For some questions, there’s no single answer
As a structural engineer for the built environment, Maartje Dijk (37) asks herself: How can we build as sustainably as possible? For a new Rijkswaterstaat road management location, the answer is a building that can be expanded and reused.
Technology and creativity
‘I loved hard science subjects and was good at them too, and I’ve always enjoyed creating. As a child I used to make little villages for gnomes; as a structural engineer for the built environment, I get to combine my interests of technology and creativity. I also like the fact that lots of different disciplines come together in my profession: engineering, installations, architecture, building physics, workplace design, ecology and so on. After more than 12 years at Witteveen+Bos, I’m now a group leader but I also still work as a designer and structural engineer.’
Interchangeable, expandable, reusable
‘Basically, we work every day on finding solutions to whichever problems arise. In doing so, we rely on our creativity. Take the new road management location at Zuidbroek, an assignment for Rijkswaterstaat. The routing on site was important – the connections to approach roads. There was also a sustainability ambition and we were faced with standards and the fact that the design had to match up with earlier projects. In short, it was quite a puzzle. Via design sessions with the client and architect, we ultimately arrived at a modular concept that is suitable both as a salt storage location and depot. The timber construction we opted for is interchangeable, expandable and renewable. I’m totally in my element in a project like this.’
Three good solutions
‘As structural engineers, we can’t afford to not think about sustainability. Construction costs are rising, there’s a scarcity of materials and personnel and, above all, we have a huge climate problem to solve. In essence, there are three good solutions: designing buildings that last a very long time, designing buildings that can be used flexibly, or designing buildings that largely consist of reusable parts. What the best solution will be depends on the situation. In our profession, there’s no single answer. We always do what’s best based on what we currently know and can anticipate.’