In the Netherlands, we are facing an infrastructural challenge. According to this article in a Dutch newspaper, many bridges built after the Second World War are nearing their end. The state of the Dutch infrastructure is worrisome, according to the Dutch institution for Public Works and Water Management. Maintenance and repairs to bridges, viaducts and roads will cause inconvenience. What can we learn from this? And how do we predict the future in construction, so we can prevent situations like this from occurring again?
Most Dutch bridges were built in the sixties and seventies. They are not designed for the current volume of cars and all the heavy traffic. “So they are reaching the end of their lifespan sooner,” says spokesman Rob Hageman of the Dutch institution for Public Works and Water Management. Besides bridges, locks and flood defences are a concern, he continues. “We still have lock complexes that were built between 1900 and 1940. In addition, many viaducts above motorways are also up for replacement. All that is very expensive to replace or repair.”
We apparently failed to properly predict the future we live in today, 50 years ago. Can we do better in the upcoming years? Fortunately, we can. With the help of software, we can make much better risk analyses and deliver quality builds. And that is necessary, because if we do not think about the future properly now, we will end up with problems and much higher costs. And that doesn’t just apply to bridges, locks and flood defences, but to every manufacturing industry. Because sometimes, when things are made, they break down. That is why quality control, risk analysis and consistent follow-up are so important.
From software, you can create models that predict the future.
Build with data
To measure is to know. We have so many tools at our disposal that enable us to make forecasts. What are the trends? What do users need? For example, the Netherlands has always been a cycling country, but we see (especially since corona) an enormous increase in the use of electric bicycles. This requires a different approach and infrastructure. In the cities, bicycles get more space, but what about in the region? The first cycle highways are already in place, but shouldn’t we eventually open up some stretches of motorway to this kind of transport? Wonderful things to think about, but difficult to draw up an accurate long-term plan. Technology and developments in the field of mobility are changing so rapidly, which is another reason why software is so important. From there, you can make models that predict the future. Think of expected population growth, expected emissions from construction machinery and expected use of resources such as building materials and land.
In the years following the Second World War, an enormous amount of construction took place. We don’t call it ‘The Reconstruction’ for nothing. A lot had to be done in a short time and a completely new infrastructure was created. A great achievement, but with today’s knowledge, it could have been done much more sustainably. We now continuously measure the use of these structures and can accurately predict when maintenance is required. This enables us to manage risks much better. We now know exactly when something breaks down. By embracing digital in all facets of construction, risk management becomes a breeze.
Quality assurance is an aspect that can be found in any process.
Build with quality
In the future of construction, quality naturally comes first throughout the entire building process. Apart from the fact that you always want to strive for quality, you are also legally obliged to do so. And that doesn’t stop at the delivery of a project. Quality assurance is an aspect that can be found in every process. From quality rounds in the construction industry to workplace inspections in large warehouses for the retail trade.. Recording findings is an important asset when it comes to quality. A while back, Martijn Broeze, quality assurance officer at PlanGarant The Netherlands, talked about the importance of this:
“Quality assurance is important for the whole building process,” Broeze says. “We are a quality assurance agency. We work completely digitally. We don’t work on paper, we don’t know analogue. Our supervisors and assessors are only equipped with an iPad and a laptop. They actually do everything on that basis.”
As we see with the Dutch bridges that were built after WW2, the quality that has been delivered is no longer standard today. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money to fix and that is a thorny issue. An example of the Dutch problem is the Haringvliet Bridge that connects Rotterdam to the provinces Zeeland and Brabant. This 1221-metre long bridge was opened in 1964. Now, 67,000 vehicles cross it every day, including a lot of heavy traffic between the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. All the traffic rattles the seven hundred clamps that secure the more than two hundred aluminium plates to the underside of the drawbridge. This is dangerous, also for the ships that pass underneath. Nevertheless, the drawbridge will not be replaced immediately. The search for a contractor, personnel and materials proof to be a real challenge. These are the three challenges we wrote about before, in which digital tools can certainly be beneficial. By guaranteeing quality and estimating risks based on software – and not gut feelings – predicting the future becomes a lot easier.