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Building the Future

Planned on the drafting table – This expression still exists, but the tools it describes fell out of use long ago. At the most, an architect will reach for a writing instrument in the drafting phase. But from there on, everything is done with the support of computers. There are not two ways about it: Virtualization will play a significant role in the future of building.

Experienced construction managers consider transparent planning a highly important phase to ensure that all gears engage seamlessly and all suppliers and shareholders work in optimised coordination with one another. This is why a clear definition of processes and responsibilities as well as professional management and coordination of the individual phases of the sub-projects are essential to the success of a project. Regular, reliable information on project progress, cost development and deadlines are essential over the course of the entire planning and building phase to ensure that all participants react quickly and are able to re-coordinate if necessary. This applies in the same capacity to both large and small building projects.

Theoretically, building projects only differ in size. Whether you are building a fence, a barn or a skyscraper – nothing works without a plan. Construction materials need to be ordered and available on time, the various stakeholders need to be coordinated, and, ideally, the costs and everything else needs to be documented so well that the further exploitation of the object also runs smoothly. These days, the majority of these steps are already planned and executed using computers. What is usually missing now is the thorough digitalisation of all processes. An important task here is breaking them down into small steps to reduce complexity by simplifying them. That this development has been slow up to now, can certainly also be put down to the fact that the building industry is a relatively small sector with numerous players. Here, the challenge is to create overarching digitalisation guidelines in this area, to standardise data exchange and set up the corresponding networks and cooperations.

Here, BIM is working at revolutionising the building sector over the next few years. The abbreviation stands for Building Information Modelling. It is concerned less with a specific software and more with a planning method. All implementation-relevant data on the building is recorded and combined to create a virtual structural model. This is how processes are optimised. The leader in this area, as usual, is the US. In Europe, it is countries such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Great Britain which are already implementing this method on a large scale. And a clear principle should be laid in Germany as well: Build digitally first, and then physically. That is how Federal Minister Alexander Dobrindt put it. This BIM method differs significantly from other conventional IT models. In the place of the plans on the computer, there is a database. This way, more than just the costs and amounts of construction materials and components can be recorded reliably. If changes are necessary, now only the respective parameter needs to be modified and not the entire plan. This primarily saves costs for building owners and construction companies. Generally, with this new method, the effort and therefore costs shift to the earlier service phases, as they are referred to in the building sector. The additional effort resulting from the BIM in the drafting and execution planning is compensated for by more seamless processing in the following building phases. This means that we don’t necessarily build faster, but we do build at a lower cost.
Digital building isn't reserved for large-scale projects alone. Even in small and medium-sized building projects, this method can be used to create the required transparency and reduce the risks presented by hidden costs or delays. This increases the quality standard, not at least in terms of the later commercial sale of the property.

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