Dura Vermeer builds in Low Code

Leveraging the Construction Logistics Model to reach zero emissions by 2050, reducing calculation time from 1 day to 2 hours.

Dura Vermeer is one of the most innovative and sustainability-minded construction companies in the Netherlands. With about 3,000 employees, they work on various residential construction, utility, and infrastructure projects, from new build to renovation and maintenance. The company aims to cut their CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and achieve a minimum of 90% CO2 emissions reduction by 2050 (with the remaining 10% being offset). But how do you calculate expected emissions and other important values before starting construction?

The impact of the construction sector on total CO2 emissions in the Netherlands is significant. “We have long been aware of the environmental impact, and that’s why we’ve internally researched the greatest sources of CO2 emissions in construction,” says Michael Stender, Manager of Digitalization at Dura Vermeer Construction and Real Estate. “Raw materials and energy consumption rank first and second, but logistics also plays a big role: we can decide which logistics partners to work with and influence the type of equipment they use.”

Minimal impact

“Construction logistics have always been somewhat overlooked in the sector,” says Michael. Yet this is more relevant than ever. Not only because it's important to know how much CO2 is emitted in the process, but also because you want to minimize the hindrance to areas around the construction site. As cities become busier and more construction takes place in urban areas, this issue is attracting greater attention. A few years ago, one of their team members started systematically collecting data on construction logistics in an Excel file. “Which materials are necessary, how much of it fits in a truck, how many trucks are needed and when? Much of this information was tracked, along with CO2 emissions. These were complex calculations necessary to determine progress in various projects.”

At one point, the file consisted of dozens of tabs, and we had several versions in circulation. We wanted to scale this system, but in a way that would make it more manageable and user friendly, and that would allow us to deploy it in projects with new partners. We also wanted to prevent the file from leaking out, because we recognized that it’s unique in the construction sector.”

Teach, help and save

Dura Vermeer did not have a solution in house, and it turned out no one else in the market offered it either. Frans Mol, Dura Vermeer’s Manager of IT OPS, including application development: “We work in line with the principle ‘Re-use, before buy, before make’. We knew that a low-code application could be the answer, but at that point, our people did not have the time or capacity to develop one on their own. That’s when we asked our OutSystems low-code partner, HSO, to implement a solution.

With them, we work under the principle of ‘Teach me, help me, save me’, and in this case we resorted to the ‘help me’ method. OutSystems is a uniquely user-friendly system that doesn’t require programming knowledge. Users are guided through the process of building an application by a wizard and can easily add functions to customize it. Now we have our very own application, the Construction Logistics Model, which anyone can learn to use within 30 minutes. It’s visually appealing and we can extract a variety of useful reports from it.”

During the first session with HSO, it became clear how complex the Excel file had become over time. Frans: “We needed a few hours just to explain how it worked. But after this, HSO asked the right questions and understood exactly how the system needed to be configured. In short, we found that we were speaking the same language.”

"The Construction Logistics Model created in this way is now widely used in the organization and offers a lot of time savings: where making calculations in the past took a whole day, it is now done in two hours."

Michael Stender Manager Digitalisering

Significant time savings

During the development phase with HSO, the original creators of the Excel file continued to add features to the application, such as a route planner and the ability to calculate CO2 emissions by route. “The Construction Logistics Model that emerged is now widely used across the organization and offers significant savings: whereas making calculations used to take a whole day, it now only takes two hours,” says Michael.

The model also adds value because it makes a positive impression on customers. “We can objectively demonstrate what the impact of construction projects is on the environment. Then we can propose energy-efficient and CO2-friendly ways of building and transporting materials. For example, we can present an alternative to a situation where forty trucks would have to drive by a school or hospital. Offering these details has had a positive influence on several of our recent tenders.”

There are still plenty of ideas to expand this model. Beyond that, there are other initiatives within the organization where OutSystems, in partnership with HSO, is an integral part of the solution.

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