Heijmans? Down the stairs, into the basement: a maze of long, tiled hallways lead to work spaces. A couple of those are occupied by the permanent 10-strong Heijmans team: from maintenance engineer and work planner to service mechanic and carpenter.
Location manager Ruud Boessen is sitting amidst piles of paper. He once broke his neck playing football. After a two-and-a-half-year recovery period, he was able to go back to work. His neck had healed: Ruud smoothly nodded ‘yes’ when Heijmans asked him to become the driving force behind the city hall project.
The contract came into effect on 1 January 2019. “Integrated management of both electrical and mechanical engineering as well as constructional work”, Ruud explains. “An extensive contract, particularly if you break it down into nuts and bolts.” Either way, city hall is a huge place: 29,319 square metres of floor space, spread over four storeys, attics and the basement. The duration of the contract? Four years, with the prospect of an extension.
Heijmans would like to start with a clean slate. Therefore, measuring and knowing is high on the agenda in 2019: a baseline measurement of all the building installations, an FMECA-risk analysis and an asbestos inventory. The results will be used to help draw up the Sustainable Long-term Maintenance Plan.
Of course, the toolboxes won’t stay closed during that time. “We are already resolving malfunctions. Cooling, electricity, heating. We also carry out repair work: broken hinges and locks, blockages, glass breakage, damaged doors and window frames, loose hallway tiles or paving stones in the courtyard. Although, we mostly deal with leakages.”
What’s the condition of city hall’s interior? Poor, according to Ruud. “The installations were last updated in 2007. That is a long time ago. Many parts date from the eighties and are often still wrapped in glass wool. At times, you even sense a Hans Brinker-approach, as in the story of the boy who stuck a finger in the dike to save the Netherlands from flooding. In case of the city hall, malfunctions were never resolved thoroughly. We, on the other hand, handle matters very differently.”
“With our sleeves rolled up, Ruud says. The Rotterdam way. But also, with tact, because city hall is not only the administrative centre, but also a listed building. So, it is not a place where you use a pneumatic hammer without consulting the people in charge first. Ruud recalls the legendary story of a Polish handyman: “He was tasked with removing graffiti of the exterior façade. While doing so, he took it upon himself to also fill various holes in the wall. Historically, not a very wise decision: they were bullet holes from the Second World War.”
Many city hall windows were also destroyed in May 1940. The so-called war glass that came in stead of it, is only two millimetres thick. Even the monstrous, pre-war column radiators can’t manage to keep the place heated. This causes a great deal of concern, as the municipality of Rotterdam wants to save energy. “But we have come up with a solution: in consultation with the renovation architect, we will be installing glass window screens which won’t affect the overall appearance too much.”
In 2000, city hall was renovated extensively. Works were carried out carefully and with consideration for the past. Heijmans’ client Vastgoedbedrijf Rotterdam is aiming to preserve the original state. “A practical example: if a ceiling has suffered water damage, we will make sure it gets repaired. That does not mean - wham bam - adding a plaster board. Here, you will mainly find thatched ceilings. We repair, plaster and paint a ceiling. Should that unintentionally result in a difference in colour, the whole room will be painted again. In a rigorous, though consequent manner. It cannot turn into a patchwork. It is still a monument.”