Next to the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre lies an enormous hole from which a large hotel is to rise at some point. The building site is positioned near a tram track, a motorway runs past it and the North-South metro line also has to be taken into account. ‘Before you start building there, you have to examine very closely the impact it will have on all these local factors,’ says dr.ir.ing. Almer van der Stoel. You don't want the tram track to subside or cracks to appear in the A10 motorway.
Dr.ir.ing. Almer van der Stoel (47) is co-founder of CRUX Engineering, a leading geotechnical consulting agency. He is also involved in the company High Five Solutions and start-up Bambooder Biobased Fiber. Van der Stoel operates internationally as geotechnical expert and teaches part-time at the Master's in structural engineering of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
Van der Stoel is an expert in analysing and calculating such situations to prevent nasty surprises during construction. That might seem obvious, but before the North-South metro line was constructed, it wasn’t. As a geo-engineer, Van der Stoel was closely involved in the mega-project in Amsterdam.
He gained so much expertise in the area of risk management, that he eventually founded the company CRUX Engineering together with a business partner, and is now CEO. ‘We wanted to start applying the idea of calculating various risks in advance to prevent physical and social damage to smaller-scale projects.’ The company would grow into a leading consultancy.
That the North-South metro line was such an innovative project, stimulated Van der Stoel to complete a part-time PhD in grouting technology at Delft University of Technology (grouting is the application of a reinforcing cement mix). He was also co-creator of a sonic drilling technique for applying grout anchors that secure structural elements into the ground. Sonic drilling is done at high frequency, so less energy is lost and the locality experiences less nuisance. What's more, the anchors can be removed completely after use, while anchors placed using traditional methods remain (partly) in the ground. His company High Five applies this and other innovative methods in foundation projects.
The third company with which Van der Stoel is involved, Bambooder, is trying to scale up a new technique for extracting fibres from bamboo: not in a chemical way, but mechanically. According to the engineer, the bamboo composite has huge potential as an environmentally friendly construction material. ‘The fibres have a very high tensile strength, comparable with that of steel. My dream is one day to see steel anchors being replaced with bamboo composite. I think that's really important: currently, a huge amount of steel ends up in the ground, simply because there is no alternative.’
University of applied sciences
In addition to his work as an engineer, Van der Stoel has always taught at various educational institutions. He is currently a lecturer at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. ‘I love sharing my knowledge, and enjoy passing on my enthusiasm to others. I make it clear to students that as engineers they really can achieve something.’
Almer van der Stoel is one of the nominees for the 2019 Prince Friso Engineering Award. Would you like to vote for the Public Award? Your vote can be cast on the KIVI voting page.
Text: Enith Vlooswijk
Photo: Robert Lagendijk
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