On 2 December 2022, the official inauguration of Dendermonde Prison in Belgium took place. Over the past two years, the Poort van Dendermonde consortium, consisting of lead partners Invesis, BAM Interbuild and BAM FM, worked hard to meet an ambitious deadline to create a prison centered around livability, sustainability and energy efficiency.
Dendermonde prison was delivered according to the Master Plan “Detention and internment in humane conditions”, which was first approved in 2008 by the federal Council of Ministers. Every aspect of the project was specifically designed to assist the detainee with integrating back into society. Due to legal procedures, the process was delayed, and construction was unable to commence until the project reached financial close in August 2020. A little over two years later, the works were completed and the move to the new prison is scheduled for mid-February 2023.
The new complex accommodates 444 inmates and provides sustainable, modern and humane detention. It consists of four separate building sections, four cell wings, which are situated around one central supervisory core, and consists of open galleries for greater transparency and a greater sense of security. There is also a logistics building with workshops, a kitchen and laundry. The individual building parts are connected by corridors partly made of glass slats. Contract manager at Invesis Sharon Lubbersen was involved in the entire execution of the project. ‘We tried to enhance the livability and workability of the complex by using colours and materials such as wood.’
The prison complex was procured through a Public-Private Partnership contract; to Design, Build, Finance and Maintain (DBFM) the project. Project Director of Invesis Kristien Achten said: ‘When challenges arose, the client and consortium sat down together, and everyone always focused on finding solutions. This created a very transparent, constructive and open culture on the project, with a lot of trust and respect for each other. This benefited the project and resulted in both the client and their partners concluding that delivery of the project has been a huge success’.
What also helped was that construction of Beveren prison in Belgium, which was completed in 2014 could be used as an example. Sharon Lubbersen: ‘Most of the companies in the Poort van Dendermonde consortium were also responsible for delivering and managing Beveren prison. Beveren was inaugurated in 2014 and in terms of design it is broadly the same as Dendermonde Prison, which allowed us to rely on the knowledge gained during the construction phase at that time. For instance, we optimised the process by looking at how we could build smarter and more efficiently’.
One example is the load-bearing structure of the buildings, which consists mainly of elements in prefabricated concrete. This is economical, durable, high quality and allowed the prison to be built in a short period of time. Again, it certainly helped that this prefabricated concrete was already being used in Beveren. Kristien Achten: ‘The fact that we were able to prepare the structures well because of our previous experience with Beveren, we knew what the focal points were, and it saved us a lot of time.’
Planning and timing
A lesson learned was negotiating a period of time with the client during the construction phase to fully test the complex effectively. Yet, even with this buffer for testing and commissioning, the deadline was very tight. Kristien Achten: ‘I am proud that we made it, because we had to pay constant attention to the schedule. After all, a month after starting, covid broke out, with all its direct and indirect consequences, such as price increases and delivery problems. The engineering, procurement and construction contractor (EPC) had to continuously find solutions when materials could not be delivered and adjust the entire schedule time and again. It is admirable that every time we managed to get all subcontractors back online, on the right day and in the right place, and catch up with the backlogs time and again. It is no small feat on a project of this size.’
Sustainable and low energy
During the construction of the prison, sustainable and low-maintenance materials were used, creating an energy-efficient building. For instance, a total of 774 solar panels were installed on the roofs, together accounting for 290.25-Kilowatt peak. There is a cogeneration plant to generate heat and electricity via gas, and 16 tanks, each with a capacity of 20,000 litres, have been installed for rainwater recovery. This water will be used for the toilets and laundry.
The electrical installations in the building complex are geared towards optimum efficiency and energy efficiency. And inside the complex, LED lighting is provided everywhere. Kristien Achten: ‘In short, we have transformed a 2011 concept into a modern and energy-efficient prison. Sustainability is a real spearhead for us as a company.’
By asking local artists to contribute, art was also integrated into the DBFM project. Sharon Lubbersen: ‘That was an explicit request from the client. We opted for local art and asked the city what they thought was appropriate. Dendermonde is known for the Ros Beiaard and horse culture is fairly central there. In line with this, artist Dirk Van Ransbeeck created a horse sculpture.’ In addition to this sculpture and the other works of art, two original cell doors from 1863 from Dendermonde’s old prison were restored at the request of the Ministry of Justice’.
Now that the prison has officially opened, the maintain phase can commence and Invesis has the coordinating role, while BAM FM is responsible for implementation. The consortium will make the building available to the federal state for 25 years, paying an annual availability fee and after this period, the state will take over the prison. Sharon Lubbersen: ‘We will ensure that thorough maintenance is carried out over the next 25 years, in such a way that the prison can be used optimally at all times.’
Kristien Achten concludes: ‘Because we delivered a high-quality project within the agreed time, we have a very satisfied customer. Currently, the team is already working on a tender for another prison, with roughly the same partners. Hopefully the success can be repeated.’
To view the client press release, which includes a quote from Sebald van Royen, Invesis managing director and Poort van Dendermonde consortium director, please Click Here.