“The Lord of the Buildings” – that’s what the Bremen regional magazine “buten un binnen” once called Hans-Joachim Orlok in a TV report. After all, when it comes to buildings and areas used by the university, he is the one to call. The head of facility management has been connected to the University of Bremen since 1978: after studying electrical engineering and 13 years in the private sector, he returned in 1996 – and stayed. Hans-Joachim Orlok is now retiring at the end of July.
When talking to Hans-Joachim Orlok about his many responsibilities and tasks, it becomes clear that it is important to him that one thing is particularly emphasized: “nothing works without a good and competent team,” says the head of the Administrative Department for Facility Management. And that, he says, is what he has always had in his more than 25 years of service at the University of Bremen. “I am very grateful for that.” He could not have done his job without his many colleagues and employees. There were certainly plenty of major challenges. Take the corona pandemic, for example: “This period poses a great challenge for our work organization,” says Orlok. In his department, very few of the 100 or so employees can work from home – his staff include craftsmen, architects, technicians, and office staff. Many are needed on site. One example is the energy center, which has to run smoothly in three shifts around the clock, seven days a week, so that research, teaching, technology, and administration can function. Additionally, Hans-Joachim Orlok and his team, together with other areas of the university, are responsible for ensuring that there are enough masks, disinfectant, and trained security staff in the more than one hundred buildings on the university campus. This has not been easy, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, when many processes were still new and not well-rehearsed.
Conversion to Green Electricity
On campus, the topic of sustainability has accompanied the department head for many years. Together with environmental manager Doris Sövegjarto, he introduced the first environmental management system in 2005. “At that time, we were among the pioneers of universities throughout Germany.” His tenure also saw the university switch to green electricity. At that time, the university was already drawing its remote heating, which is considered CO2-neutral, from the waste-to-energy plant in Blockland.
Rock Gardens Against Flooding
The extensive renovation of the Boulevard, which began in 2011 and lasted several years, can also be traced back to Hans-Joachim Orlok and his team. The elongated structure, which connects central buildings from the Mensa cafeteria to the “cookie jar” lecture hall building and the Sportturm Building, had fallen into disrepair and needed to be renewed. Numerous factors had to be considered during the renovation. For example, reliable drainage of the Boulevard so that the ground-level building entrances would not be flooded during heavy rains. The solution comprised several dark gravel areas adorned with rock garden plantings. “In the run-up to the renovation, they even considered demolishing the Boulevard altogether,” the department head recounts. “But then we would have had to recreate all the building entrances and that would have been too expensive.”
From MARUM to the Campus Park
Numerous new buildings have been built during Hans-Joachim Orlok’s more than 25 years of service: for example, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen, Cognium (neurosciences), or the LION for Laser Technology on Klagenfurther Straße. The three buildings Engineering Sciences 3 (IW3) on Hochschulring, Block C of NW2 on Leobener Straße, and the Seminar and Research Building (SFG) on Enrique-Smidt-Straße are certainly special. “All three have just been paid off through a lease-purchase process and have become the property of the university,” he says. Orlok and his team also played an active role in creating the Campus Park and Garden of Nations in front of the administration building (VWG). Both areas have been there since 2010, offering a lot of space to relax with the red chairs and many trees. “Before, there was only fallow land there,” he recalls. “A real stroke of luck” for him is the artwork “Boule Spiel,” which moved from Kohlhökerstraße in the Viertel district in front of the administration building last winter. The next opening will probably be the BIOM on Leobener Straße at the end of the year: a highly modern teaching building for biology.
“You need a certain perseverance in this job”
The head of facility management has been connected to the University of Bremen since 1978. Back then, at the age of 23, he began his studies in electrical engineering in the NW1 Building of the still young reform university. After graduating, the engineer worked in the private sector for 13 years. In 1996, Hans-Joachim Orlok returned to the University of Bremen as head of the Administrative Unit for Technical Operations. In 2003, he became head of the Administrative Department for Technical Operations and Building Affairs. That was the name of today’s Administrative Department for Facility Management.
Finances are always a major challenge for his area of responsibility. The department head only has around two million Euros annually in current funds from the state of Bremen for building renovations and new constructions. “The university would need five to six times that amount to be able to maintain the condition of its buildings to some extent,” he says. “I recognize the efforts of the politicians,” emphasizes Hans-Joachim Orlok. However, the whole situation is not adequate. “You need a certain perseverance in this job.” Many things take more time than, for example, in the free economy. But he also hears that from colleagues at other German universities. “It’s not specific to Bremen.”
Even in Retirement, the Engineer Will Continue to Renovate
The last day in his office on the second floor of the maintenance depot will be July 31, 2022. And then? Hans-Joachim Orlok will stay in his profession for a while, so to speak: the engineer and his wife have bought an old house from the Gründerzeit era in Bremen Nord, which he is refurbishing and renovating with all his heart and soul. “I’m an enthusiastic craftsman,” he says with a laugh, “I simply need projects like this.”
You can find Hans-Joachim Orlok with a total of 50 university members on the website of the “#IchBinUniBremen” jubilee project created by Matej Meza and Anamaria Pabón-Maldonado.
Watch the [“buten an binnen” report with Hans-Joachim Orlok]((https://www.butenunbinnen.de/videos/unterwegs-mit-dem-hausmeister-100.html) celebrating 50 years of the University of Bremen from October 13, 2022.
Head of the Administrative Department for Facility Management
University of Bremen
Phone: +49421 218-60600