30 years of customised services for the court of Amsterdam

One can certainly say that the design for the new Court of Amsterdam is exceptional: the law courts are to be housed in a building that is stately and imposing yet open and inviting too. The services, which received 9 stars for this PPP project, even though Facilicom only joined mid-project, are customised, but can always be adjusted to accommodate changing needs.

The law courts complex on Parnassusweg in Amsterdam are outmoded in terms of technology and functionality. The climate control facilities are no longer adequate, the logistics are poor and the layout of the buildings is inefficient. Renovation was considered, but proved out of the question, so the Raad voor Rechtspraak (Council for the Judiciary) and the Court of Amsterdam agreed with the Rijksvastgoedbedrijf (Central Government Real Estate Agency, Rvb) that a new-build would be best. The construction, that was to produce accommodation with future value and remain current, functional and representative for decades, was put out to contract as a PPP project. The NACH consortium (New Amsterdam Court House) submitted the best tender and was awarded the job worth 235 million euros. The contract, with a term of thirty years as from the delivery of the premises in 2020, includes the demolition of the old building, the new build and its operation.

The largest courthouse in the Netherlands

It will be the largest courthouse in the Netherlands The new premises will cover a surface area of over 47,000 square metres and accommodate approximately 1,000 court staff and another 200 chain-partner employees. The building comprises two court buildings, which, together, contain fifty courtrooms and numerous chambers; the inner courtyards allow daylight to reach all those spaces. The drastically outdated existing complex will make way for a stately edifice, where large windows ensure that the building is always light and welcoming. It is as if the city carries on through into the ground floor of the two buildings, a sensation reinforced by the square at the front, which invites public use, and the inner courtyards between the buildings. The clients are delighted with the design because of its functionality, client-friendliness, representativeness and striking appearance and its “suitably imposing ambience”, all of which are clear from the artist’s impressions.

9 stars for service

Bas Niese, Facilicom’s PPP & Energy Management Director

The NACH design, presented after two rounds of dialogue, was exactly what the Court was looking for. It was only then that the two partners who will undertake the larger part of the construction, the management and the operation entered into the partnership: Heijmans and Facilicom. They had to get to work straight away, using the design as a model to check the engineering and to put together a custom-made service concept. Bas Niese, Facilicom’s PPP & Energy Management Director says: “We were brought into the project quite late - in fact, it was already the end of spring 2015. But in the end, we were awarded 9 stars for our services, which, to a great extent, helped us beat the other two consortia.” Initially, Facilicom’s strategy surprised everyone. Project Manager Casper Meinders explains: “We had to hurry, of course, but we still took the time to study this project and the Court of Amsterdam thoroughly. We spent two weeks working at the current law courts and spoke to visitors, judges, lawyers, etc. so we had a good idea of what it’s like to work here.” Bas Niese says: “The other members of the consortium actually expected us to start writing right away, but we really wanted to create a tailor-made service concept - and it worked. In the end, both the client and the users were very happy. Our service concept is exactly what this client, who is quite specific, needs.”

The design enhanced

Facilicom studied the various users carefully and analysed their needs. Because the users mainly work in six different domains, Facilicom mapped out the services per user and per domain, as Bas Niese explains: “We’re talking about judges, chain partners like the Public Prosecution Service, lawyers, people in custody, public and journalists. We made a thorough analysis of the needs of those target groups and used it to see what we need to add to our services and to the interior of all those domains.” Even the design underwent some alterations. Casper Meinders continues: “A compliment to KAAN Architecten is due here. If we decided, as the experts, that other wishes meant adding things that had not been included in the design, they were happy to listen to us. For example, we recommended changing the layout of some of the catering points, so they did. Things like that meant we could enhance the design and make it more valuable.” For that matter, Facilicom was involved in the building’s completion too: the company has delivered and installed all the technical security devices and fire-alarm installations.

A pleasant place to be

When we created the service concept, we thought about the needs of the ushers, who do important support work, and journalists, who have to do their job here, often in chaotic circumstances, as well as those of the judges and lawyers. Casper Meinders continues: “When we designed the facilities for the square, we remembered that journalists like to do live reports from there and prefer a nice background. We designed the layouts for the coffee bars so that journalists can keep an eye on their laptops when they grab a coffee. It’s the little details like that we hope will make any time spent here more pleasant for all the user groups.” Facilicom was involved in the Breda Law Court Building PPP project as well, but that experience hardly gave the company a head start. Bas Niese says: “Every user organisation is different, even two courts of law. It’s definitely not simply a question of copy-paste; it’s always tailor-made: the service concept must fit like a glove and be just as comfortable. And we succeeded in finding the right concept for this one too, because this concept can simply be adapted to suit all those different target groups.” Casper Meinders continues: “The client noticed it as well. That’s why our services were awarded 9 stars.”