Flemish Minister for Education Ben Weyts opens Hasp-O Centrum in Sint-Truiden today, 5 May, on the eve of Open Construction Day. This is the 182nd and final project of the 'Schools of Tomorrow' programme to be inaugurated.
"This is actually the very last festive opening of this programme," Mr Weyts said. "Our construction story does not end here, however. 'Schools of Flanders', the new DBFM programme, will provide as much as €1 billion in investments in additional school buildings."
Launched in 2006, 'Scholen van Morgen' [Schools of Tomorrow] is a Design, Build, Finance, Maintain (DBFM) programme that erects new school buildings through a public-private partnership. Under AG Real Estate's leadership as programme and project manager, many bricks have been laid over the past 10 years for more school capacity. 182 projects, good for 250 school buildings with 710,000 m² in total floor space, accommodate as many as 133,000 pupils. Eight schools are so-called passive schools. The school infrastructure is also opened to the maximum extent to the local community outside school hours, such as youth, cultural and sports associations.
Today, we celebrate the festive opening of a brand new campus in Sint-Truiden, the latest project in a long 'Schools of Tomorrow' series. This is a new building with classrooms, workshops, a sports hall, canteen and administrative facilities: a €38 million investment in an 18,000 m² campus for Hasp-O Centrum. This project is also 1 of 100 construction sites that will be open to the general public on Sunday, 7 May from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Hasp-O Centrum is simultaneously organizing an open day so that students and parents can also get to know the new building.
As the 'Schools of Tomorrow' story is now coming to an end, another large-scale public-private partnership is already in the pipeline: ‘Scholen van Vlaanderen’ [Schools of Flanders] -- another DBFM programme, good for €1 billion to erect new school buildings.
"Anyone who wants to invest in quality education must also invest in quality infrastructure," says Minister Ben Weyts. "Under this coalition’s tenure, we have increased the Flemish budget for school construction to €3 billion. That budget has a leverage effect and ensures that many more billions in total go to renovated or brand new schools. The first 27 projects of the new DBFM programme entitled 'Schools of Flanders' have already been approved - and many more will follow."
The president of Hasp-O Centrum, Alfred Stijnen, is immensely pleased with the magnificent new building in the Fabrieksstraat. "This enables us to offer all the young people of Sint-Truiden and the environs a wide range of diverse fields of study on one and the same campus in three curricula: Economy and Organization, STEM, and Language and Culture -- something for everyone! Its location near the railway station is an added advantage, as it makes our site easily accessible by public transport. Set in green surroundings, the new buildings with state-of-the-art classrooms, science rooms and laboratories will ensure that every pupil and teacher feels right at home here immediately. This new site is the first step in a new story, where we can teach our students even better all the skills and knowledge so as to prepare them for our ever-changing society."
The contracting world: a supporter of a long-term policy for school building design
Karel Luyckx, CEO of VDS looks back on the project with pride. “We built a high-quality new building here with Vanderstraten-Houben in an exceptionally short time. More than 100 employees worked on this campus every day for 20 months. They deserve a big feather in their cap, for they have shown what our sector is all about. This project is an example of thorough cooperation with a lot of partners we like and build well with. We are eager to showcase our experience on the new school infrastructure investments being planned."
Jochen Willen, COO of Houben and Véronique Houben add: "The project was carried out under exceptionally constructive cooperation with all parties and can be considered an example for all construction works. This was the only way to achieve quality results in a very short deadline!"
Chris Slaets, Managing Director of Embuild Limburg, adds in turn: "A lot of infrastructure is outdated and definitely not 'future proof'. For it has to match Flanders' ecological, economic and social ambitions after all."
AG Real Estate: a reliable partner of the government
A partner of the Hasp-O Centrum project, AG Real Estate is the real estate subsidiary of AG Insurance and the real estate advisor of Ageas. As managing developer, AG Real Estate is responsible for the operational implementation of the 'Schools of Tomorrow' programme. The managing developer organizes the entire design process, the construction process and maintenance for 30 years of each individual school. AG Real Estate has a team of 10 motivated employees assigned specifically to managing this corrective and preventive maintenance.
Now that the construction phase is behind us, Philippe Monserez, Chief Design & Build & Innovation Officer, looks back with satisfaction. "We are ever so proud and pleased to have seen the design and construction phase of the Schools of Tomorrow programme through to full (100%) completion -- an outstanding achievement worthy of top marks on the school report. We are determined to ensure the preventive and corrective maintenance of the buildings for the next 30 years with passion and professionalism while coordinating the necessary adjustments in line with the new legislation. We are ready to draw on our experience so as to provide proactive support to new DBFM schools in Flanders."
Open Construction Site Day on 7 May
On Sunday 7 May, the Hasp-O Centrum campus will be opened to the general public during Open Construction Site Day. A facility will be made available where the different phases of construction can be explained. A member of the construction site team will give a short presentation on the different phases and the techniques that were used to see the project through.
Chris Slaets of Embuild Limburg: "Construction has changed a lot in recent years. The sector has become safer and more sustainable, partly thanks to the use of new technologies that were also applied in this project. So we certainly welcome projects like this and the new 'Schools of Flanders'. Far from merely erecting a building, construction companies are emerging increasingly as a partner for the entire life span of school buildings."