Across the sector, all are agreed: Digitalization will completely change—some say revolutionize—the business of planning and building. But what exactly will the changes look like for all those involved? How does Germany fare in an international comparison here?
We talked to building entrepreneur Laura Lammel and architect Andreas Hild, both based in Munich.
What do you mean precisely when you talk about digital tools?
Well, if we take BIM, that discussion emerged three or four years ago. So you have to know this is not new. When I came back from studying in Stanford—in the 1990s, at the time of the New Economy—there were already advances in the digital direction. Clever, inventive companies are pursuing a digital goal and over the last two or three years we have seen more new digital tools on the market.
What is made easier by this—planning, construction or the entire process?
First we have to start with the planning. Because at the moment we have a deficit in planning. There is an attempt, for example, to pass on planning responsibility to the contractor or the building company. I think it is important that advancing digitalization should not diminish the job of professional planning, or shift that job on elsewhere. That job should be done by planners, and they should be doing it using digital tools. We as a building company have no problem implementing what it is that the planners produce, but it is their job to do the planning. This also means that the building company has to be included in decisions early on and brought in early to the planning.
How important is open communication between all the partners in planning and construction, on a level playing field, in order to deal with errors in a productive way?
That is the most important thing in the entire process. Building is becoming ever more complex and we have seen price rises of up to 70 percent—looking back over the last five years. Is that only to do with supply and demand? When there’s a lot of work, building prices rise? Rising raw material prices and therefore higher building costs are one thing. Digitalization also has a strong impact. Take a look at a modern concrete-producing plant and look at the machinery in use there. All of it is digitally controlled, every batch.
“The building contractor must be integrated into the planning process at an early stage.”
What do I need to change with the project partners—the client, the specialist planner etc.—to make digitalization more embedded in the process?
It always depends on with whom you are working. It is very difficult to paint a general picture. At the moment, for example, I have a great example of a building site. The engineering is so good – better than I have experienced in a long time. Everything is early, well prepared and ahead of its time. And I have another site, where even basic communication is difficult.
Will digitalization support people, I mean will it reduce the need for heavy manual work, and increase the use of machinery?
Yes. In the next ten, fifteen years our world will be looking very different. In Russia and in China I have seen how robots are building houses. And we will see a lot of more. Apart from this the factor of health and safety is gaining importance. Things are happening everywhere in this field. And in just five years our building sites will be quite different. I am sure of that.
Ms. Lammel, a final question: “Digital: Processes + Architecture” is one of the four key themes at BAU. What do you expect from this trade fair in January next year in terms of digital solutions and approaches?
As well as the exhibitors and the products, I expect BAU to deliver formats such as workshops or events that focus on the theme of planning and building, above all planning. In my eyes, these two areas must continue to be clearly separated. As a builder I do not want to take on responsibility for the planner and his planning. Digitalization and BIM should not mean that the liability is passed on to the building company. Architects and planners should just do an excellent job of planning using digital tools. And so good that the building company has no chance of claiming supplements.
Published on 13. September 2018
The interviews were conducted by Tim Westphal, freelance journalist and author