Dr Axel Kaufmann, CFOO & Spokesman of the Executive Board, Nemetschek Group, explores how buildings can be planned, built and managed much more sustainably over the entire construction lifecycle
Two megatrends are dominating the social discussion and present both major challenges and opportunities: alongside digitisation, sustainability is right in the spotlight.
Climate targets, the circular economy, CO2 pricing, the use of the latest methods and processes – there are countless initiatives and measures across all industries to curb climate change and its consequences. Every single one of them is challenged. The construction industry is leading the way – after all, almost 40% of total global CO2 emissions are currently generated in the building sector.
The good news is that significant improvements can be achieved with proven digital solutions. Over the entire lifecycle of a building, it can be planned, built and managed much more efficiently and thus more sustainably – cost savings included.
A rethink is currently taking place among many stakeholders in the construction lifecycle. Governments are also imposing increasingly specific requirements on the implementation of construction projects that pay attention to sustainability. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has given digitalisation an extra boost, and the start-up industry is simultaneously providing many creative ideas for more sustainable construction.
So, what is standing in the way of the rapid transformation to a sustainable and digitised construction industry? It is often traditions, rehearsed processes and familiar ways of working, a certain degree of silo thinking in the individual professions and, last but not least, the inertia of clients.
Indeed, it is also up to decision-makers, builders, owners and landlords to demand sustainability or a circular economy from the rather conservative and highly fragmented construction industry. Every decision they make today, even when it comes to the private single-family home, will have an impact on the next 20 years – or even longer. As a result, it’s not enough to sit back and let others drive the necessary transformations.
And there’s no other way than more digitisation, even if you exclude the issue of sustainability. The complexity of large-scale projects is increasing rapidly. Whereas in the past it was still possible to build on greenfield sites, today new buildings often have to fit into existing already built environments. The number of people involved in the construction process is growing. The result: 90% of all construction projects get out of hand in terms of quality, costs and/or time.
BIM and AI
Digitalisation can occur in individual steps or, ideally, holistically across the entire construction lifecycle – from planning through the design and construction phases to building operation. Through digital construction before the actual, through the use of the working method Building Information Modelling (BIM) as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI), both planning and implementation can be improved, and conflicts and incorrect specifications can be detected at an early stage.
In this context, we at the Nemetschek Group view the building lifecycle as a cycle in which data is continuously collected and reused. The question of who owns this data, which was often asked in the past, is no longer an obstacle. Individual professions involved in the construction planning and realisation process access and edit their data and avoid data loss by simply passing on the data – thanks to open BIM interfaces.
By using the entire “data intelligence”, for example, the management of a structure can be optimised and better, fact-based decisions can be made for the next project. Another advantage of such seamless documentation is that even years later it is possible to see which material was used where – this is the only way to reuse raw materials. The two challenges of digitisation and sustainability thus go hand in hand – with the construction industry as a good example of much untapped potential.
Dr Axel Kaufmann
CFOO & Spokesman of the Executive Board
Please note: this is a commercial profile.