Cost-effective construction: Strategies for the building of tomorrow

Cost-effective construction, sometimes called cost-efficient construction, has many facets, and offers those involved in construction numerous levers for optimizing efficiency and sustainability. A holistic view of all parts of the value chain—planning, construction and operation—reveals specific approaches and methods for cost efficiency and improved profitability in each phase.

Experience the practice-oriented innovations and developments of the exhibitors at BAU 2025 and be inspired by the diverse supporting program in the forums. For the construction of tomorrow.

Where are the levers for cost-effective construction?

Financing and profitability play a decisive role in the planning phase, particularly with regard to “stranded assets”, i.e. plants that are unprofitable or obsolete due to environmental or regulatory changes.

In the construction phase, sustainable use of resources and materials is achieved through prefabrication and modular construction, while lean management approaches in construction and project management help to optimize processes and increase efficiency. Reduced-technology construction, also known as low-tech architecture, also relies on avoiding complex technical systems and using passive design strategies.

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In the operating phase, the focus is on energy-efficient construction with the aim of minimizing the energy used for heating, cooling and lighting. In addition, a low-tech design is of great importance in order to keep maintenance costs low thanks to a robust architecture.

Just as construction itself must be viewed as an integrated, holistic system, the parameters for cost-effectiveness and therefore cost efficiency are multifaceted. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking outside the box and critically questioning and optimizing your own scope for action. This leads to disruptive, innovative and forward-looking models, as the Startup Gropyus in an interview shows. At the same time, however, the necessary political framework conditions are also needed, such as the package of measures to reduce construction costs of the Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB). Construction research also makes an important contribution to investigating new solutions for affordable and sustainable construction, as the current publication on approaches for building owners, planners and local authorities shows. But it’s not just the processes and framework conditions that need to change. The focus is also on pricing, particularly for building products in residential construction.

Focus on the life cycle

Cost-effective construction means taking a holistic view of economic and ecological aspects that goes beyond mere construction. An important lever for this is the extended view provided by the life cycle cost analysis, which extends from the construction to the dismantling of a building.

“With the help of life cycle costing (LCC), products can be compared in terms of their economic efficiency, taking into account all relevant costs.” The Federal Environment Agency’s definition shows that the consideration of life cycle costs is an indicator of the actual qualities of a building type or construction project. Low initial investments appear attractive, but can be canceled out in the long term by higher operating and maintenance costs. The life cycle assessment is also a must-have with regard to sustainability assessment and certification requirements, as well as in the requirements of the EU taxonomy. The currently assumed life cycle period of 50 years in the certification systems in Germany is being discussed by experts, as is the separate consideration of shell construction and finishing due to their different lifespans.

How little is enough?

In addition to affordability, cost-effective construction requires flexible and adaptable utilization concepts as well as sustainable construction methods that ensure the efficient use of resources. This approach combines the goal of energy efficiency and resource conservation with the use of durable materials in order not only to minimize the environmental impact of buildings, but also to maximize their service life and cost-effectiveness through adaptability. But how little is enough? Various approaches are currently being discussed and tested for their scalability in prototypes.

Low-tech design

Low-tech architecture refers to forgoing complex technical systems in favor of the application of passive design principles. Instead of relying on mechanical and electronic aids, this approach uses natural resources and conditions such as sunlight, shade, natural cross-ventilation and thermal masses to achieve comfort and efficiency. Low-maintenance construction complements this approach by creating robust structures that require little maintenance. This is an opportunity, but also a challenge, as the article byProf. Elisabeth Endres on BAU Insights shows.

Simple construction

The adaptability of buildings not only refers to the use of buildings and the use of efficient and low-maintenance technologies, but also deliberately focuses on the basic principle of simple construction, which aims for simplification, durability, and sustainability. By reducing complexity in design and construction, low tech in construction aims to create buildings that are functional and aesthetically pleasing without relying on excessive technical systems and solutions. Monitoring by the research buildings in Bad Aibling that took place over two years, accompanied by TUM and TH Rosenheim, shows a direct comparison of the potential of different construction methods.

Building type E

In this context, it is also interesting to note the proposal for building type E, which was launched on the initiative of the Bavarian Chamber of Architects and with the approval of the state chambers and the Federal Chamber of Architects. With the justification that sustainable and simple construction requires more design freedom in favor of necessary innovations, this building type is intended to overcome the tight corset of norms, superfluous standards, and bureaucratic hurdles in order to deliberately build projects that are reduced to the core of the protection objectives of the building regulations in a simple, sustainable and legally compliant manner. The launch of 19 pilot projects presented by the Bavarian State Ministry of Housing, Building, and Transport at the end of 2023 shows that the concept is already able to be implemented.

Holistic planning and optimization—with digital tools and new business models

Using new planning tools and methods such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), digital twins, and artificial intelligence in design planning, digitization can help to increase efficiency. Lean management also helps to increase efficiency in the construction process and project management. Lean construction extends these principles to process optimization and increased efficiency throughout the entire construction process. But which tool really increases efficiency in the value chain? It’s worth taking a look at the lecture by Prof. Daniel Mondino of HafenCity University Hamburg.

New business models are also necessary for implementing cost-effective construction, as they make it possible to adapt to changing market requirements and technologies. This can be in the way in which added value is generated, as the interview with Goldbeck shows, or how craftsman services can be rethought, as at the B&O Group in Bad Aibling.

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Experience expertise live—exhibitors at BAU 2025

BAU 2025 offers an excellent platform for presenting and discussing the latest trends, technologies, and solutions in the field of economical construction. Visitors can expect a comprehensive insight into the future of construction, showcasing innovative approaches and best practices from exhibitors for cost-efficient and sustainable construction. The trade fair offers the opportunity to exchange ideas with leading experts, forge new partnerships, and gather inspiring ideas for a more efficient, environmentally friendly, and adaptable construction industry.

What is meant by cost-effective construction?

Cost-effective construction is the approach of planning, executing, and designing construction projects in such a way that they are cost-, time-, and resource-efficient. The aim is to find the best possible balance between investment costs, operating costs, and sustainability over the entire life cycle of the building.

Is it possible to save on construction costs as early as the planning phase?

Construction costs can already be saved in the planning phase through a detailed analysis of requirements and realistic budgeting. By involving specialist planners at an early stage and using innovative planning tools such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), planning errors can be minimized, and more efficient construction methods and materials can be selected, leading to cost savings in the long term.

How does the choice of building materials influence the cost-effectiveness of a construction project?

The choice of materials has a considerable influence on the cost-effectiveness of a construction project. Components with a higher initial investment can lead to savings in the long term, e.g. through lower maintenance and operating costs or improved energy efficiency.