In this issue: Voice of Experience Jaak Saarniit President of TWN: Focus On… Public Property Strategies in Western Cape Province South Africa: INDAABIN: A Renewed Look At The Use Of Federal Property: New Members: Annual Meeting 2014: GPU Update: Annual Survey Update: W4 2015: Subscription Renewal

The Voice of Experience: Jaak Saarniit- Chairman of Riigi Kinnisvara in Estonia

Here we aim to capture the wisdom of one of TWN’s members. Every edition we focus on what’s occupying their mind and time and how experience helps to guide their judgment. This month Jaak Saarniit reflects.

The annual conference of the members of the Workplace Network (TWN) will be taking place in the Estonian capital Tallinn in 2014.

The most important event on the network’s calendar, it’s being held in a small country – and in terms of Riigi Kinnisvara AS, under the guidance of a relatively small company – for the first time. For us as the organisers, this is a major and a very exciting challenge. We hope that with your help we’ll make a good go of it.

Riigi Kinnisvara AS (State Real Estate Ltd, Estonia; hereafter RKAS) has been a member of TWN since 2006. We’ve attended many of its annual conferences and have a good idea of the expectations connected to organising such an event.

So what experience do we have to talk of
RKAS is a young company. We haven’t been operating all that long – we were founded by the government in 2001 to administer and develop improved property in the possession of the state. Our clients range from public institutions to senior government, which is why we shoulder such responsibility and come under such intense scrutiny from the public in regard to what we do. In that sense we’re presumably not all that different from many other members of TWN.

But what makes us different? What makes us unique? What makes our experiences worth sharing?
First of all, in legal terms we’re an incorporated entity governed by private law – everything we do is on the basis of the Commercial Code. That comes with its risks, but also with opportunities to organise our operations in market-like conditions. That said, 100% of our shares belong to the state and are held by the Ministry of Finance.

Ever since we were founded we’ve valued the property transferred to us by the state on the basis of the current market price or its fair value. This takes place as non-monetary contributions or, on certain projects, as monetary contributions to our share capital. To this end the government grants the Ministry of Finance permission to emit shares to the relevant value.

In this way RKAS becomes the owner of the building in question, while the public institution using the premises becomes its tenant. In other words, a distinction is made between owner and user. This means that relationships in the state real estate sector are more or less the same in form and function as those in the real estate sector in the country generally. On the one hand this raises the state budget burden from a zero-rent position to new heights, but on the other our company benefits from the market-like relationships it enters into, earning revenue from rent that can be used to maintain and restore buildings throughout their lives. In the long term the use of the buildings by the state is optimised, the necessary assets obtain the investments they need, required repairs are carried out, the buildings are properly maintained and the overall burden on the state budget is reduced.

Naturally enough this isn’t a quick process – in many cases transition periods need to be set, or the workload is enormous.

By the end of our first year of operations we had 70 buildings on our books. Today we have almost 1100 – mostly office blocks, but also schools, museums, courts, police and rescue HQs, prisons and more. Given the nature of these buildings, fostering market-like relationships can be quite complicated, but our increasing experience means it’s far from impossible.

Secondly, the experience we do boast is connected to property management. In association with researchers and the Association of Estonian Facilities Administrators and Maintainers, RKAS has developed a unique standard and systematised, uniform and comparable methodology for the planning, organisation, financing and accounting of management and maintenance operations. All of this is described in detail, divided between primary and secondary activities, systematised, codified and unified – and the implementation of the standard is mandatory for everyone on the market. Depending on the needs and wishes of the client for the services that are set out, there’s also the option of implementing the standard in part. This doesn’t undermine the system as a whole, and the option of full implementation always remains. It would be impossible to describe the system in detail here, but we’ll try to give you some idea of how it works during the Tallinn conference.

Thirdly, our experience is related to the state’s real estate reforms in general and to their implementation. In 2007 the government approved the state’s real estate strategy and appointed RKAS to oversee its fulfilment. The challenge in recent years has been the transition from decentralised to centralised organisation of the state’s property management. The decentralised approach was a hangover from the early years of our restored independence. For a small country it’s unfeasible – it’s both overly bureaucratic and expensive. The role we’ve played in implementing reforms has been particularly active of late. The transition to centralised management required a lot of work to be put into the required systems, processes (centralisation of property, inventory, transfer to our company et al.), register development, information and accounting systems, personnel and models of cooperation. Based on our experience to date, the way we organise our work and the speed with which we’ve achieved what we have, we hope to have come up with a new real estate strategy by 2018.

Finally, we’ve gained valuable experience in making buildings more energy-efficient. The sale of emissions allowances enabled the state to invest almost 160 million euros in this, and it was RKAS that was entrusted with implementing the programme. Bringing 543 buildings into conformity in such a small country in such a short space of time was a real challenge, but one we handled with aplomb. The project only ended up taking two-and-a-half years from the signing of the financing agreement to its completion, during which we worked with almost 220 construction, 70 design and 40 owner supervision companies, carried out almost 1500 public procurements (as state-sector companies are required to do), created both a suitable electronic procurement environment and a unique information and accounting environment with the help of specialists, and more – all to ensure the project’s success. What we achieved reflected our ability as a company to take the lead on large-scale projects and to pool our efforts to fulfil clear objectives.

Of course, there’s not enough room in this piece to list everything we might boast about in terms of experience. But in spite of our relatively short history that list would certainly include these, too: creating and designing contemporary work places; managing major construction projects; carrying out public procurements as a recognised centre of competence at the national level; our electronic and digital practices; the implementation of the BIM model in building construction; designing of close to zero-energy buildings; and the remote monitoring of buildings.

As a member of TWN we’ve had the opportunity to learn from all of you, our colleagues, from so many different countries. Talking to one another within the network has enriched us all.

Focus on… Challenges and Opportunities in Public Sector Asset Management in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

Context and Background
South Africa’s shift from an apartheid state to a democracy is well known around the world within a political context. The country’s relatively peaceful transition to democracy stands out when compared to other states who have faced (or are still facing) similar conflicts. Much less prominently reported however, is how South Africa’s past has shaped the built environment. Inequalities of the past are visible the spatial spread of social infrastructure throughout South Africa. In my search for a topic, after Bridget Hardy asked me to write an article for the newsletter, my thoughts gravitated towards the philosophical; the ‘why’ of what we do. I reflected on what motivates me, together with so many other public sector officials in South Africa, to get up each morning and plough our trade in the public service within the property and infrastructure fields- often in the face of what can sometimes seem as insurmountable challenges. Through this reflection, I realised that the modest contribution we all make on a daily basis affects the lives of many thousands of people, particularly children – who ordinarily would not have had accessibility to a school or a hospital or a clinic. This helps to keep perspective and motivation in steady supply.
What follows is a very brief synopsis of some of the issues affecting the Western Cape Government, and some of our initiatives, particularly within the property and infrastructure fields, though occasionally, I will wander into issues affecting the national and local government spheres as well.

Public Sector Asset Management in South Africa
The Government Immovable Asset Management Act (2007) and Western Cape Land Administration Act (1998)
The formalisation of public sector asset management in South Africa is still quite recent; the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA), promulgated in 2007, provided an asset management framework to differentiate between the responsibilities of “users” and “custodians”, and was implemented within National and Provincial spheres of government. Local government implementation is expected within the next few years, once the Act is sufficiently embedded at National and Provincial level. At a regional (provincial) level, the Western Cape Government’s (WCG) use and management of property assets is governed by the Western Cape Land Administration Act (WCLAA) together with GIAMA. The WCLAA was promulgated just short of a decade before GIAMA and as such, there is a disjuncture between the two pieces of legislation to the extent that the full exercise of our custodial role in property is often compromised.

GIAMA requires that all disposals of property assets (whether through outright sale or lease) are done on the basis of “best value”. I emphasise disposals specifically to illustrate the disjuncture, since the WCLAA requires all disposals to be at “market value”. This legislative disjuncture, which creates difficulties in transacting below market value with social delivery entities such as non-governmental organisations, is currently being addressed, with the repealing and re-drafting of the WCLAA to align to GIAMA.. Alignment of legislation will enable greater exercising of our custodial responsibilities in this regard.

The concept of ‘best value’ incorporates economic and social considerations and also the requirements of other spheres of government. Furthermore, it requires due consideration to land reform – in reparation and correction of apartheid spatial programmes (in terms of the former Group Areas Act) of dispossession of land from people and their relocation whether willing or not.

From reactive property management to proactive asset management
Effective implementation of GIAMA is synonymous with the shift from reactive property management to proactive asset management. It required(s) changes in organisational culture, organisational strategy, operating procedures, human resource capacity, information system capacity, and brought with it a larger requirement on accurate information, which also requires capacitation. Within Western Cape Government, active programmes are running in each of these areas.

Given the inherent imbalance in emerging economies between the quantum of social requirements and the envelope of available funds, there is a responsibility on government to seek other ways to improve efficiencies. Governments typically own significant property asset portfolios, and within those portfolios lie both tremendous unlocked value and hidden costs. The “cost” of utilising assets inefficiently cannot be known in relative terms unless a solid foundation of benchmarks is established. The “cost” is then measurable against the benchmark, and also provides a comparator for assessing the performance of one property against another. To this end, the Western Cape Government in 2012 embarked upon a project to measure its office portfolio utilisation against corporate benchmarks, which is summarised in an annual Property Efficiency Report.

The Property Efficiency Report was based on a similar model to the UK government’s State of the Estate report, which was the inspiration for us to embark on the project. Though this may be quite standard in developed countries, it was the first time that any such report was released by any government department in South Africa. The release of the report was a quantum leap forward in terms of fostering transparency and accountability with the public on property assets and simultaneously provided another managerial decision making resource for the effective management of state assets. The scope is currently limited to office accommodation, but will eventually expand to include all asset types.

Building the right foundation of data and information
Comprehension of ownership in a portfolio is the first logical step towards embarking on further initiatives to improve on that portfolio’s performance. From 2011, the WCG initiated a project to physically validate and verify the asset base, ensuring that each property is adequately identified and reflected in the asset register. This time consuming project for WCG has reached its end. However, because government in South Africa (across all three spheres, National, Provincial and Local), has had to restructure several times since 1994 to align service delivery to a newly democratic South Africa; ownership clarification and verification, as they pertain to the vesting of properties between the three spheres is on-going. This process is expected to be completed by end Mar 2016.

In addition to the simple identification and verification of properties, the WCG also embarked on a project to determine the condition of all buildings within its portfolio. This ongoing project will enable WCG to understand its maintenance requirements (current and backlog) more accurately, on the basis of technical condition assessment information.

Some operational initiatives of Western Cape Government
The drive towards effective utilisation has given rise to many other programmes and projects aimed towards this goal. Our Modernization Programme aims to reduce WCG’s average office space utilisation per FTE (full time equivalent) from 28 square meters to 14.2sqm per FTE- the South African corporate office benchmark.

Our 13 Dorp Street initiative will see development of an office block of approximately 20,000sqm usable space in the Cape Town inner city. This will realise significant savings on leasing costs in the long term. Furthermore, we are focusing on other strategic acquisitions across the Western Cape for purposes of reducing the leased portfolio.

Our Regeneration Programme is at an advanced stage of concept for a select batch of strategic sites (and which will inform tender specification), where WCG retains ownership of the land and buildings and enters into either long term lease or a public private partnership with private sector developers and investors.

All derelict and vacated sites are each being given priority attention, firstly from a safety and security point of view and secondly, to consider all options for utilisation, whether internally by WCG or externally to any other government sphere or the private sector.

The costs of derelict and vacated sites become abundantly apparent when witnessing some of the social ills which these sites can induce. The deterioration of these sites arose due to inadequate processes of relinquishment from the ‘users’ to the ‘custodian’, and where, in the space between relinquishment and re-allocation or disposal of the asset, effective control over the asset is lost and deterioration sped up exponentially. In pre-GIAMA days, the lines between the roles of ‘custodian’ and ‘user’ were often blurred. The implementation of GIAMA has helped to arrest the significant societal costs of derelict or abandoned assets, especially to the compromised safety and security of communities in which these assets lie fallow.

All of these initiatives work in tandem towards the common goal of driving inefficiencies out of the portfolio. Longer term goals include having budgets devolved to user departments to foster accountability.

What does the future hold?
Whether the issue is redressing apartheid inequality through land reform, or the provisioning of social infrastructure aligned to the needs of South Africa’s communities, public sector immovable asset management and infrastructure provision in South Africa is fraught with challenges. Everything we do is done within the context of a very limited budget (South Africa has around 6 million active tax payers out of a population of around 50 million people) – yet our citizens are desperately in need of services, from basic sanitation, to schooling, to healthcare, amongst others.

This point highlights that within each sphere of government in South Africa, the effective and efficient use of state assets, is of paramount importance. In the absence of growing revenue to deliver services, it is incumbent on governments to drive efficiencies and costs savings and increase the spending envelope through effective asset management.

In summary, despite these challenges, we wake up every morning because we know that no challenge is insurmountable. With each new pupil intake at a newly constructed school, with each set of patients admitted to a newly constructed hospital, we provide each person the platform to become growing contributors to their communities, the economy and society at large. Being able to contribute each day to correcting the spatial inequalities of the past – could there be any greater honour than this? To quote Mr Mandela himself, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

For further information, contact Shaheen Adams at

A new look for federal workspace in Mexico

Despite being the organization charged with managing the usage of federal buildings in Mexico, for almost twenty years INDAABIN was leasing the federal building it used as main office.

One of the first tasks given to the administration for INDAABIN, was to consolidate the replacement of its headquarters, by leasing a building owned by the federal government itself, and taking the ownership of the new building as an advantage, enabling improvement of workspace conditions. Thus, starting from March on 2014, main office was moved to a federal property, which allowed it to save more than 42,000 USD per month in public resources.

This move also allowed INDAABIN to concentrate previously dispersed areas of government, such as offices for public servants, into one place. Other, previously several areas were also able to be linked as a consequence of this move. This brand new building is smoke free, universally accessible and has a lunch room and center of geographic systems information (GIS). It also embraces gender equality, providing a breast-feeding care room.

In order to continue improving the usage of federal property, INDAABIN faces more tasks. For example, updating the occupational parameters for public servants (maximum occupancy area by institution), creating an approved institutional image, and establishing new goals for all the federal institutions in property occupation.

The next edition of TWN News will be published in the Autumn. Please give us your feedback on this edition and ideas for the next on

Member Changes

It’s all change among our member organisations this month, with 5 organisations changing their leadership. TWN welcomes all our new members, and looks forward to providing you with the benefits of belonging to the network, as well as gaining from your experience.

Welcome Shaheen Adams of Western Cape Provincial Government Department of Public Works!

The Department of Public Works for the Western Cape Provincial Government, is now represented by Shaheen Adams, the acting Head of Property Management Directorate. The Department of Transport and Public Works provide the Western Cape Government with property management services and accommodate its departments. Read Shaheen’s article on the challenges and opportunities of public sector management in Western Cape, in this issue of the TWN newsletter.

Shaheen takes over from Gary Fisher, as the Department of Transport and Public Works in Western Cape’s representative in TWN.

Welcome Yvonne van der Brugge-Wolring of Rijksvastgoedbedrijf!

Yvonne, the Director of Portfolio Strategy and Portfolio Management at Rijksvastgoedbedrijf, now represents RVB in TWN, taking the place of Eva
Klein Schiphorst, as RGD has been part of the merger creating RVB.

Rijksvastgoedbedrijf aims to possess a ‘future-proof’ property portfolio, through strategic structure and composition.

Welcome Michael Blaschuck of Shared Services of British Columbia!

Assistant Deputy Minister of the Real Property Division of Shared Services British Columbia, Michael Blaschuk, now represents the SSBC in TWN, in place of Sarf Ahmed. The SSBC supports British Columbia’s government and broader public sector by supplying technology and other services. The Real Property Division manages a varied portfolio on the British Columbian government’s behalf, including heritage buildings from 1860s, the Robson Square Complex and Vancouver Law Courts.

Welcome Norman Dong of Public Buildings Service!

Representation of the Public Buildings Service in the USA is taken over from Dorothy Robyn by the new Commissioner Norman Dong. The role of the PBS is to act as landlord and caretaker for the civilian federal government, managing 9624 assets, including 481 historic properties. This impressive portfolio is expanded via new construction and leases on the behalf of the government.

Welcome Mr Hiroshi Shimono of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism!

Hiroshi represents Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in the place of Toru Oomachi. Hiroshi is an Architect and Director of the Special Project Management Office
Architecture and Building Engineering Division in the Government Building Department. He brings a wealth of experience, from within Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and outside of it.

Annual Meeting 2014

In a few days time TWN members from 15 countries will descend on the capital city of Estonia for the TWN Annual Conference 2014. Though a small country, Estonia has excelled itself in terms of technological innovation; it is the birthplace of Skype, Hotmail and KaZaA, and is also at the forefront in terms of educating its citizens, with a 99.8% literacy rate. It is also home to our member organisation RKAS, represented by Mr Jaak Saarniit, whose Voice of Experience can be read in this newsletter.

Members will be welcomed on the evening of 7th September, with a reception in Swissotel Tallinn. This reception will provide an opportunity to meet new members of The Workplace Network and to greet old friends in an informal setting, ensuring that human connections are quickly made and allowing all members to get to know one another. This year RKAS is also hosting the Annual Meeting of the European group PuRe-net (Public Real Estate Network for Europe) for a combined meeting. The PuRe-Net is like TWN but with the focus purely on organisations operating within Europe – mainly within the EU.

The Official Opening of the TWN Annual Conference 2014 is at 9 the next morning in the Mextory Innovation and Business Centre. Then there will be presentations on Estonian Public Real Estate; a Members Update from the Netherlands, Ireland and Finland; Estonian State Real Estate; and a seminar on Strategy and Business Models. Lunch is accompanied by the PuRe-net Steering Committee , and talk will then turn to Management and Maintenance of a Real Estate Portfolio, followed by an overview of PuRe-net Working Tables.

In the evening, members will be collected from the hotel and taken to Seaplane Harbour, Estonia’s Maritime Museum, for a black tie dinner. The Seaplane Harbour is an extraordinary building recently restored and worth seeing in its own right as well as a museum full of talking points, such as the beautiful Suur Toll, an icebreaker in both senses of the word, which celebrates her 100th birthday this year.

Day Two of the conference focuses on the PuRe-net Annual Members Meeting, followed by a trip to the stunning Stenbock House, home to Estonia’s government for an address by the Prime Minister, Mr Taavi Roivas, on e-government. Some of you will remember Taavi who attended several previous TWN Conferences.

A walking tour of Tallinn’s beautiful Medieval Old Town will then help you to build up an appetite for Lunch, after which discussions on energy strategy and execution will be lead by Mr Allan Hani at the RKAS offices. The Members Updates from Canada, the UK, Japan, Brazil and Norway will round off the day’s activities before the evening, which will see the Conference’s much anticipated Folk Night held at the Estonian Open Air Museum.

The TWN Annual Meeting 2014 begins Day three, followed by the Members Update from Mexico; presentation from Finland and a discussion of Office Space Solutions at the Estonian Tax and Custom Board. An e-Estonia presentation will then be given in the e-Estonia Showroom.

The Art Museum of Estonia will host the day’s lunch, following which, members will be treated to a bus tour of the city of Tallinn to round off the programme with a final chance to make plans for keeping in touch throughout the year.

We hope that you find the Conference beneficial, and that the rich combination of property discussions and cultural activities will make your trip both enjoyable and useful.

W4 2014: 7th June – 12th June 2015 – DUBLIN

The Office of Public Works is looking forward to welcoming you to Dublin in 2015 to attend the W4 Worldwide Workplace Web Annual Conference.

The proposal for the theme of the Conference is Accommodating Change – Measuring Success – A Lifecycle Approach. With your help, we will focus on how change is strategically managed and how to measure the success of our activities.

W4 exists to create and nurture a network of future leaders within public sector real property and workplace organisations to support international knowledge exchange, continuous learning and the personal development of its membership. It is proposed that the Programme will include:

A. Strategic planning

1. State Property Management Strategies:

  • Innovative Partnerships/Engaging with Private Sector
  • Application of FM Standards
  • Life-cycle strategies at planning and design stage
  • Workplace planning
  • Asset maintenance policies and strategies

2. Evaluation of Accommodation Options:

  • Renew/Rebuild/Dispose
  • Accommodation options analysis

B. Occupy & Maintain

  • Maintenance Management
  • FM Management
  • Energy and sustainability
  • Full Life Costing

The W4 2015 Conference presents an excellent networking opportunity and we will be requesting updates by use of surveys on the topics from participants in advance. We will also be seeking presentations from leaders within the Network for each of the sessions.

Clare McGrath, Chairman: Office of Public Works

Contact details: Anne O’Sullivan
Telephone: 00 353 1 647 6584

Member Update
United Kingdom Cabinet Office

The Government Property Unit (GPU) formed in 2010 coordinates efficiency savings on government owned property to improve the management and performance of the government estate. Read more in Government Estate Strategy 2013 and the latest State of the Estate Report. In June the government announced that it had vacated 2million sqm of property saving £1.2billion.

GPU recently launched the Government Property Finder which allows the public to locate property available for rent or sale or if they want to challenge the economic use of government owned property under the Right to Contest.

TW3: A Guide to Smart Working in Government. GPU is also leading on Smart Working with its TW3 The Way We Work programme.

TW3 is a cornerstone of Civil Service Reform which encourages large scale introduction of smarter working practices involving changes in work culture, technology and office layouts as well as providing more choice of work locations. Without having to squeeze more people into crowded offices smart working is allowing government to reach its target of 10sqm/person in its offices while at the same time improving connectedness, agility and the experience of work for people.

GPU is just starting out to gather evidence of measureable benefits in terms of productivity, staff engagement and culture as well as costs and sustainability.

TWN Annual Survey 2014 Update

Feedback from members and the Guidance Committee let us know that its time to refresh our thinking about the TWN Annual Survey so that it meets your needs better.

We will discuss the Survey at the TWN meeting in Tallinn and then come out to consult more widely. At present the Survey combines three years worth of data about the property that members own and manage, information about business drivers and contextual information about organisations. This makes for a very long Report! So the Guidance Committee has recommended that we consider other options to make the Survey easier for members to complete and easier to use.

If you have any immediate feedback please drop us a line on

Subscription Renewals Due

2014 Subscriptions are now due and invoices have been sent out.

The annual subscription is currently $2,500 US which includes newsletter updates, access to information and contacts with other members worldwide through the TWN website, the Annual Survey report, support for members’ delegates to the W4 learning and development network for aspiring leaders and registration for the senior TWN member to attend the annual workshop.

About TWN News

The Workplace Network is an exclusive, global community of senior executives in public-sector real estate. Our members are leaders and decision makers from public-sector real estate organizations worldwide: from public corporations, ministries and government agencies spanning 12 different countries.

Together, we develop partnerships and exchange ideas, strategies and solutions on everything from public policy and strategic recruitment to sustainability and innovative officing. By putting our international knowledge and expertise together, we create innovative solutions and opportunities in public-sector real estate for all our members. Go to TWN site