Published on 20 March 2017
Vestdijk Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Vestdijk is a major traffic artery which runs through the centre of Eindhoven, connecting the city with the outlying region. The local road infrastructure is now to be updated, partly with a view to meeting air quality standards and partly in line with the local authority’s vision for the future of the city centre. Some very complex choices must be made. After all, there are many stakeholders: residents, businesses and visitors, all with diverse and sometimes divergent interests. The Municipal Executive has announced that it will not finalise any decisions until all parties have been given an opportunity to present their views. In association with partners GriDD and TRIMM, Witteveen+Bos has designed and implemented an interactive ‘experiential’ website which provides information about the various alternatives and enables visitors to give their feedback.
Online consultation gives us a direct line to our stakeholders
Edgar Rijsdijk is a Witteveen+Bos consultant specialising in strategic stakeholder management. ‘Various ideas have been proposed for the redesign of the city centre,’ he explains. ‘Some people favour closing Vestdijk to through traffic, which will be rerouted around the periphery. Others suggest reducing the number of lanes and introducing a 30 kph speed limit. Both options entail restructuring public spaces. We have launched an online information platform at www. beleefdevestdijk.nl which presents all the options and collects feedback so that the local authority is aware of stakeholders’ opinions.’ Pieter-Bas de Visser is the project leader who oversaw the development of the website and its virtual reality (VR) model. ‘Residents, business owners and visitors see a very accurate 3D impression of the new situation, which can be viewed from all angles. They can then appreciate the likely impact of the proposals and can offer their feedback. This new form of digital stakeholder consultation supports two-way communication and allows information to be exchanged quickly and easily.’ The public responses submitted through the website are collated in a ‘requirements database’ which forms the starting point of the design process. ‘Because the website has a direct interface with our design systems, we are able to adapt the online presentation to incorporate stakeholders’ comments and suggestions,’ states Edgar. ‘We have far more input than we could possibly obtain during a traditional consultation meeting, and we can act upon it more quickly. This allows us to substantiate our recommendations. Because so many stakeholders have had their say, the project is likely to enjoy broader support. The municipal authority’s original objective was to improve air quality and the quality of the human environment for local residents. However, the online consultation revealed that water management is also a major consideration for many people. The project terms of reference were therefore broadened. The structured process, with a direct coupling of requirements and objectives at an early stage, results in a far clearer picture of what the project must set out to achieve. The designers then have a specific framework within which to develop the various concepts. This has added value for all concerned.’
As Pieter-Bas adds, ‘In the past, the information gathered for this type of project did not always address the problems that stakeholders were experiencing in practice. This is bound to happen if you can only reach out to a limited number of stakeholders. Consultation meetings are often poorly attended. Our online platform for Vestdijk demonstrates that we now understand the integrated process of consultation and design far better. That is an excellent outcome.’ Jan Josten, project manager for the City of Eindhoven, agrees. ‘Everyone is extremely satisfied. I speak not only on behalf of the city authority but also for the stakeholders who live or work along Vestdijk and those in the neighbouring districts. I gather that the people at Witteveen+Bos are equally satisfied. The website has given us an extremely valuable new communication channel through which we can maintain much more direct contacts with our stakeholders. We hope to use this innovative approach to support future projects.’ Edgar and Pieter-Bas are pleased with the results. ‘It is of course marvellous to work with such a satisfied client. This project has not only drawn on our technical expertise and our consultancy skills, but also focused on allowing stakeholders to truly experience the future situation in a 3D environment. We intend to use virtual reality as a regular component of our public consultation processes in future. An interactive website allows us to engage with all stakeholders and conduct a direct discussion about the impact of our designs and solutions. Those solutions will of course be based on sound technical expertise. More dynamic images and fewer long reports: this is how we are continually working on maximising value for our clients.’