Cees Brandsen

Chief Engineer-Director of the Infrastructure Service of the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS)

The Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS) manages and develops the national network of roads and waterways on behalf of the Minister and State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment. RWS has the task of ensuring the smooth and safe flow of traffic, maintaining a safe, clean and user-focused national waterway system and protecting the nation from the risk of flooding.


The Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS) is a governmental implementing service that operates on three national networks: roads, waterways and primary surface waters. RWS ensures that these networks are available, function properly and protect us as intended. Against a backdrop overlooking the A12, Cees Brandsen, Chief Engineer- Director at RWS, explains the sustainability work being carried out by RWS and its partnership with BAM.

‘RWS is well aware that sustainable enterprise is one of the pillars for change towards a better society. Everything has to be cleaner and better. At the same time, however, sustainable enterprise also presents us with a dilemma, because everything has to be robust, safe and sustainable at the same time. In many cases, that combination is more expensive if solutions are devised and calculations performed using traditional models. What is the shortterm gain? We have the long-term objective of marketing zero-energy concepts.


Two years ago, a working group called ‘Sustainability and Safety’ was set up to boost sustainable business. RWS is part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. All government ministries have been obliged to procure only one hundred percent sustainable products and services since January 2010, which is why a computer program called ‘DuboCalc’ was introduced to calculate the environmental impact of the materials and energy used in infrastructure projects. Contractors are therefore challenged to include sustainability when they tender for projects. The initial pilots indicate that DuboCalc is not yet producing fundamental changes, partly because the conditions set by the customer are often so specific that contractors have little room for manoeuvre to allow them to opt for sustainable alternatives. We are therefore continuing the development of this instrument.


RWS has tested DuboCalc in three pilots, including the A12 motorway project (widening the Utrecht-Veenendaal stretch of the A12). BAM took part in the pilots and won the A12 contract. The BAM team clearly stood out from the competition by including smart phasing and experience gained from other projects in its bid for this project. The team is also very involved with the project.

Making changes together

BAM combines good sustainability performance with excellent quality. Although the solutions are sometimes very innovative, they can also be very old-fashioned. RWS wants a greater input of ideas regarding best value procurement, once again proving that change is something you do together. BAM is open to this approach and is actively offering ideas. You don’t achieve much with only small changes. BAM is an outfit where people like to roll up their sleeves and get down to ‘good, honest hard work’, and we’re very similar at RWS. I can sometimes detect a change in mentality already at BAM, but there’s still a way to go yet. Real change requires a major shift in your way of thinking.


We work to a high level of safety at RWS and I’m very proud of that, but safety awareness should be in our genes. The awareness in projects has increased sharply, because the preparation and implementation of projects is now safer, without the traffic flow suffering that much. Working safely and responding proactively are now the benchmark. The market is also pleased with what’s been achieved. Change costs money to begin with – a lot of money and effort is required to properly direct the traffic – but in the end we manage both to work safely and to limit the amount of ‘rush hour disruption time’, which ends up saving a lot of money.’