Digitising the Dutch construction sector

In April 2016, the Wet Kwaliteitsborging voor het Bouwen (WKB) or the Building Quality Law (also known as the Quality Assurance Act for Constructions or the Quality Assurance Act for Building – depending on the translator you’re using) was sent to the Lower House of the Netherlands. The WKB is an amending law which will basically change 3 laws affecting the Dutch construction sector compliance. It will amend the Housing Act, the General Provisions of Environmental Law and the Civil Code in connection with the introduction of a new quality assurance system for building and strengthening the position of the building user. In effect, this law is forecasted to radically change the entire building process and the responsibilities within.
The new law seeks to secure the quality of the AEC industry. It basically constitutes of two main topics:

  • The system change of the Housing Act (WoningwetWW) and the Environmental Licensing (General provisions) Act (WABO) (Wet algemene bepalingen omgevingswet) which are both public laws;
  • The modification of the Civil Code (Burgerlijk wetboek-BW), a private law.

The system change will modify the public law of how the local government controls the quality of the AEC industry.  The civil code modification, on the other hand, will reinforce the position of the consumers, for example, when they buy a house. In addition to the amendment of said three laws, a flanking policy has also been developed which gives incentives to designers and contractors to deliver better quality.

In a study done by Ing. S.L. (Lieke) Nieman, he states:
“The position of the consumers is strengthened by the Civil Code (BW), the Environmental Licensing (General Provision) Act (WABO) is being amended to enable a large number of small constructions do no longer need be tested on the structural requirements (Building Decree), however the construction company remains responsible for meeting these requirements. The third law to be changed is the Housing Act (WW). In the current situation, the municipality (BG) checks the construction plans beforehand, through this law the license holder shows with the help of an independent quality inspector (KB) that the requirements of the Building Decree are met. The KB drafts a so-called as-built statement attesting that the completed project meets the requirements. The as-build statement will together with the as-built dossier for structural and fire safety be send to the municipality by the license holders (for example; project managers). Thereafter the project may be put into use. This new system has been compared to the systems used in Germany, England, France and Sweden in this thesis. In those countries, the responsibility for showing that the building regulations are met lies largely by the private parties. The conclusion is that the new Dutch system has better (clear) roles and can work well. The reviewed countries, however, have more requirements on the qualities of the parties concerned than anticipated in the WKB.”


The Netherlands has had the Housing Act since 1901. The goal of the act was to stop the horrible living situations mostly in big cities. This act organised the local organisation for construction and housing inspections of newly constructed buildings (Bouw en Woningtoezicht – BWT). Following World War II, there was a massive housing shortage in the Netherlands and the Dutch government had to construct new houses. Uniform technical requirements were strictly demanded, which led to the development of a uniform requirements model (Model bouwverordening). This model was adopted by the local governments and existed until 1992. Other than the uniform model, the Dutch government also had their requirements for granted or subsidised dwellings (Voorschriften en Wenken).
There were a lot of similarities between the national and local requirements but how they were implemented and controlled were different in every municipality. Later on, a call for uniform requirements was brought up again and the AEC sector asked for performance-based requirements as well. They also wished to cancel the building permit for changing the building layout. Those three wishes were granted by the Dutch government and came into law as the Dutch Building Decree in October 1992. By 2003 to 2012, important modifications of the Decree took place. Every year, slight changes were made, and were mostly on requirements for reducing a building’s energy consumption.
Following the EU’s release of its Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in 2003 (with the aim to cut its energy consumption by 30% by 2030 and seeing the greatest savings potential in the building sector and public transportation), the Netherlands has been implementing the EPBD gradually over the recent years. The regulations in the area of energy saving are controlled by the European Union through the Energy Performance Building Directive (EPBD). The EPBD’s goal is to promote the improvement of the energy performance of buildings, taking into account outdoor climatic and local conditions, as well as indoor climate requirements and cost-effectiveness. The EPBD establishes a minimum requirement for energy performance and requirements related to strengthening the role of energy performance certificates and inspections. It foresees that all new buildings shall be nearly zero-energy buildings by the end of 2020 and 2018 for public-owned/public-occupied buildings.
The directive basically applies to new buildings and old ones that are going through any sort of renovation. In the Netherlands, the EPBD implementation is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and has the NL Agency, the Dutch energy agency, as the executive body for implementation. The local government (municipality) carried out the quality control and checked if the requirements were fulfilled. According to Dutch government research in 2007, the quality of these QC checks was poor. After the building plans were approved, the architects usually would change some aspects of the plans and nearly 50% of the buildings did not meet the standards set forth by the Building Decree. The former minister, Mrs. S. Dekker, headed a committee with regards to this and recommended a stop with the technical checks of the building plans. She declared that the responsibilities should fall on the contractor and not the local government. In this way, the role of every stakeholder in the building process becomes clearer. With the administration of Prime Minister Rutten, the government has been planning a system change since and sent a proposal to the parliament in the spring of 2016.

System Change

Changing the assessment system would mean that the municipal building and house inspector would stop doing assessments of drawings and calculations on building plans, and that the environmental authority (Bevoegd gezag- BG) will no longer process environmental permits. The BG assessment will be replaced with an as-built file system by the Quality Inspector (Kwaliteitsborgen- KB).
Ing. S.L. (Lieke) Nieman further explains:
“The KB drafts the as-built statement using an instrument for quality assurance (this is a quality management system) to ground his as-built statement. The criteria for this quality management system are stated in the Dutch law and recorded in a General Board Measure (Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur- AMvB). The Dutch government established a so-called Admission Organization (Toelatingsorganisatie- TO) who will issue permits to certain offered instruments and checks if the instruments are functioning in practice. Permitted instruments are also recorded in a managed register by the TO. An instrument is being offered by the instrument supplier, who will also look after the management of the instrument as a rule and select KB’s authorized to work with the instrument. In the application of the environmental permit is indicated by the petitioner which instrument he wants to work and which KB is used. The BG checks whether both the instrument is included in the registry and is suitable for the particular building and that the KB is also entitled to apply the instrument. There are three so-called consequence classes defined, class 1 is the buildings and structures with the least risk (dwellings, simple utilities, renovation) Class 3 with the highest risk (hospitals, tunnels, stadiums, large stations, etc.) Class 2 are residential buildings, utilities such as offices, schools, factories, etc.). The new act will apply first to the consequence Class 1. The TO monitored tasks, and evaluate if the as-built statement is properly drafted and sufficiently substantiated. This foundation will be found in the dossier, which is compiled during the design and implementation process. The dossier consists of drawings, specifications, calculations, quality statements, measurements, and assessments. The designing parties and the builder fill this dossier, supplemented where necessary with reviews of the KB. A part of the dossier (e.g. information on constructive- and fire safety) will be provided with the as-built statement (by the licensee) to BG in connection with the environmental safety. A part of the dossier can also be used for the so-called consumer dossier (flanking policies).”

Consumer Position

Modifying the Civil Code will strengthen the consumer’s’ position. For a long time, buyers/tenants/small companies have no “voice” compared to the developers/contractors/housing associations. It has been normal practice for a consumer or buyer to be given little information when they make their buying decision. A consumer cannot even prove that their complaint is a hidden defect. In the previous right retention (5% of contract sum, on deposit with a notary, is only released after the completion of the second delivery), the buyer’s position is not strong at all. The Civil Code provides for the opposite burden of proof on hidden defects, an active act of the buyer when releasing the deposit, and the obligation to provide information of the selling party.

Flanking Policy

The Dutch government has also developed flanking policies in line with other stakeholders. Currently, a clear benchmarking system has been developed and proposals are being made for accessible buyer information. Some formats are being developed in consultation with consumer organisations for a consumer dossier. An information dossier or manual with warranty statements will be required at each completion of a construction. The idea is that all information needed to properly use and maintain a building should be described in a manual and that manual should stay within the property like how a car manual stays with the car. A format has been developed in coordination with a consumer panel and organizations in the framework of the flanking policy for the consumer dossier or manual.

The Role of Technology in Implementing the Quality Assurance Act

It is obvious that it is only with the help of Systems Engineering (SE) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) that the Netherlands construction sector may be able to achieve the goals of the Quality Assurance Act (Wet Kwaliteitsborging voor het Bouwen).
Systems Engineering would be necessary to check effectively and efficiently and deliver to the customer’s expectations.  Information and communication technology (ICT) support alongside BIM would be necessary to limit costs and avoid failure costs. A proper construction management software would standardise the quality management system of a project. Compliance requirements for building regulations can be systematically stored in a BIM-integrated app, which the independent quality inspector (KB) can consult. The KB will have access to the project with which he or she can efficiently follow. In order to determine compliance with the Building Decree, an existing building process management (BPM) can be edited on the risk and quality management category. For quality management, a set of protocols can be set to use, including the so-called ‘Keuringslijsten’. The designed BPM system and the ‘Keuringslijsten’ can be adapted to align them with the Building Decree.

The requirements for fulfilling the Quality Assurance Act of Building by 2018 creates a demand for technological innovation. The digitalisation of the construction sector in the Netherlands is ripe. Using project management software, BIM, and other BIM-related technologies would reduce the cost of failure and time as the construction process becomes carefully assessed in phases which enables the early detection and correction of errors. Download the Circle of Productivity, a free ebook to get a start in improving your productivity on the construction site.

Topics: Health & safety

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