Valley Amsterdam: How it’s done
Recently, a futuristic building has sprung up along the Amsterdam South Axis: “Valley”. In this playful creation featuring three towers, sustainability, technology, and healthy living come together. Nowadays, such a sizeable construction project is impossible without digital support. We spoke with the general foreman, Ruud van der Thiel, about the implementation of Ed Controls during Valley’s construction.
General Foreman Ruud van der Thiel: “Keep it simple!”
On the 15th of November last year, Valley was officially handed over to the client. Dozens of companies worked together to create this building, which has an organic quality. Such an undertaking would never have been accomplished so quickly or successfully without transparent collaboration. Clear communication between the many parties and disciplines involved is essential for properly managing such a complex construction project. Ed Controls’ digital support was an indispensable part of that process, according to the working of this building.
During our interview with the general foreman in early March, the final tasks were well underway. Ruud van der Thiel has had his office at the project site since the property was conveyed in August 2017 and expressed that “it won’t be easy closing the door behind me when all this is over”. But a new, even bigger job lies on the horizon. In South-East Amsterdam, 560 homes need to be built on a plot of land one and a half times larger than this one. “But we’ll be building straight up,” he says, putting the job in perspective. “So, it should be a lot easier in that sense.”
The general foreman will likely use Ed Controls from day one, just as he did for Valley.
“From the first piece of rebar to the final wall socket, we used Ed Controls for our own quality control and registration purposes,” Van der Thiel explains. “It’s particularly convenient to know where we record something. We used to only note down issues that weren’t properly carried out in the past, but that’s changing. And certainly, once the new Dutch construction quality-assurance law (Wet Kwaliteitsborging) is implemented, we’ll also need to keep records of what has been successfully carried out. We currently conduct assessments on various elements, mostly for quality control, especially during the construction phase, because you cannot continue to build if something isn’t right. You also don’t need to call the entire construction process to a halt for a scratch on a wall or shoddy whitewashing. So during the construction phase, we primarily record the elements that are in order.”
He does add that recording everything via Ed Controls is overshooting the mark in some situations. “If we see, for instance, that the rebar hasn’t been tied down properly somewhere, that needs to be fixed instantly. Otherwise, it’s going to cause hold-ups down the line. And then it’s not practical to run everything via Ed Controls while the concrete mixers are turning behind you.”
On another level, we keep records to see if an element is ready for delivery. We use those to inform our partners and subcontractors. Via Ed Controls, everyone can see if there are any defects and where.
Valley Amsterdam in figures
88 companies worked on its construction
75,000 m2 gross floor area.
Approximately 100 metres tall.
The ground floor and the first seven floors contain offices, restaurants, retail shops and cultural spaces.
The eighth floor upwards houses 198 rental apartments varying from 55 to 700 m2.
Underground car park with three levels and room for 375 cars.
Space for 1,850 bicycles.
50,318 tickets were registered in Ed Controls during the construction phase.
Keep talking to each other
For Van der Thiel, Ed Controls is a tool and not an end in itself. “Back when we started to use the app, we thought that we could run everything through the app and no longer have to talk to people. But for me, it’s all about ensuring that everything runs smoothly and that every element is executed properly, regardless of the tools we use to achieve that. Ed Controls is a first-rate application, but we certainly mustn’t underestimate the importance of the human aspect. That is, and will always be, critical for the smooth execution of a construction project. Don’t forget to call each other regularly and make verbal agreements. You don’t want one of the parties to say after a long silence: ‘Oh, didn’t you know? But isn’t it there in your Ed Controls?’
“Ed Controls is a first-rate application, but we certainly mustn’t underestimate the importance of the human element.”
Different disciplines working on the same construction project are so tightly scheduled that communication via an app doesn’t work. It only creates resistance to something that is supposed to help you.”
Van der Thiel has worked with Ed Controls ever since the app was launched. “Back then, the different tickets were indicated by coloured dots,” he remembers. “One of my colleagues who was colour-blind couldn’t see the difference between the tickets that were completed and the ones that were in progress. Based on this feedback, the colours became circles, squares and triangles instead. Today, I’ve moved on from working with hand-written lists. It would be impossible to maintain an overview if you did things the old-fashioned way, especially with a gigantic construction project like Valley. You’d have to spend hours every time trying to find the spot where something was reported. The floor plan in Ed Controls shows us exactly where the photo was taken to which the ticket is associated. I can’t imagine anyone working with paper anymore these days.”
Van der Thiel feels it’s essential to keep the format and layout as simple as possible. “As soon as we start working with concrete, we add audits to our workflow. You can add a form in Ed Controls so the person doing the inspection knows exactly what to look out for. We link those audits to the tickets so that we have a full report available of everything we make. This allows us to instantly recall how something was carried out and that it was done to spec. In Ed Controls, we can fully customise these inspection forms to suit our needs. Implementing a prefabricated element, for instance, has to meet certain requirements, as it does for every project. The same for pouring concrete for every additional floor or every column or wall that is constructed. We are now working towards making sure these project-specific overviews are ready beforehand, so the contractor can immediately implement the audit.”
The software is an essential instrument not only for the Boele & Van Eesteren and G&S Bouw construction workers, who use it to find their way around a building like Valley, partners and sub-contractors also benefit from this software. “On the ground floor alone, you have so many different numbered spaces,” Van der Thiel explains. “Quite a few tickets were still open for paintwork when our painter was suddenly called away to another job. We quickly had to contract a new company, but every day, I had their guys coming up to the office asking what exactly needed to be done and where. So I spent half a day showing them Ed Controls. They downloaded the app onto their mobile phones and logged in with an email address. From that moment on, with drawings in hand, they knew exactly how to find their way around the building and what they needed to do. It’s so much easier to transfer tasks with Ed Controls.”
“It’s so much easier to transfer tasks with Ed Controls.”
That’s why Van der Thiel always invites every partner or sub-contractor to attend a presentation. “Practically everyone is immediately engaged with this working method because they can clearly see how it benefits everyone. Various parties have started using Ed Controls for their own projects as a result.”
Simplicity for everything
Although Van der Thiel has sometimes worked with other quality management systems, he is a dedicated user of Ed Controls. “What I particularly appreciate about this system is that the software remains simple despite all the technological gadgets and expansions. I don’t need anything beyond the functionalities I require to do my job. Many other software packages can’t help but complicate things with all kinds of functions and options I don’t really need. That overshoots the mark. Not only do people only use half of what the application has to offer, but that excess gets irritating after a while. The system starts working against you.”
He gives an example. “There was this idea of putting all the drawings and such into the system, but I much prefer an empty floor plan just showing: this is the residence number, this is the room number, and this is the location. This is how you can focus on what the software is meant to do: make sure that everyone can find their way around and get the information from each other about what the tickets are. A photograph and a description is all we need. We don’t use the floor plan in Ed Controls to see what needs to be built. We have other software that will do that for us. I want to keep those aspects separate. Of course, everyone is welcome to make their own choices, but experience has shown me that this works best.”
What is Ed Controls?
Ed Controls is a quality management system for construction projects. The most important characteristics of Ed Controls are:
Clear project communication
Clear project communication through Ed Controls makes project management practical and feasible. What once involved mountains of paperwork and countless emails is now streamlined into one user-friendly app. Ed Controls makes all the necessary information available to the right people: clearly, quickly, and on any device.
With Ed Controls, you can quickly and comprehensively carry out on-site inspections, quality controls and assessments. The information collected is permanently available.
Instructions and action items are recorded digitally within Ed Controls. You can then assign these action items to the person responsible with a photo, location and description.
The software can be used online and offline, either via a browser or the app, with Android or iOS. You can also link Ed Controls to any system you’re currently using.
Data and reporting
The performance of the parties involved in the project is recorded in real-time, making efficient project management more straightforward.
Privacy and security
Ed Controls meets the requirements of the Personal Data Protection Act (Wet Bescherming Persoonsgegevens, or WBP) and the European General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. All data is stored in two European data centres in accordance with ISO 27001 and ISO 19001 standards.
Get the most out of Ed Controls by linking the system to other software. Several links are ready for use. An open API is available for other links or integrations to customise the software to meet your specific needs.
Photography Marcel Steinbach, by Boele & van Eesteren and Kees Winkelman
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