Digitalize sustainably

Digitalizing construction processes in a sustainable way, thereby reducing energy and resource consumption and thus contributing to the necessary change in society – this the firm belief of Professor Hannes Schwarzwälder, responsible for the teaching and research field "Digitalization of construction processes" at the Biberach University of Applied Sciences.

Mr. Schwarzwälder, what challenges will affect the construction industry of the future?

The construction industry will have to find solutions to many challenges. However, as the first step, it must recognize the challenges ahead and not rely on functioning solutions of the present. The overall task, of course, is to reduce the impact of climate change. As a construction industry, we make a significant contribution to this through our emissions and our use of resources. The reuse of building materials is another challenge. The reduction of the manufacturing costs of buildings and buildings to make living affordable, for example, a future-oriented efficiency of planning and construction processes, in order to be perceived as an interesting sector for craftsmen and graduates. And not least: digitalization that finds answers to all these questions, instead of serving digitalization as an end in itself.

Prof. Hannes Schwarzwälder firmly believes that the construction sector needs to change and that sustainable digitalization is an essential driver of the transformation.
Picture Source: Derome

What is the impact of automation and digitalization on affordable housing?

The efficiency of the processes in planning and construction is crucial. Here are just a few examples: optimizing buildings digitally in advance saves expensive solutions on the construction site; interpretation of tenders is no longer necessary as all information is clearly contained in an information model. These data are ultimately transferred to an automated production without errors and are only finally assembled on site. The production depth is moved from the construction site to the plant. But the truth is that reducing manufacturing costs alone does not automatically increase the supply of affordable housing. The creativity of the industry is also required here.

How can interfaces in construction be reduced?

On the one hand, the interfaces lie in the information breakdown between planning and execution. On the other, in information breakdowns between the parties involved in the two project phases mentioned above. Digitalization can of course help to realize the necessary flow of information and, in the best case, address the relevant data. In order to meet the challenges mentioned above, we must be able to use this data for the planning and construction processes in the next phase of digitalization and recombine it for the user’s purposes. Only when we combine data availability and the combination of data can we talk about digitalization.

What needs to change in the construction process?

I am convinced that the construction of buildings will and must change fundamentally. Aspects of sustainability, decarbonization of production (gray energy) and digitalization will challenge existing solutions of the status quo.

This means a lot of changes for the digital construction site. Away from reactive problem solving on the construction site to active production in automated production, based on defect-free planning, for example, a digital construction model. At this point, I would like to see a little more vision in the industry. It would be a desirable approach, for example, to manage the construction of a building in such a way that, by increasing productivity, it would be possible to reduce the weekly working hours of craftsmen and construction managers. This would also be an answer to the attractiveness of an industry and its young people, to which digitalization can contribute! Not just on the construction site.

Picture Source: Derome


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