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Managing Public Sector Real Estate Assets – UK and International Experience

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Corporate Real Estate

Guest Editor: Alan D White, Oxford Brookes University and Lenborough Consultants.

The Journal of Corporate Real Estate is pleased to announce a call for papers for a special issue devoted to examining the management of real estate assets in the public sector.

"This subject is of considerable importance to national and local governments and to electorates around the world. All administrations require space from which to operate and provide services. The size, quality, effectiveness and efficiency of the real estate portfolios which result shape the delivery of services and the experience of customers, as well as the working lives of the staff who run the services.

A measure of the importance placed on public sector real estate asset management in the UK is the amount of time and effort devoted to its tracking, auditing, recording, reporting and management over the last 10 years. There has been a plethora of documents produced by a variety of UK public sector bodies and Institutions, many of whom have found the gathering of data on the subject particularly difficult. In one of the most recent – Operational Efficiency Programme, HM Treasury, April 2009 [HMT Report] – the data gathering is said to have been ‘challenging’. Nevertheless, HMT estimates the value for UK public sector property to be £370 billion and states that this asset base is growing.

The HMT Report rightly concludes that the greatest savings from an estate of this size come from using less space and then selling the surplus. However, a central asset management plan is required in order to produce an accommodation strategy which matches the operational needs of the occupying groups. These asset management plans should also take account of running costs during the life of the building, efficiency of occupation, sustainability efficiency and many more factors. They are not the simplest documents to produce!

The Audit Commission Report entitled ‘Room for Improvement’ and published in June 2009, focuses on strategic [real estate] asset management in UK local government. The Report notes that in the nine years since the last audit of performance, only ‘modest progress’ towards good property management practices has been made. In part, this may result from ‘central government neither setting clear expectations nor offering incentives to use [real estate] assets more frugally’.

Whilst these Reports pick up on many relevant asset management issues, the most fundamental factor is: do those in charge – ministers, leaders of councils and the like – really understand the fundamental importance of real estate to their operations. In the private sector, the wrong real estate, in the wrong place at the wrong price can kill the business. Things are not so dramatic in the public sector, but essentially the outcome of an administration not managing its real estate assets strategically will result in waste with negative balance sheet and profit and loss account consequences and customers [electorates] who will be less than satisfied.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors [RICS] sensing the lack of directive information on asset management, produced a guide to best practice in January 2008: RICS Public Sector Asset Management Guidelines. This is aimed at practitioners but is accompanied by an explanatory document for senior [non property] managers. More recently in April 2009 in conjunction with the Department of Communities and Local Government, RICS produced Local Authority Asset Management Best Practice guidelines aimed at council members, senior managers and practitioners.

So, this subject is topical, at least in the UK, and this Call for Papers seeks to discover public sector asset management experiences elsewhere as well as the experiences of practitioners in the UK in writing, managing and delivering asset plans to their own departments and authorities.

Alan D. White"

Papers should have a strong focus on proven good practice. Emphasis on the methodology of real estate and workspace supporting service delivery and business operations is particularly important.
Suggested topic areas include:
• Occupational strategies - flexible strategies for difficult times; business related occupational strategies; strategies to reduce operational costs; taking advantage of lease ends and breaks; taking advantage of the downturn – buying in freeholds at ‘distressed’ prices.
• Government policies on real estate asset management [AM]: a critical view of policy statements in the last 10 years compared to the outcomes. Is any government good at setting AM strategies and outcome targets of cost saving, reduction in portfolio size and staff relocation?
• Valuing public sector operational real estate assets – methods, anomalies and the ‘real’ value.
• The ‘investment’ [non operational] portfolio. Reasons for owning and methods of valuing.
• Raising the profile of facilities management - what benefits does good FM produce and what is the cost of poor FM? The effect of quality FM provision on services and asset values.
• Sustainability and the Carbon Reduction Commitment - how to manage occupational property strategies against the background of the CRC?
• Why is there so much variation in outsourcing experience - does this highlight a client side or supplier side problem? Case studies of good and bad experiences are particularly called for.
• What is the right workplace/workspace for staff?  What suits one authority does not suit another. Does a human resources, IT, real estate approach to workstyle re-engineering produce optimum asset solutions as well as operational effectiveness and staff efficiency?
• Operational agility is a key management goal - how should real estate managers respond given the cost of ‘buying’ real estate flexibility and the premature write-off of fit-out costs.
• Case studies from real estate managers highlighting good practice in aligning real estate and operational requirements and of the process of producing strategic asset management plans.
• Academic research - reports on research at Universities into the aspects of optimising real estate provision, customer satisfaction, performance and productivity benchmarking and sustainability management along with other relevant research topics.

This list is not exhaustive and interested authors are invited to contact the editor with alternative proposals. In particular, outside UK authors are encouraged to submit topics on a compare and contrast basis to demonstrate asset management planning and execution in other jurisdictions.

All full papers submitted are subject to anonymous double-blind peer review by relevant academics and researchers. Submissions are to be made in electronic format (Microsoft Word format is preferred).
The closing date for submissions is: 14 December 2009.
Full contributor notes are on the journal website at:

Submission in the first instance please, via e-mail to the Guest Editor (with copy to Editor): :
Alan D White
Lenborough Consultants
Lenborough House
Buckinghamshire MK18 4JF
Email: [email protected] with copy e-mail to [email protected]