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From contractor to high tech company: innovations at heijmans

Mid October the ‘Glowing Lines’, the first Smart Highway pilot using luminescent lines on both sides of the highway, was re-opened. This prestigious project is a fusion of the design work of Studio Roosegaarde and craftsmanship and knowledge of Heijmans. Gerard de Leede (55), CTO at Heijmans, is responsible for the technological development of the Glowing Lines and other projects. “TMC approached me for this job. Bert Stohr, product developer at the Glowing Lines project, is from TMC as well.”

In April of this year, on highway N329 near the town of Oss in The Netherlands, the first version of the Glowing Lines was launched. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall on the one hand and high safety and quality demands on the other, were no match. “We had explored various existing concepts but they were not feasible in our opinion. We had invented a new system of luminous lines, but this also led to challenges. How does one embed such lines in asphalt and make sure it is both safe and consistent, and delivers the experience we want to have? This requires a great deal of knowledge about asphalt. Asphalt moves and is malleable. You cannot just embed anything into it. However, we have now successfully launched a 2.0 type, so you can drive on it every day and experience this innovation.”

The Smart Highway near Oss has attracted attention from all over the world. “From Tokyo to South-Africa to Canada, people are very interested in what we are doing here. We are also working on a project in Van Gogh’s hometown Nuenen, using the same technology. Inspired by Van Gogh’s masterpiece ‘Starry Night’, we are realising a luminous interactive bicycle path. The design by Daan Roosegaarde is a modern, poetic and technological interpretation of the painting. As a result of these projects, the Dutch ministry of transportation has asked him for a design for the Afsluitdijk, a major causeway in The Netherlands.”

However, this is not the only ground-breaking project Heijmans is currently working on. Gerard offers us a glimpse of our future. “Another great project we are working on is the Solar Noise Barrier – a barrier alongside highways that blocks noise and simultaneously generates renewable energy by concentrating solar power. Taking into account the many kilometers of highway in the world, this could have a major positive impact on our energy supply. The main challenge here is to make the barrier soundproof and resistant to vandalism.”

“On top of that, there is the project of the Hydrea Thermpipe, featured at the TEDxBinnenhof event last March. With the Hydrea Thermpipe we can harvest heat from the sewer system. The temperature of the sewer system and its surroundings is about 14 to 18 degrees Celsius. With a special riothermic system using a heat exchanger and a heat pump, the energy can be harvested. A 150-meter-long pipe can provide heat for about 100 households. Who would have thought we could keep ourselves warm in winter by using the heat of our own excrements? The technology is already available.”

“All of these projects began with a smart idea. We at Heijmans develop state of the art technology. We work closely together with a variety of partners and combine our creativity to make these ideas become reality.”

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