‘The noise starts at seven in the morning, and it’s so violent it shakes the units. I woke up this morning, heart pounding, in a shaking bed. I thought it was an earthquake’, says Iranian post-doc Maryam Bozorg.
Suikerlaan developer Rizoem notified students that a new construction project was starting in an email newsletter on Friday. Bozorg initially dismissed the news, because ‘we are living in a construction site already: can it really get worse?’
But when the workers began installing giant poles with pile drivers into the ground before anyone was awake, it got worse.
‘People are not exaggerating about the noise’, says Spanish student David Cendoya. ‘It’s way too much. It’s already the fourth day; the shaking and noise are just horrible.’
Van Wijnen project developer Noor Wit assures students that this stage of construction will be over by Thursday, 15 November. ‘I was there earlier this week – and it was really, really loud.’
But she says once they move on to the foundation stage, there shouldn’t be so much noise. They will begin mounting the pre-fabricated homes in January, and the entire construction project should be completed by May or June. ‘But it is a brand new project, and those often take longer than we expect.’
Wit says she notifies Rizoem as each stage of construction begins, and Rizoem in turn informs the Suikerlaan tenants. But there is a difference between being informed that your life will be disrupted for several weeks and being able to do something about it. She agrees there should be some way for tenants to complain or ask questions, but currently there is no avenue to do so.
As for the noise this week, Wit says it isn’t possible for construction to start even an hour later in the mornings. ‘The company doing the construction has to finish by Thursday. They won’t like having to work later into the evening. And I’m not in a position to require that’, she says. ‘It’s only two more days. I hope students can understand.’
But students are fed up with being understanding. ‘Our living condition is unbearable!’ says Bozorg. ‘Do they even consider that we are living here? The units were delivered late, damaged, and with so many problems: water, electricity, heating. Mud is everywhere; we have construction going on in our living areas – and now this?’
Bozorg feels like the university promotes the Suikerlaan units while ignoring the ongoing quality of life issues that international students have to put up with. ‘No one actually cares.’
Cendoya calls the whole situation ‘depressing’. Students live in a ‘construction site full of dirt, puddles, machines, and noise. This isn’t going to stop. They are going to build in the parcel next to us now and I just don’t want to live like this.’
According to Wit, the Van Wijnen housing development will be an ‘experimental neighborhood of the future’ with all manner of fancy sustainable features, including heating installations and a smart grid to reduce energy use. Groningen certainly needs more housing: so who will live in these? ‘Maybe students’, says Wit. ‘Maybe university employees. It will be more expensive than student houses.’