Key themes for the future of building
The four key themes chosen for BAU 2019 are the ones that were setting the pace in the building industry—and also brought structure to the wide variety of products and solutions at the show. Many exhibitors would be organizing their presentations accordingly and highlighting their solutions in these areas. In the forums at the fair different aspects of the key themes would be explored and discussed. And in the special shows, they would be illustrated through product and project examples.
Progress in digitalization has really been picking up pace in the building industry in recent years. With the latest developments in IT and above all in BIM (Building Information Modeling) the job of planning is undergoing tremendous change. Today it’s the norm for international planning teams to work together—at the same time and on the same data. That simplifies collaboration and make the job easier. It also enhances the quality of the planning.
What is certain is that ideas and designs still come from the creative skills of the architect, the interior designer and the designers. They are the ones who are able to synthesize all the parameters of space, form and material, but also society, history and not least the needs of the clients and the users into a single design. But here, too, we are seeing attempts at “generative design,” in which the design is done by logarithms, depending on material and system. The actual detailed design is then done digitally and encompasses all the building trades. Even though acquiring special BIM tools and planning with BIM demands a certain effort and expense up front, the costs are recouped rapidly during the course of the project. In large-scale projects this kind of planning is now commonplace. In future the digital planning tools will be used also in smaller projects and in renovation and modernization work, and it will therefore become the standard worldwide.
The building trades must also get ready for this development, if they are to remain competitive. In future it will be possible to translate a plan in part direct into 3D production. In engineering, with components made of steel or wood, this is already a reality. But also in other areas it will be possible to feed 3D data into machines. That will save not only time and money, it will also have a lasting impact on the efficiency of the building process. Thus the work of the building trades will change, but the expertise of the tradesmen and -women will always be in demand.
Great changes are taking place in the world of work. For many the focus is no longer on pay but more on having flexible working hours or a better work-life balance. Thanks to digitalization the world of work is more intertwined with our private lives. Employees these days think nothing of quickly checking work e-mails during the evening, or of dealing with an inquiry from an important customer on their day off. On the other hand life doesn’t follow clear patterns nowadays. Increasingly important for workers now is being able to live the way they want and develop their own ideas. Both fit well together in essence, the question is more of a structural one. Often it’s no longer necessary to be in the office from 9 to 5. Many tasks can be done from the home office, or even in the café round the corner. Fixed or flexitime working hours, created for an analog world, can quite easily be replaced by flexible models.
All of this is of course changing the world of building, in particular as regards designing office landscapes. No longer does there have to be a fixed place for each and every employee. In the morning people simply choose where they want to sit that day. This alone saves up to 20% of office space. Data is fetched from the cloud. Even more significant is the impact on the design of residential space. Floor plans should be cleverly designed so that they can be flexibly adapted. With only minimal effort it should be easy to switch things around to cater for a home office, multi-generational living or higher occupancy, or to refunction a space or extend it. Digitalization and the greater flexibility of work and private life that goes with it are more than ever demanding flexible building structures that can respond to the housing shortage in our cities. Not least this has an effect on urban areas where new, digital mobility concepts must in future lead to new infrastructure.
The job of an architect and that of an engineer are sometimes hard to separate. Ever more sophisticated systems and technology need people who understand how to get the very best out of these possibilities. In the field of construction, as well as good design and material combinations, it’s increasingly about complex load-bearing structures, lightweight constructions and highly technological components. One example is the facade, which as the outer skin of a building must also accommodate technologies for ventilation or energy recovery, and all in a very small space. In themes like this the jobs of the architect and the engineer intersect, and early, detailed planning, carried out in collaboration, is required. That way, potential problems can be identified and eliminated at the planning stage, so as to avoid errors that would later be irreversible.
More and more new technologies are being developed, and these play a big part in all of this. Tasks like the planning of low-voltage cabling for intelligent building systems, of channels reserved specially for planners of these systems or of data cables for a wide-reaching intranet now affect many different building trades. Such projects need coordinated overall planning to keep the project on track and ensure that afterwards the complexity is no longer visible. Also, digital tools enable much more sophisticated and detailed planning. For steel, concrete or wooden buildings: The load-bearing frame is not infrequently the most important feature in a unique design. This means architects and engineers are very much dependent on collaboration with each other to achieve a good result.
Buildings are becoming ever more complex, but at the same time there is a desire for simplification. The key to this lies in prefabrication and in modular construction. In the factory many components can be fitted together better and faster, so when these parts are delivered to the building site, they only need to be put together like a jigsaw. This saves time and money, but it also increases precision and in the end the quality of the building. In future digital planning tools will be helpful, which can translate data direct into individually manufactured components.
Buildings themselves are becoming even more digital. In a smart building all the devices are linked up in a shared “smart grid” and so can communicate directly or indirectly with each other, supported by the internet of things technology. That brings several advantages: energy streams can be controlled and optimized, and, for example, the energy generated by solar cells can be distributed according to need or also stored for later use. In a larger network excess energy can be distributed to neighboring buildings. Entire urban districts can in this way be connected up in to an intelligent network.
In the last ten years or so there has been big change in particular in artificial lighting. LED technology—now the standard in lighting planning—has completely transformed the entire lighting sector. Light in buildings now not only uses less energy, it needs less space and, because of the longer life of LEDs, it also needs less maintenance. That is having an effect of course on electrical planning, but also on architectural design. Inspections no longer have to be carried out by building caretakers, they can be done every few years by external specialists. The focus in lighting planning can therefore be all the more on design. Lighting designers are now an established part of the planning and design team. Their expertise covers both artificial as well as daylight planning and as such they play a central role in the design process.
In smart building light becomes a part of the smart grid in whichall devices are connected up together. It is therefore possible tooperate the blinds and control the artificial lighting by smartphoneand even to combine these in atmosphere programs and lightingconcepts. Emergency programs can also be defined for the casefor fire, for example. In smart building there are (almost) no limits,provided the individual components can communicate with eachother via a smart grid.