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Green Business

Competitive dialogue for a circular and sustainable bridge

Case study of the Province of North Holland, Netherlands  

Procurement category: Construction

Environmental and social impacts targeted: circular, energy-neutral and low-maintenance; 

Relevant EU legislation/policy/guidance: EU GPP criteria for Road design, construction and maintenance (2016)

Drawing of a Dutch project on a moveable bridge
Provincie Noord-Holland


The Province of North Holland, responsible for the renewal of the Cruquius Bridge, committed to maintaining high sustainability standards. Faced with the challenge of heavy traffic on the N201 and the technical complexity of renewing two interconnected bridges with varied lifespans, the Province sought a solution that aligned with their ambitious sustainability goals.

The project was not just about architectural innovation; the pricing model was also distinctive. Instead of a conventional approach, the tender was based on a task-setting budget with final pricing determined during the design phase, ensuring that the project's high ambitions and potential technical risks were adequately addressed.

Understanding the value of a future-proof design, the Province embraced the principles of Industrial, Flexible, and Demountable (IFD) construction, as outlined in the Dutch Technical Agreement NTA-8086. This made the Cruquius Bridge one of the first movable bridges in the Netherlands to utilise this approach.

North Holland is committed to climate and circular economy objectives, and viewed the Cruquius Bridge project as a platform to consolidate and apply these commitments. In collaboration with internal sustainability advisors, the innovation team, and external consultants, the project team shaped the project's ambitions to align with the expectations of key stakeholders like local municipalities, the Amsterdam Transport Region, and the Rijnland Water Board.

Procurement Objectives

The procurement exercise underscored three Critical Success Factors (CSFs):

  • Realising the project ambitions:
    • circular
    • energy-neutral
    • low-maintenance
  • Effective collaboration among all parties involved.
  • Preserving traffic functions with minimal disruption.

The project's ambitions of circular, energy-neutral and low-maintenance were defined through rigorous discussions among the team, stakeholders and market consultations with over 120 participants. These deliberations also shaped the project's choice of applying materials and technologies with a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 7 ('proven pilot system') in the tender, tenderers must indicate how this innovation will develop to TRL level 9 ('proven in operational environment'). 

For the ambition of a circular bridge, the team focused on minimising the use of primary raw materials and environmental impact by: 

  • Prioritizing high-quality reuse over recycling.
  • Adhering to Industrial, Flexible and Demountable (IFD) principles and NTA-8086 (a Dutch technical agreement with a focus on disassembly to promote circularity in construction projects).
  • Reducing environmental costs across the production phase (module A1-3), construction phase (A4-5), usage phase (B1-7), demolition and processing phase (C1-4), and opportunities for reuse (D) as defined by the EN15804 standard in construction industry assessments.
  • Requiring material passports.

For the ambition of energy neutrality, the plan entailed a bridge system that balanced sustainable energy generation with energy consumption. Finally, the low-maintenance ambition aimed at maximising bridge availability while minimising financial lifecycle costs.

Effective collaboration was pivotal for managing project complexity and risk, fostering innovation, and ensuring stakeholder engagement in the competitive dialogue process. The North Holland team emphasized the need for clear communication and cooperation between the client and contractor, the contractor and its subcontractors, suppliers or other partners, and the contractor with external stakeholders.

Tender procedure

The official call for tender was published in January 2020, using a competitive dialogue as a tendering format to encourage deeper engagement several parties, facilitate the inclusion of innovative solutions, and demonstrate development plans towards TRL 9. The procedure was divided into three phases: a first dialogue phase to discuss the vision ('funnel phase', to filter and select suppliers who could deliver on the vision), a second dialogue phase around the assignment, and a pricing and awarding phase (which includes the final registration, pricing structure, and award criteria leading to the selection of the winning bid).

Dialogue phases

First Dialogue Phase (April - May):

  1. Setting up a vision for the task.
  2. Using 'funnel criteria' to narrow down the number of parties to ensure a more focused dialogue in the subsequent stages.
  3. No assessment is made as the process continues with four parties.

Second Dialogue Phase (June - November):

  1. Working towards registration.
  2. Using 'Award criteria' as guidance.
  3. Conducting an assessment and awarding.

First Dialogue Phase: The Province of North Holland implemented a competition-oriented dialogue for the tendering of the Cruquius Bridge renewal project. This first dialogue phase allowed extensive engagement with candidates about potential solutions. Four out of an estimated eight qualified candidates registered for the project. The first phase aimed to reduce the number of participants to a maximum of four. Plenary dialogues were held to elaborate on the project's request, context, criteria, and requirements, with individual interviews then enabling candidates to test their solutions.

During the first phase, one of the candidates withdrew leaving three parties. The procurement team contemplated shortening the procedure but decided to proceed as planned.

Second Dialogue Phase: In the second competitive dialogue phase, the focus was on the technical and organizational aspects of the project, with considerable attention paid to risk distribution. Candidates expressed reservations about the complexities of blending a competitive dialogue process, a collaborative design approach with a construction team, and adhering to UAV-GC guidelines simultaneously. As a result, one party chose not to submit a bid due to high transaction costs and uncertainties. Another party withdrew due to risks they could not accept.

The project team invited parties to indicate any requirements that could obstruct the circular, energy-neutral and low-maintenance ambitions. However, this opportunity was largely unutilized, suggesting satisfaction with most of the stipulated requirements.

Post-dialogue registration for the Cruquius Bridge project saw two candidates working on their submissions for the final tender. The final tender guideline was issued in November 2020, with adjustments based on the dialogue phase. Both candidates worked until the end of the year to submit their bids.

Pricing and awarding phase

Pricing: A unique part of the project is that registration is done for a fixed price. In addition, there was one tasked budget, within which the design and realization occurred. The final pricing within this target budget was done after the construction team made the design choices. This was done based on an open budget, in which the most important design choices were made jointly, and consultations had been established. 

There were two main reasons for deciding on a tender with a task-setting budget instead of a tender based on price. First of all, there were high ambitions, of which it was not clear in advance what the costs (or benefits) would be. In addition, several technical risks only become 

fully transparent at a later design stage. A subscription price would have been based on many assumptions and uncertainties, making it difficult to compare and offering little guidance for the follow-up process. 

Award criteria: Due to the decision to finalize pricing during the design phase, the registration focused entirely on the quality of the submissions. With the ambitions as a starting point, a focus was applied to create sufficient distinctiveness between market parties. For this reason, one criterion for emission-free equipment was dropped, and the ambition of 'minimum nuisance to the environment' was mainly contained in contract requirements.  

The award criteria had three main categories: Plan for ambitions (55%), Plan effective collaboration (30%), and Plan execution phase (15%), and are summarized in the following table:

Award Criterion Sub-Criterion Weighting Sub-weighting

1. Plan for ambitions

  1.1 Circular system - minimizing impacts through an Environmental Cost Indicator (Milieukostenindicator -MKI)   20%
  1.2 Energy-neutral system   20%
  1.3 Low-maintenance system   15%

2. Plan effective collaboration

  2.1 Plan Construction team phase   10%
  2.2 Plan Implementation   10%
  2.3 Relevant team expertise and specialisations   10%
3. Plan execution phase   15% 15%
Total   100% 100%


Only one bidder submitted a tender in January 2021. Despite having a single submission, the assessment team evaluated the bid fully and provided clear feedback. The winning bidder, Van Hattum Blankevoort - Hollandia Infra, presented a plan that substantially addressed the project's ambitions, including a 64% reduction in Environmental Cost Indicator (Milieukostenindicator -MKI) compared to a reference design and significant energy efficiency improvements. MKI is an outcome of a life cycle assessment (LCA) expressed in euros: the lower the MKI value, the more sustainable. The plan also detailed a reduction in maintenance costs over the bridge's lifespan.

Van Hattum Blankevoort – Hollandia Infra's plan for ambitions adhered firmly to the project's three ambitions. Their approach included eight circular measures, including maintaining the bridge using Thermal Sprayed Aluminum, extending the lifespan to 50 years, and reusing old bridge steel as a counterweight. 

The new bridge consumes only 24,000 kWh/year, nearly half of the reference consumption, thanks to heat exchangers and surplus energy from solar panels. This energy storage also mitigates main connection stress during peak use. Finally, the bridge's lifetime maintenance costs are reduced from €5.7 million to €3.1 million by requiring fewer conservation replacements and using a panorama wheel transmission requiring less maintenance. 

Lessons learned 

  • Establish clear and specific ambitions per theme (e.g., 'circular' or 'energy') early in the process, ensuring internal stakeholders back them. This will provide clarity and direction for the project.
  • Decide how to manage deviations from technical requirements. If amending these requirements could be complex, at the early market dialogue ‘ambition sessions’ offer parties the chance to discuss alterations that support project ambitions.
  • Request a vision document for complex assignments. This encourages candidates to clarify their visions and understand the link between project ambitions and technical tasks early on.
  • Directors and contract managers should be part of the dialogue in discussing construction team agreements and choices. Schedule separate contract meetings to discuss important topics and the perceived risks. Pinpoint challenging matters within the internal organization. This promotes transparency and understanding among candidates, improving the discussion and solutions from the tenders.
  • Be clear about pricing methodology and choose whether to include price in the award framework. If many design choices or optimizations are pending, the price may not be a suitable award criterion.
  • Ensure the internal organization has ample time and resources to conduct proper assessments. A well-prepared team is the foundation of a good consensus consultation and clear motivation for scores.

More information

Contact person: Jacqueline Roosendaal 

Website of the Province of North Holland

Tender documents available online

North Holland