English |Dutch en | nl
How Iv-Infra plays a major role in the enormous task of renovating and replacing infrastructure

How Iv-Infra plays a major role in the enormous task of renovating and replacing infrastructure

The infrastructure in the Netherlands is renowned worldwide. And rightly so. But much of the infrastructure, such as bridges, roads and locks, is approaching the end of its design life. And so, a major renovation and replacement task lies ahead, in which Wouter van der Wiel, Director of Iv-Infra, foresees a major role for his division. Our in-depth knowledge of asset management and specific domains make it possible for us to play a major role in this task. 

We need to gain insight into the condition of the total area.

The Netherlands. The land of water and many people on a small piece of earth. Many bridges, locks and quay walls were built before and after the Second World War. The lifespan of such infrastructure varies from 70 to roughly 100 years.It is quite a task to map large groups of objects to determine precisely what should be done and where priority should be placed. The objects concerned include, for example, bridges owned by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) or the quay walls in Amsterdam’s city centre. Unfortunately, the actual technical condition of these objects is often insufficiently recorded, and the availability of information regarding the design and construction is often limited or completely absent. A puzzle, therefore, with many uncertainties. “The task of tackling this properly is colossal. Moreover, there is an obligation to ensure the safety level meets legal requirements,” says Wouter. “That’s why we need to gain insight into the condition of the total area, which requires a lot of work.”

Iv-Infra has the required disciplines to solve this puzzle all under one roof. From understanding a foundation to electrical engineering, our expertise includes inspection, investigations, monitoring, load testing, measuring, drilling and scanning, combined with in-depth knowledge of mechanics and structures. Our in-house capabilities serve as a huge benefit and require coordination, recognises Wouter. “We can deploy a wide range of expertise, starting with people in the field and extending to high-quality asset management: decision-making, and everything in between.”

Iv-Infra has gained a wealth of experience with this integral approach and is currently conducting projects for various clients with the same question: what is the structure’s load capacity? In other words, does the structure meet the legal safety requirements, and how much longer will the bridge, road surface, quay wall or lock last? This question applies to hundreds of bridges in the municipality of Amsterdam, all steel, fixed and movable bridges for the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management and civil engineering works for ProRail. Not only do we determine how long the structure will last, but also whether it is capable of retaining its functionality. Wouter: “We map out the risks and prepare a cost comparison of, for example, the renovation and the desired performance of an object. Based on this, priorities can be set. This is asset management, pur sang: knowledge applied within the infrastructure market of Iv-Groep and increasingly as a service for other markets within the group.”

We can deploy a wide range of expertise.

Collecting this data is a huge task because the Netherlands has an enormous amount of infrastructure with which the remaining life and required actions to achieve compliance with requirements are yet to be determined. However, there is increasing urgency in obtaining a clear perspective of this, Wouter concludes.
“For example, the Haringvliet bridge needs to be tackled quite radically but will present many logistical consequences. As a result, clients are increasingly inclined to opt for a proactive approach, fortunately. And that’s where we play a big role. If you had to calculate how big this task is, we would have enough to do for the next few decades.”

But there is an obstacle: although the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, municipalities and provinces acknowledge the sense of urgency and insight that must be gained, money must also be available to fund such work. It is financially impossible to investigate and tackle all infrastructure immediately. The money just isn’t there. This is why Iv-Infra primarily concentrates on life-prolonging solutions that are less expensive but give organisations some breathing space. “It’s also very sustainable,” says Wouter. “So, we can make a difference in that area too. Thus, preventing the production of a lot of new material.” The load tests (an innovation of Iv-Infra) conducted on various bridges and quay walls show in practice that there is often an unexpectedly large residual strength that is not seen in the theoretical calculations.

The Netherlands will be busy with this task for the coming years; a golden opportunity for Iv-Infra.

In short, the lack of sufficient resources has negative consequences and is undoubtedly an issue. Wouter believes (local) politics play a role in this. “Infrastructure is not the sexiest topic for local politicians. Especially because it cannot be solved within one council term, meaning a quick ‘score’ cannot be achieved. The budgets are also under pressure because a government is always competing with other domains, and the budget will not grow enormously in the coming years. So, choices have to be made.”

It is, therefore, ‘five to twelve’ for some civil engineering works. Hence some of the choices currently being made are drastic. For example, applying axle weight limits (no lorry traffic) to certain road sections or complete closures, such as along the Amsterdam quay walls. Iv-Infra aims to limit this as much as possible, despite financial restrictions from (local) governments.

In the coming years, Iv-Infra aspires to respond to this issue proactively instead of reactively and with prior insight instead of being caught out unprepared. “Can it be fully solved? That’s a question of conscience. We don’t yet know the extent in its entirety.” Digitisation and standardisation are essential factors to assist in obtaining an answer quickly. At TU Delft, we are taught that every bridge and every road is different, so there is no such thing as a blueprint. Still, we participate in research programmes with the relevant authorities to establish how this can be done more efficiently. The Netherlands will be busy with this task for the coming years; a golden opportunity for Iv-Infra.”