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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 25-Mar-2019
Posted by: Franz Emprechtinger

Bau 2019: These 4 trends move the construction industry


Bau 2019, the world's leading trade fair for architecture, materials and systems, will take place in Munich from 14 to 19 January 2019. More than 2,000 exhibitors from 40 countries will be presenting their innovations on an exhibition area of around 200,000 m2. In this blog post, you can read about the challenges facing the rapidly growing sector and the trends that Bau 2019 is addressing.

Europe's construction industry is growing. Last year, the construction volume in the 19 Euroconstruct countries increased by 3.5 % compared with 2016 - more than at any time since 2006, i.e. long before the global financial crisis. Background: Euroconstruct is a research and consulting network in which institutes with specific know-how in the construction sector from 19 Western and Eastern Central European countries work together. In Germany, the ifo Institute acts as a partner; in Austria, the WIFO assumes this role. The construction industry also enjoyed growth before 2017: Between 2014 and 2017, total construction output increased by 9% to around 1.5 trillion euros. This development was driven above all by residential construction. The industry in the Euroconstruct countries, and thus the most important European markets, is expected to grow by a further 6% by 2020.

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Pressure for change on the construction industry is great

Despite the certainly pleasing growth, the industry faces enormous challenges. Its ecological footprint is huge, consuming around 40 percent of global resources. To date, sustainable action has been the exception rather than the rule in the industry. The construction sector is also anything but a pioneer when it comes to digitization. At the same time, it will be expected to become even more efficient in the future: urbanization requires that more and more buildings be erected in ever shorter timescales and with as little impact as possible on local residents and the environment. Important resources such as sand are becoming scarce. Overall, the pressure to change is very great. What solutions the industry has ready can be seen at the world's leading trade fair for the industry, Bau 2019, which takes place only every two years. Four key themes have emerged which will also guide the more than 2,000 exhibitors:

1) Without BIM, construction will soon be almost finished

Of course, a real building can only be erected in the real world. But when it comes to planning and collaboration between the many parties involved, digital tools can increase efficiency and reduce costs. BIM (Building Information Modeling) is one such tool that will be of interest to the industry today and much more in the near future. This method makes it possible to optimize the planning, execution and management of any type of structure using software and networking. With BIM, all building data is digitally modeled, combined and recorded and the building is also visualized as a computer model. This building model can be used by all project participants, from architects to facility managers. The benefits of BIM can be seen by recapitulating the method previously used for construction projects: The planning design of an architect, which is based on the wishes and needs of the client, is at the beginning of every project. CAD systems are then used to create the technical construction and design drawings, from which the required construction work and finally the costs are distilled. If the design is changed, all subsequent plans and calculations must be adjusted. With BIM, this enormous expenditure of time and money can be avoided. Architects and technical planners can feed the changes into the project file. These are immediately available to all project participants in the form of updated plans, drawings and calculations. In concrete terms: If the architect changes the floor plan of a building and thus also the number of doors required, this adaptation is also immediately visible in the door list and in the calculation. This considerably improved exchange of information between all parties involved in the planning process leads to significantly higher productivity. Countries such as Great Britain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia are regarded as pioneers when it comes to BIM. However, it is to be expected that the new method will also establish itself here as a widely valid standard not only for large-scale projects, but also for smaller construction and renovation projects. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is making BIM mandatory for infrastructure projects until 2020. The building trades involved in the construction of buildings will have to build up new competencies.


2) Flexible forms of work require new buildings

The so-called nine-to-five jobs are decreasing continuously. Both employers and employees demand flexible working time models. In many companies - such as the Austrian branches of Microsoft or IBM or T-Mobile Austria - the New World of Work is already a reality. Creatives, freelancers and digital nomads share co-working spaces in order to follow their vocation and earn a living. The flexibilization also leads to the blurring or even complete disappearance of the boundaries between working life and private life. People who work and live flexibly also demand more flexibility from buildings and apartments. Individual rooms or entire buildings must be able to be quickly redesigned in order to satisfy exactly the demand that is currently in demand. To put it in a nutshell: Not only people or organizations, but also buildings must be agile in the future. This flexibility will have to take place in less space because of the aforementioned urbanization and the increase in population growth. A micro apartment equipped with robotic furniture, for example, shows how this can be achieved.


3) Engineers and architects work more closely together

Progress makes highly technological components possible. A window not only fulfils its role as a window, but can also function as a power plant, indirect light source, touch screen, air conditioner or curtain. High-tech facades can cool, heat or neutralize smog. And thanks to the Lotus effect, roofs can even clean themselves. In addition, there are new materials or construction methods that allow completely new possibilities in terms of load-bearing capacity or statics.

When designing a building, these capabilities, which individual building components can take over, as well as the properties of innovative building materials or construction types play an important role. The architects in charge of building design must therefore work even more closely with the engineers who are able to extend the technological pouvoir of the elements in the early stages of a construction project than was previously the case. This close cooperation is also necessary in the standardization and prefabrication of components. Thanks to this method, even large structures can be erected in just a few days.


4) Intelligent buildings are lit up

It is logical that a "Smart City" should consist of as many "Smart Buildings" as possible. Of course, existing buildings can also be networked afterwards thanks to the possibilities offered by mobile transmission technologies. But in the case of new buildings or comprehensive refurbishments, it is advisable to plan this networking at the same time. A so-called "Smart Grid" can connect all devices within a building and also offer corresponding interfaces for external users. With the help of such "smart grids", which connect all players in an energy system via a communication network, energy flows can be optimally controlled. For example, if the solar cells on the roof of a building generate too much electricity, it can be passed on to the electricity filling station of a neighboring house, where several vehicles have just docked for "refueling".

The subject of light will also be a focal point at BAU 2019, because sensor technology and networking can enormously expand the possibilities. Smartphones or sensors control blinds and artificial light simultaneously, providing lighting concepts tailored to current requirements. These can then run off in emergencies such as a fire. Thanks to its low energy and space requirements and longer service life, LED technology allows unprecedented lighting concepts.


Conclusio: Bau 2019 - These 4 trends move the construction industry

Both in terms of sustainability and digitalization, the construction industry is facing a very high pressure to change. New digital tools such as BIM will change the industry dramatically within a very short period of time. The demands placed on the products of the construction industry - the buildings - have also changed within a very short time. Suitable answers to these demands also require a wealth of new developments. In order to invent sustainable solutions, however, the entire construction industry today also has completely new technologies at its disposal, the possibilities of which can at best be guessed at today.

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Franz Emprechtinger

Born in Ried im Innkreis. As former Head of Innovation, he was responsible for the entire project management and specializes in the areas of fuzzy front end and business model innovation.

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