area.

The university’s Linnanmaa campus currently consists of 113,160 m2, 96,100 m2 of which is covered by the actual university building, while the rest includes the Teacher Training School premises, botanical garden, sports facility and engineering workshop facility. In addition to the teaching and learning premises and offices, the university building features plenty of laboratories and workshops, some of which will be shared with the Oulu University of Applied Sciences in the future.

Any possible future construction phases for the city centre campus will require separate case-by-case decisions.

The distribution of the Linnanmaa campus premises based on purpose of use (m2): 
Teaching premises 13,137
Library lending and storage premises 6,102
Offices 29,160
Laboratories and workshops 9,684
Restaurant premises 2,758
Corridors 26,256
Storage spaces and other technical facilities 7,627
Toilets 1,407
Total 96,130
    
Student organisations 1,128
Library, Tellus and other open study areas 9,951

The areas listed here do not include the premises of the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, which amount to 24,000 m2.

How much will the university save in property costs according to its calculations?

The conclusion based on the analysis was that if the profit targets and maintenance rent of the campus investment are defined based on the university’s needs, it is possible to achieve clear benefits in rental costs compared to the current operating model. If the same profit target is applied to the investments in the city centre campus as to repair investments in the Linnanmaa campus, we would reach a cost-neutral solution through some streamlining with regard to the use of space. The current principle for calculating the rents for the Linnanmaa campus results in a level that is higher than estimated for the rents of the city centre campus. 

As this massive decision will impact the university and the development of the entire city, the accessibility, sustainability and student experience must be examined in addition to the costs, along with perspectives related to Oulu’s appeal as a city and factors that will create added value for the university and society at large.

The Linnanmaa campus was built for the University of Oulu, and the university has operated there since the 1970s. Why was now the time to explore new options?

The Linnanmaa campus has served the University of Oulu well and will continue to do so. However, the campus buildings are old enough to require continued extensive renovations and, despite any efforts to compact and streamline the operations, the effects on the university’s rent level would remain substantial. The premises of the University of Oulu in Linnanmaa and Kontinkangas are owned by University Properties of Finland Ltd from which the university is leasing them. Property costs are the university’s second largest expense item after personnel costs, so their impact on the university’s economy is significant.

The university has reduced its use of space significantly (by 35%) over the past ten years. For example, two faculties have moved away from Linnanmaa to provide a sufficient amount of shared space for the Oulu University of Applied Sciences. At this point, further compaction of the operations was found to be impossible without massive renovations and modifications.

Once constructing new premises became a financially realistic option, it was also possible to consider the sustainability of the university operations and its future development directions. The campuses are a key element in defining the day-to-day activities students and employees and their experience of the University of Oulu. Ensuring operational sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint have risen to the fore as important expectations for society and the university community. The carbon footprint of the University of Oulu’s current campus buildings is highest among the campuses owned by University Properties of Finland Ltd. In Linnanmaa, the university has access to 1,300 parking spaces. It is clear that the carbon footprint caused by commuter traffic is untenable. The future development of railway options in Oulu is considered to be too slow or improbable as a solution for reducing the carbon footprint. If the campus is designed and constructed in a forward-looking manner in the city centre area, it will be much more accessible on foot and by bicycle and public transport, in addition to being more energy-efficient and serving the needs of future study and work activities. In Finnish: Carbon footprint comparison by the University Properties of Finland Ltd (pdf).

Why did the university not rent out the unnecessary premises in Linnanmaa to its partners?

The university has reduced its use of space significantly (by 35%) over the past ten years. For example, two faculties have moved away from Linnanmaa to provide a sufficient amount of shared space for the Oulu University of Applied Sciences. Even now, the university building has thousands of square metres of empty space for which no willing tenants have been found.

The Oulu University of Applied Sciences is about to move to Linnanmaa. Will the UAS be moving with the university?

The upcoming project planning efforts, which were now decided upon, will primarily involve the construction of a campus consisting of some 30,000 floor square metres, which would house some of the university operations now situated in Linnanmaa. Any possible new construction phases in Raksila in the coming years, also with regard to the Oulu UAS, will require separate case-by-case decisions.  Operations currently on the Oulu UAS campuses on Kotkantie and Teuvo Pakkalan katu will be moving to Linnanmaa, which will result in more of the UAS activities being located under the same roof.

Due to the move of the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, the City has just invested in public transport lanes and a bicycle route. Will these investments now be wasted?

No, they will not. The City is investing in the bicycle route and road network throughout the city as part of normal urban development measures. It is important to bear in mind the time span of the plans: if the current project planning efforts lead to the construction of the city centre campus, study activities in Raksila would begin roughly between 2027 and 2028. Even if no decisions on additional construction in the city centre are made in the future, higher education activities in Linnanmaa will continue at least for the next 20 years.

The smoother traffic links from the city centre to Linnanmaa have been welcomed by the university and UAS communities, including the local residents and other parties using the area. The traffic solutions will also increase the area’s appeal from the perspective of the possible new users of the campus. 

What will the university do for the future of Linnanmaa?

The university will continue its own operations in Linnanmaa and participate in a group to be established for the purpose of promoting the positive future development of the Linnanmaa district.

Why is the university willing to relinquish the synergy benefits offered by the Technology Village?

Our excellent cooperation with the companies operating in the Technology Village will continue as the university activities are moved to the city centre. There are plenty of successful high-technology companies operating in Oulu even outside the Linnanmaa district in Kontinkangas, by Lentokentäntie and in the city centre, for example.  If we compare the situation to Silicon Valley in California, the distances between the businesses and university campuses there can take hours to cover, whereas the Technology Village can be reached quickly from the city centre, even by bicycle or public transport. In addition to this, many of the university’s important partners operate in the city centre and Kontinkangas. The purpose of the new campus is to provide a meeting place and collaborative environment.

Who will fund the new and own the new building? Will the university continue as a tenant?

Various options are being explored. They will be evaluated during the upcoming project planning efforts, and the one best for the university will be selected. The new building may be owned by the university or, alternatively, it can be constructed by another party, which will then assume ownership of it and make it available to the university. In all cases, rent will be collected for using the building. The current university buildings are owned by University Properties of Finland Ltd.

Will the university be negotiating with University Properties of Finland Ltd on the current rent level and the possibility of reducing it?

In accordance with the decision of the university’s Board of Directors, we are now concentrating on initiating project planning for the construction of the new Raksila campus. The university has existing lease agreements with University Properties of Finland Ltd, and we will continue to adhere to them. Any renovations in Linnanmaa that may affect rents must be agreed upon jointly with the company.

Does this decision mean that the University of Oulu will relinquish its shareholding in University Properties of Finland Ltd?

The University of Oulu is not planning to detach itself from SYK’s ownership. We are engaging in close collaboration with SYK. The university is handling the ownership and lease relationship as separate matters.