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In the Spotlight

Building the Maria Montessori Building Together

Geert Jansen (Campus & Facilities) is the university’s project manager for the construction of the Maria Montessori building, the new home of the Faculty of Social Sciences. As project coordinator, Mark Bollen (Inbo Architects) is the point of contact for all parties involved in the project. The initial opening is scheduled for May 2021 and, due to COVID-19, will only involve a small group. When circumstances permit, a grand opening for a larger group will follow.

Mark Bollen: “A building is always made together with architects, the contractor and the client. They collaborate in good times and bad, and that sometimes leads to tough discussions. You have to find compromises; otherwise, it becomes a never-ending battle. Fortunately, we managed to do that again with this building – quite quickly, in fact, because after four years of preparation, it was erected within two years.”

“One point of discussion was the concrete wall anchors, which we had devised to hang from heavy steel structures. But our plan was not a done deal for the contractor, and the university also had questions about maintenance. It was a puzzle to get it all done according to everyone's wishes, on time and within budget. We had also thought of small tiles for the walls. They had to be larger: more expensive to install, but the operating costs are lower due to less maintenance. In this way, you go through all the materials together, from top to bottom. As long as you keep talking to each other, no mountain is too high.”

“I’m sure the Social Sciences faculty will be happy here. It has become a very transparent and lively building that invites people to come together. I’m also proud that we have delivered an extremely sustainable building. This is reflected in the use of sustainable materials, although most of it is invisible. The sustainability is in the ventilation, lighting and installations. All in all, this makes it the first energy-neutral building on campus.”

Geert Jansen: “The construction of a building always involves customisation, a process in which different parties work together. The architects and advisors design a beautiful building, but a building project is only really successful if the users can confirm this. It’s not only about quality, time and money, but also about an efficient, functional and pleasant working environment. If you maintain a good dialogue with all parties throughout the process, you will save a lot of trouble in later years.”

“I can look back on this project with a feeling of satisfaction because all parties are satisfied with this building. The university’s administration is happy because we stayed within budget and the building was delivered on time. A building like this will be here for 50 years, so you want your colleagues in management and maintenance to be able to work with it well. That’s why all those parties are also intensively involved in the construction. The same goes for the users from the faculty. So far, they are satisfied too, although teaching and research have yet to begin here. The building still has to undergo its final test: how will people feel in this building?”

“The preparation for and realisation of such a building takes six years, and it was an intensive and complex process that has not always been easy. The choice of flooring, for example, was stressful. The architect had designed a synthetic resin floor that required laborious construction, true handicraft. We had a test floor laid so we could assess it in real life on a larger surface and test the maintenance. All the stakeholders were satisfied, but the contractor still saw problems. He did not have good experiences with this floor and its supplier; it was going to make for a difficult and challenging installation process. It was quite a tug-of-war – sometimes one step forward, sometimes one step back – but we always kept talking. Mark and I agreed that we would not abandon each other. We held the line, had faith in each other and in the right solution. And that is how it came to be. A good and beautiful building only comes about if you do it together.”