Published on 12 March 2018

RWS's Impulse Programme stimulates circular operations

The Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat, RWS) aims to introduce circular business operations in order to halve its consumption of raw materials by 2030. In its Impulse Programme for the Circular Economy (2017- 2020), RWS focuses on developing services and products that encourage circular operations. Witteveen+Bos was commissioned by RWS for a number of projects in the context of this Impulse Programme.

Circular Design Manual in the MIRT process
In long-term processes, such as the Multi-Year Programme for Infrastructure, Spatial Planning and Transport (MIRT), incorporating circular design considerations is already a matter of urgency. 2030 may seem a long way off and 2050 even more so, but the choices made right now cast shadows that stretch at least 10, and in some cases even 50 years into the future. The manual was drawn up based on two perspectives and target groups:

  1. Applying circular design principles at object level (designers and operators).
  2. Creating space for circular design in the MIRT process (policymakers and advisors).

The key principles of prevention, value preservation (existing objects) and value creation (new structures) have been translated into eight circular design principles with practical tips, rules of thumb and examples. One such tip is to make sure that a landscape and visual quality plan, which precedes the technical design, does not include any requirements (aesthetic or otherwise) that rule out the application of recycled concrete. For each MIRT phase, from initiation through to the call for tenders, the manual describes what can be done to create space for circular design. The objective is to avoid making any (conscious or unconscious) choices in the early stages of the MIRT process that rule out the application of circular design principles in a later stage (lock-in). Parallel to the preparation of this manual, Witteveen+Bos worked on the widening of the A58 motorway (InnovA58), for which a circular design was created using that same manual.

Rob Dijcker, project leader: ‘Many things are already self-evident: we integrate life cycle extension into our designs and don’t demolish anything for the sake of it. However, creating designs that encompass several lifecycles requires that you build a convincing case for particular expectations of future use. If you can manage that, it helps you to make the U-turn from value destruction to value preservation and value creation. In addition, the reuse of civil engineering works, life cycle extension or delayed end of life will not win you prizes – designing and building is just really exciting and that’s what we’ve been trained to do. It is time for the ‘reuser’ to become the new hero.’

‘Materials passport’ for Princess Beatrix locks complex
A typical tool for the reuse of components or materials is the materials passport. For the extension and renovation of the Princess Beatrix locks, Witteveen+Bos conducted a study with contracting consortium Sas van Vreeswijk to determine which (decision-making) information was required for high-grade recycling of materials and where in the construction chain this information can be found. Registering the required object details in a ‘materials passport’ ensures that this information is kept on file, and facilitates recycling.

Reuse of Lek bridge
Another Witteveen+Bos project that was part of the Impulse Programme involved investigating possible ways to reuse the redundant steel arch bridge across the Lek River at Vianen. The outcome showed that reuse would be profitable in terms of both sustainability and finances. The call for tenders for traditional demolition was withdrawn, because the bridge can potentially be reused.

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