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Speeding things up and slowing things down in Zuidas

Peter van Oerle rides his motorbike from Spaarndam to Amsterdam. But that’s as far as ‘business as usual’ goes. ‘My actual working day is very different from three weeks ago.’ It starts in the site hut. ‘There are only about 5 people in the hut, whereas there are usually 15 to 20 of us. A lot of the work that doesn’t actually need to be done on site is being carried out at home.’ The site hut used to be a place for pranks and banter, but it’s a lot less frivolous now. ‘People are concerned. Concerned for their own health, for that of their loved ones and probably about their financial situation too.’ Having said this, they are keen to keep working. ‘They seem to enjoy being at work. It’s a good way to distract yourself and be outside in the fresh air.’

New problems

In the current situation, van Oerle is facing problems that have never arisen before. ‘A lot of the people working on the construction projects in Zuidas came from abroad, but several of them have returned home. The number of available construction workers has also dropped because of sickness or health issues. As a result, developers can’t always meet the agreements that they’ve made with us. We are trying to be lenient in view of the circumstances, but you obviously have to maintain some semblance of control. Finding the right balance is quite a challenge, particularly now that you can’t sit down and talk about it together. Luckily, we’re all on the same side, so we’ve been able to work things out so far.’

The site hut is usually a hive of activity
Marcel Steinbach

Inventive

‘So, in practical terms, some of the buildings that were due to be completed around the summer probably won’t be finished. The usual chain of events is that the municipality starts working on the public space around a new building about two months before it is completed. We obviously plan our activities and logistics around this in advance: in fact, we have already bought some of the materials, which are ready and waiting with the contractors. Now that we know that some of the building projects are running late – or are likely to run late – we’re trying to be inventive. This means that some of the simpler activities can be brought forward so that the contractors don’t have to hang around doing nothing.’

Head and tail

Van Oerle explains about the type of projects that can be carried out early. ‘The unique situation means that Zuidas is as good as empty. In normal circumstances, you couldn’t close off a bike path close to the VU University for renovations on a weekday. Thousands of students use these bike paths every day, so we tend to plan this type of work on weekends or during the holidays. But now we have time and space on our hands, so we can bring forward this maintenance work. It keeps our staff at work and saves us causing a nuisance when everything returns to normal. A very small silver lining in this unusually dark cloud.’

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