Billion-euro project: making the Antwerp Ring round again and bringing it into harmony with its surroundings.

In Antwerp, the ring road around the city is being made circular, complete with underground (and stacked) tunnels. The CO2 performance ladder was used for this gigantic project, but not in the way it is usually done. It was quite a challenge. Nevertheless, the management company Lantis hopes that the Ladder will contribute to making the multi-billion project as sustainable as possible. 

A new freeway tunnel under the Scheldt and the Albert Canal, covering and deepening the freeways, the construction of a new junction, the realization of new parks, squares and 35 kilometers of new bicycle paths ... These are just some of the elements of the Belgian Oosterweelverbinding Project, which must be completed by 2030. The goal? To make the Antwerp Ring round again and in harmony with its surroundings. In this way, Antwerp should become more accessible, liveable and greener.
Lantis (Leefbaar Antwerpen door Innovatie en Samenwerken) was established to bring this ambitious task to a successful conclusion. The management company is responsible for the contracting of the various parts of the project and works in consultation and cooperation with contractors on its implementation.

Five components

Because the Oosterweel link is such a large project, it was subdivided into five parts, which are carried out side by side:
- Left Bank and Zwijndrecht: 400 million euros (excluding costs for liveability projects, such as noise barriers), from 2018 to 2025.
- Scheldt tunnel: 600 million euros, from 2020 to 2027.
- Oosterweel junction & Royers lock renovation: 500 million euros, from 2021 to 2030.
- Channel tunnels and R1-North: 2.3 billion euros, from 2022 to 2030.
- Traffic and tunnel technical installations: €500 million.

Emphasis on cooperation

Lantis deliberately approached the tendering and execution of the project differently than is the norm in the Belgian construction world. Tom Boydens, HSSE Manager at Lantis, explains: "We start with a concept plan, whereby many components of the final design are deliberately not yet fixed. These will be conceived and developed during the implementation, in cooperation with the executing parties. In this way we hope to arrive at the most innovative solutions." The form of contract with the executing parties is also different, Boydens continues: "We saw that classic construction contracts fall short in dealing with the complexity of large infrastructure works. That is why we are pioneering the NEC4 (New Engineering Contract, edition 4, ed.) contract form in Belgium. Contracting authority and contractor are in close consultation during the works and arrive at the most suitable solutions together."

Deployment of the CO2 Performance Ladder

Project Oosterweelverbinding is one of the pilot projects in Belgium experimenting with the CO2 Performance Ladder (this project is another example). Normally, certification on the CO2-Performanceladder provides a notional discount (or award advantage) when the Ladder is used in a tender. But this was not an option for the Oosterweelverbinding project, explains Boydens: "This is such a large project, with such a high cost price and such high risks for the contractors, that very few parties applied."

"The parties that did apply were temporary consortia of multiple companies," he continues. "In other words, we didn't have the luxury of choosing. In some subprojects, only one consortium even remained. So the usual system of the CO2 Performance Ladder could not be applied to this project."

Level 5 on the Ladder

So how did Lantis apply the CO2 Performance Ladder? By making agreements about it with the contracting party. "For the Channel Tunnels and R1-North subproject, for example, we agreed with the executing consortium ROCO that level 3 on the CO2 Performance Ladder must be achieved no later than one year after the contract date. After five years it has to be level 4," Boydens says.
The companies within that consortium are BAM Contractors, Besix, Cordeel, Deme, Denys, Franki Construct, Jan de Nul, Van Laere and Willemen Infra. Most of those companies are already familiar with the CO2 Performance Ladder and had no problem with the requirement. "In fact, the members of the consortium themselves suggested going for level 5 on the Ladder," Boydens says.
Whether certification to the Ladder will take place at the project or company level is unclear for now. But Boydens hopes it will be at the company level. "After 2030, the consortium is finished and ceases to exist. But experience shows that if companies get certified at the company level, they also stay certified. That, of course, would be the best."

Working together on sustainability

But even at the project level, certification on the CO2 Performance Ladder can make a lot of impact. After all, certification on the Ladder is an annually recurring phenomenon and the Oosterweelverbinding is a project that lasts until 2030. Collaboration between contracting autorithy and contractor is essential for this, Boydens says. "The idea is that the contractors draw up a sustainability plan and suggest CO2-reducing measures. Then we look together at what is and is not feasible. After all, the balance between CO2 reduction and the financial picture is also important. We have already had several discussions with the contractors about CO2-reducing measures."
Exactly which sustainable measures will be taken during the project is not yet known. "But it is, for example, no longer a point of discussion that green electricity will be used as much as possible. The same applies to the use of fixed power points, instead of generators."

Making a real impact

Lantis chose not to set hard targets when it comes to CO2 reduction. There are several reasons for this. For example, it has to do with the way the management company works. "As I said, the design of the Oosterweel link is not yet finished. That will be determined gradually and in consultation with the contractors. That makes it difficult to set a CO2 reduction target. Because one extra percent of CO2 reduction can easily be accompanied by millions of extra euros in costs."

But Lantis does have the ambition to make a sustainable impact. "That is also stated in our Corporate Social Responsibility policy statement," Boydens says. "We want to make a real difference in terms of liveability, safety and the environment." The Ladder helps with that, he concludes: "It allows us to think more and better with the contractors, about the efforts they are going to make in terms of CO2 reduction. As the contracting authority, we are now much more involved in that process."

Project details

Contracting authority: Lantis
Contractor(s): The consortia Rinkoniën, COTU and ROCO. ENGIE Solutions is responsible for the traffic and tunnel technical installations.
Size: ± 4,300,000,000 euros
Location: Antwerp
Project duration: Up to and including 2030
Ambition level of the winning party/parties: At least level 4, probably level 5.
Focus CO2 reduction on project: In any case, the use of green power. Further sustainability measures will be determined in the coming years.