Reinforcing against high water, with as much electric equipment as possible

Sustainable construction and development is one of Ballast Nedam's biggest spearheads. Achieving emission-free construction sites by 2030 is an important step within this. In the project Versterking Rijnkade Arnhem, Ballast Nedam is further expanding the expertise and experience required for this. This means solving two sustainability questions with one solution: tackling the quay simultaneously contributes to protection against high-water levels, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change.

As a delta region, the Netherlands is vulnerable to flooding. Not only from the sea, but also from rivers. Due to climate change, these have to cope with more and more water. In the mountain areas where the Rhine and Meuse rivers originate, precipitation increasingly falls as rain instead of snow. As a result, it does not stay on the ground, but immediately flows with the rivers towards the North Sea. And the snow that does fall melts sooner due to rising temperatures. This causes higher water levels in rivers more often, with an increasing risk of flooding in the Netherlands. To prevent flooding, Rijkswaterstaat's High Water Protection Programme (HWBP) and the 21 water boards are working on the biggest dyke reinforcement operation since the Delta Works. Over the next 30 years, as many as 2,000 kilometres of flood defences will be reinforced. A small part of this (1.2 kilometres to be precise) is formed by the Rijnkade in Arnhem. Ballast Nedam, with contractor Van der Ven and (water) construction company Hakkers united in the building consortium SAMEN, will carry out the necessary reinforcement there from 2023 to the end of 2025.

Smart and sustainable

With the Afsluitdijk in 1932 and the Oosterscheldekering in 1986, Ballast Nedam has built up quite a bit of knowledge in this field. Naturally, there have been numerous developments since then, which have led to smart and sustainable working methods. These are used and further developed in all kinds of ways on the Versterking Rijnkade Arnhem project. Project manager Barry Kooijman and technical manager Jan Kohlmann know all about it. But first they talk about the actual and organisational sides of the project. "We are making 1,200 metres of flood defences future-proof for high water. At the same time, the redevelopment of the quay area forms the final piece of the upgrade of Arnhem city centre, which is located here on the Rhine. The current quay wall will be completely removed, and we will build a new one in return." The contract was awarded to SAMEN in February 2023 by the Rijn and IJssel Water Board and the municipality of Arnhem. According to the clients, Ballast Nedam and the two partners distinguish themselves through emission reduction, cooperation and minimising inconvenience to local residents.

Barry and Jan are also enthusiastic about the combination with Van der Ven and Hakkers. "As Ballast Nedam, we have proven that we handle the project and technical management of this type of project well. We have mastered process-based work and also know how to operate within the conditions of the UAV-GC (Uniform Administrative Conditions for Integrated Contracts), which apply to this contract. Hakkers and Van der Ven complement this as more production-driven parties, from their specific knowledge and expertise." For Ballast Nedam, Ballast Nedam Infra Projects acts as the main contractor within this project, and under that umbrella the organisational units Foundation & Excavation Solutions, Materieel and DIBEC Materiaalkunde are further involved. Besides Barry and Jan, Ballast Nedam's project team consists of Jos Kamphuis (sustainability consultant), Elisa Stolwijk (work preparation) and Twan Spanjers (steering committee member).

Water and land hubs

The challenges of this project lie in its location in the middle of the city and the client's desire to build as emission-free as possible. The latter fits with Ballast Nedam's ambition, calling for smart and sustainable solutions. "Because we are working so centrally in the city, we want to minimise inconvenience and disrupt accessibility as little as possible. That's why we arrange transport as much as we can by water, from our water hub. This mainly concerns the concrete elements. These are produced at Bosch Beton in Barneveld, transported to the water hub with electrical equipment and from there to the work site. These concrete elements are prefabricated, so they do not have to be made on site. This in turn saves time and space on the construction site. "In addition to a water hub, a land hub has also been set up. This is where materials such as wells, pipes and paving stones are collected and then transported to the construction sites efficiently and as much as possible at one time. The water and land hubs will thus reduce transport movements through Arnhem's city centre.

Large-scale electric

As for the second challenge, Barry and Jan see this project as one of the first where fully electric, and therefore emission-free, equipment is being used on a large scale like this. "This gives us the opportunity to build up specific expertise and experience in this field. One interesting aspect, for example, is production speeds. With diesel-powered machines, we know exactly where we stand due to years of practical experience. But with electric equipment, the question is often how long you can use a battery and what production speed is feasible. We also are working here with quite a few machines that have never been used before. We are now gaining knowledge about these, which we will also share with the market. In this way, we are all moving forward step by step with emission-free construction." Examples of electric equipment within this project include the all-electric anchor drill and the electric crane on the water, which is running without a generator for the first time. 

What about actually charging that machinery? "That requires an infrastructure in itself, which we are building ourselves. We now have several charging stations along the quay, which is partly possible because the municipality had already installed shore power facilities here. That is where we take the power we need for the project."

Reuse of sand and basalt

Besides emission-free construction, Ballast Nedam's ambition is to build energy-neutral. For example, by minimising the use of new materials. This is also taking shape in the Versterking Rijnkade Arnhem project. "We are reusing 5,500 cubic metres of sand and basalt from the old quays. This is a contract requirement, but it also fits perfectly with our own vision. In this case, it's also doable, because as a natural product, these materials are perfectly reusable." It is actually all these kinds of aspects that make this project a special job for Barry and Jan. Jan: "In terms of technical content, it is interesting in many ways. From the large-scale use of electric equipment to smart solutions. For instance, we were already happy with the precast concrete elements and all their advantages, but of course they also have to be watertight. We solved that by putting rubber profiles between them. An existing technique, but with a new application. It's fun to dare and do that with the partners."

Another special aspect, including a set of special solutions, is directly related to the reason for the project: high water. "The working area can flood. That happens once a year on average, but we have experienced it twice now. We have created a Flood Action Plan for that. This is full of measures, such as continuously monitoring water levels and keeping five pallets of sandbags and stuff for cramming into weak spots on hand at all times. Barry: "With all the snow that is now falling upstream at our eastern neighbours, I think we can expect quite a bit of meltwater with accompanying high-water levels. That action plan is no luxury." What else makes this project special for him? "That we as Ballast Nedam are showing that we want more and can mean more in future, similar projects. We are gaining very specific knowledge and experience for flood protection as well as for emission-free construction. Especially in cooperation with Van der Ven and Hakkers, with whom we form a well-established team here, we are completely ready for similar assignments."

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