Building materials and construction: the four building challenges

Harry Lintsen

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The chapter analyses the radical changes in the supply chain of building materials and construction between 1850 and 1910. It investigates the consequences for the four building challenges in this period: public hygiene, public housing, the struggle against water and the development of road infrastructure. The hygienists succeeded in getting the issue of urban pollution due to faeces and other organic waste on the societal agenda. Despite this, the effect of the movement on the health of the poor and workers in this period was still minimal. Realising the hygienist program demanded firm municipal policy and large investments. Moreover there was exuberant debate on the nature of the measures to be taken. Public housing too became a significant political issue thanks to the efforts of the progressive bourgeoisie and socially conscious entrepreneurs. The most important result was the passing of the Housing Law of 1901, that provided the future framework for the condemnation, dispossession and improvement of dwellings. In the field of water management, the government public works agency (Rijkswaterstaat), intensified its struggle against regularly recurring river floods. An impressive program of river normalisation was carried out under its leadership. Successive governments would devote much attention to infrastructure with the aim of improving welfare, reinforcing the position of the maritime harbours and improving the accessibility of remote regions. The construction of a network of canals and railways guaranteed the spatial integration of the Netherlands and had far-reaching consequences for the modernisation of the economy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWell-Being, Sustainability and Social Development
Subtitle of host publicationThe Netherlands 1850-2050
EditorsHarry Lintsen, Frank Veraart, Jan-Pieter Smits, John Grin
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-76696-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-76695-9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018


  • Construction
  • Housing law
  • Hygienists
  • Infrastructure
  • Public housing
  • Public hygiene
  • Railways
  • River improvements


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