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'Feasible and achievable, that was my mission.' Arie Aalbers is leaving LIAG.

Thursday Oct 19, 2023

Arie Aalbers is leaving LIAG architects and engineers. He has served as a partner at this architectural firm in The Hague for over 22 years, leading the building consultancy department. This decision required careful consideration at the time, given that he was a contractor and successfully managed a BouwKundig Adviesbureau. However, he does not regret this unconventional move. He had a clear mission: to make the architects' designs feasible and achievable for the contractor, a commitment he upheld from start to finish.

Convinced by Dirk Roosenburg
For a man dedicated to precise construction, the transition to an architectural firm is not exactly a natural one. Arie stated, "It didn't come naturally either. I received a call from a headhunter asking if I was interested in becoming a building consultant at LIAG, but initially declined the offer. An interview followed later, and I still wasn't really keen. Until I spoke to Dirk Roosenburg, LIAG's partner at the time. 'With us, you sit directly at the table with the clients, the users,' he said. They were not the least of these: the Board of Directors of Shell, the top of Philips, and universities of applied sciences. Then I thought, hey, that's pretty interesting. It was true, too. Later, I collaborated with clients like the Princess Máxima Centre, Football Club Excelsior Rotterdam, The Central Government Real Estate Agency, and Wageningen University & Research."

Power of dialogue
The transition was an adjustment for Arie. "I had to step into the shoes of the client, architect, and contractor. Good communication and mutual coordination are essential here. When you know what the other person is really about, you can think along with them. When you know the other person's interests (too), you can look for the win/win situation together. Take the architect and the contractor. They are traditionally two different blood groups, who view each other with suspicion. Unjustifiably so. With dialogue, you achieve so much more. You learn to speak each other's language and better understand the other's starting point. This creates a willingness to achieve something together in 'the best' way."

Respect for construction workers
Arie's approach was unfamiliar to clients and contractors. After all, Arie is a purebred Rotterdammer. For instance, he says what's on his mind. "When a building reaches its highest point, clients like to take all the credit. I didn't care and always praised the construction workers. The people who worked through all kinds of weather to reach the highest point. You have to have respect for them. The highest point is above all their party." But, it is also one of the milestones you celebrate together. "It makes the whole team proud. And, it provides motivation and a sense of togetherness. Good communication is important. Good collaboration is equally important. That's what I have worked very hard for from the beginning."

"Building is a multi-year process, and it is, therefore, important that it is a celebration. It is nice for everyone if the cooperation is pleasant and relaxed. That benefits the quality of the building."
Arie Aalbers, LIAG architects and engineers

LIAG leading in BIM
Arie has witnessed many changes. For instance, over 20 years ago, LIAG was one of the first firms to make the switch to 3D drawing and thus BIM. "The work became both more complex and simpler. It helped create the right expectations with the client. The whole process was more efficient, and together we managed to achieve a better result. That is not only positive, it is essential." Leading the way when it comes to BIM, LIAG is still a leader. "For instance, it is now also a tool that encourages the creation of more sustainable buildings. By linking BIM to BCI (Building Circularity Index), this tool gives us and the client insight into the true circularity of a project. From the start of the design process, we deploy it as a steering tool."

In the lead at Design & Build
Blood is thicker than water. We can safely say that LIAG is a 'building' architectural firm. Not entirely without risk. For instance, Arie did not shy away from being 'in the lead' on a Design & Build assignment or transforming an empty office building into a new home for Ukrainian refugees. Three months after the exploratory phone call with the municipality, the first people moved in. "It was a challenge; in times of staff shortages and scarcity of materials. And oh yes, then there was also the summer holidays. But it worked out. Right on time. We saw the first buses arrive. The looks from those people... that does something for you. Because we wanted to create the nicest possible environment for them."

And now? Will he sit behind the proverbial geraniums? "No way. I want to travel a bit more. I will be traveling to Tanzania in November for the Sibusiso Foundation. We are busy building a new home for children with disabilities. But anyone can call me because I still calculate the construction costs of a project and like to give building advice. Now I just don't do that for more than forty hours a week."

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