The impact of COVID-19 on the chocolate warehouse

We spent the first three months of 2020 working very hard on the WDP-Barry Callebaut site. By the end of March, when work came to a virtual standstill due to the COVID-19 measures, the groundwork and foundation works were almost complete. Meanwhile, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel again and a lot of activities have been restarted, provided that a number of additional safety measures are taken.

By the end of March, the earthworks had been completed and almost 2,000 foundation piles had been driven for the high-rise and the first part of the low-rise. In addition, the first prefabricated columns for the firewall between the high-rise and low-rise buildings were already in place at that time. In other words, every effort was made to adhere as closely as possible to the planning schedule, taking the measures into account. Ways to retrieve that lost time are now being considered.

Foundation work continued

The announcement of the corona measures inevitably slowed down the work, but it was still possible to work on the site to a limited extent in April. For example, subcontractor Verelst was able to complete the foundation works of the high-rise and low-rise buildings, since the workers in question are constantly working from their own excavator and can therefore maintain a safe distance.


The two other major subcontractors, Willy Naessens Industrial Buildings and Franki Foundations, were forced to stop their activities by the government measures, just like many other companies in Belgium.

“Because of the safety of their employees, they could indeed not continue to work,” says Roel Seynaeve of construction partner Alheembouw. “But there were other factors involved. The fact that the delivery of many materials came to a standstill simply made any further work impossible. For example, no concrete was delivered for a certain period of time.”

Business is on the rise again

Meanwhile, activity on the site continues to increase every day, albeit with attention to a number of far-reaching safety measures. These range from extra dining and changing rooms to stricter hygiene rules with the use of mouth masks and alcohol gels. Clear agreements are also made about the use of materials.

“Either everyone gets their own material or the tasks are divided in such a way that the exchange of machines is not necessary. Every worker was extensively informed about the different measures, with, of course, a lot of attention for hand washing and maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres. This was done by means of toolboxes, posters, and regular checks,” Seynaeve explains.

These measures have an impact on site efficiency, but at the moment, safety is the first priority, of course. The guidelines will remain in force as long as the government imposes them, but naturally, everyone hopes that the largest chocolate warehouse in the world can be inaugurated soon.

Work is still continuing on Barry Callebaut’s World’s Largest Chocolate Warehouse. Wondering how the work is progressing in the meantime? Follow the developments here closely!