We spoke to foreman Mitch van der Hoek from contractor VORM Bouw back in 2022, slightly more than eight months ago. At that time, only the ground floor and first floor had been built. But now, the Stepstone residential tower commissioned by housing association Lieven de Key reaches some 80 m into the air. Van der Hoek: ‘Construction work is proceeding well, but not everything is under our control.’
Rapid construction without scaffolding
The apartments are spread across 22 floors, which have been completed at a rate of six working days per floor. Van der Hoek and his team are moving onto the finishing work relatively soon after the completion of the building’s shell : the plastering, laying the floors and finishing the bathrooms are only one floor ‘behind’. This is significantly shortening the construction time. ‘There were one or two occasions when we had to stop work, such as during storm Poly’, says Van der Hoek. ‘Building in such windy conditions is unsafe.’ But it has been possible to build at a rapid rate most of the time. Passers-by have also enjoyed an excellent view: the use of prefabricated floor, wall, balcony and façade elements meant that there was no need for scaffolding that might have impeded the view.
Safe hoisting work and utilities
Construction site safety is an important theme. This is especially the case when you are working in such a busy area as the Kenniskwartier (Knowledge District) in Zuidas. People are walking past the construction site all day long. ‘From Parnassusweg you have a direct route via Gustav Mahlerlaan to the ACTA and the VUmc’, explains Van der Hoek. ‘For safety reasons, we cordoned that section off when we were hoisting the façade elements into position. We even had a traffic controller. When each element was in place, the road was given the all-clear again.’
Shared construction site
The shortage of construction space, a familiar phenomenon in Zuidas, presented another challenge. This is because, right next to Stepstone, work is under way on its larger brother The Pulse of Amsterdam. Both projects share the same construction site, which calls for continuous coordination. ‘We even have one colleague whose sole focus is the construction logistics for both projects’, adds Van der Hoek. ‘We hold weekly meetings to look ahead at everything that needs to be taken to or removed from the work site, both for Stepstone and for The Pulse of Amsterdam. All of that needs to be carefully coordinated.’
Not everything under our control
Meetings and consultations are also essential when you are almost completely dependent on other parties, as is the case for the utilities. ‘We have a separate meeting specifically for that, which is also attended by the City of Amsterdam and the utility companies. Fortunately, that runs smoothly.’ For temperature control in the building, Stepstone again depends on the thermal energy storage system (WKO) of its neighbour The Pulse of Amsterdam. ‘That project’s scheduled for completion after Stepstone’, explains Van der Hoek, ‘but we want to ensure that Stepstone is already connected to the system. This is why, during the construction industry holiday that starts on Monday, 24 July, we’ll be connecting all the essential pipes from The Pulse of Amsterdam to Stepstone.’
From now to completion in 2024
The finishing work is already in full swing. This also applies to the roof terrace, where it needs to be possible for future residents to exercise. But is there anything else that could delay completion of Stepstone in the first quarter of 2024, such as the Zuidasdok works in nearby Parnassusweg? ‘That’s yet another example of circumstances that are not under our control’, says Van der Hoek. ‘Fortunately, we’ve been aware of this for a while and made clear agreements with the City of Amsterdam: when construction starts, our trucks will take another route.’
Rik Harmsen (area developer at Lieven de Key) took us on a guided tour of the roof of the Stepstone residential tower on 17 July 2023, to mark the occasion of it reaching its highest point.