The first foundations for LAB42 will be laid in August/September. Meanwhile, preparations are already in full swing. ‘We’ve recently ordered 15,000 square metres of flooring for the building,’ says Bas van Straten, project manager at the building contractor Visser & Smit Bouw BV.
The company also handled construction of all the stations on Amsterdam’s North-South metro line and of the Princess Máxima Center for paediatric oncology. Recently, Van Straten completed another prestigious project: CC NL a shared storage depot for the Rijksmuseum, Het Loo Palace, the Holland Open Air Museum and the Cultural Heritage Agency, comprising no less than 30,000 square metres. ‘We specialise in complex utility buildings.’
LAB42 is an educational building with a circular design. Van Straten points to a particularly innovative aspect: ‘LAB42 can be almost completely disassembled. If the building needs to be moved to another location 50 years from now, it will be possible. This requires a specific construction method. To give one example, we make frequent use of steel and prefab floor elements that are assembled on site. We only pour concrete for the foundations, whereas this accounts for more of the construction process for conventional buildings.’
Van Straten regards LAB42 as special in several respects. ‘We’re installing solar panels not only on the roof, but on the facade as well. This gives the building a unique feel. In combination with the heat-cold storage system, it also makes the building self-sufficient in this respect and hence energy-neutral. Speaking personally, I find the Atrium particularly striking. This is where the structure of the building is visible and where you can see the superb lines of LAB42.’
The building architect Benthum Crouwel is an acquaintance of Van Straten. They also worked together on the North-South line. ‘We immediately resumed our good working relationship.’ As a consequence, Van Straten describes the start of the project as being remarkably smooth and pleasant in the interactions with the architect, the client UvA and other partners. ‘We meet every two weeks. Everything is running at full capacity: procurement, applying for permits, preparation of the construction site and refining the plans and work schedules.’
Strict building regulations
The building work is subject to strict regulations. ‘In order to minimise the inconvenience to local residents, we’re drilling the piles into the ground instead of driving them in, and pressing sheet pilings into the ground instead of using vibration. Both techniques reduce noise nuisance considerably.’ Site traffic is also strictly regulated. A gatekeeper directs the lorries safely across cycling and pedestrian paths, and the working hours are from 07:00 to 19:00.
‘We communicate in good time with regard to any nuisance,’ says Van Straten. ‘This doesn’t mean we can cancel out all nuisance, but then people are prepared.’ Visser & Smit Bouw is part of Volker Wessels, one of the founding companies of Bewuste Bouwers (Considerate Builders)*. ‘We’re considerate of local residents, take a responsible approach to materials by, for instance, having them delivered already cut to the right lengths, strive to limit waste and work with re-usable types of packaging. These are just a few examples of the way we build.’
Van Straten argues that the construction process itself has almost become a side issue as a result. ‘The whole spectrum of organisation around the construction process itself is hugely important if you want to work efficiently. A well-organised, clean and safe building site is essential. Naturally, this involves lots of rules. The trick is to ensure that everyone enjoys the work in spite of all those rules.’
Van Straten likes that LAB42 is being built in an educational district and on an open plot of land. ‘This way, everyone can clearly keep track of the construction process, also thanks to the transparent structure of the building.’
* Construction with consideration for environmental management, corporate social responsibility, safety and sustainability.