Future of the construction industry: Interview with Roland Falk from BZB (Part II)

Digitalisation, Synergies

In this second part of the interview to the Head of Research and Development at the Competence Center for Finishing and Facade at BZB, Flak deals with the influence of technological factors and innovations on the Construction industry in Germany.*

Digitalisation, new technologies and the necessary know-how are just some of the challenges that the construction industry is increasingly facing. Within the framework of the EU project “Blueprint for Construction”, the BZB conducted an expert interview with Roland Falk, Head of Research and Development at the Competence Center for Finishing and Facade. The second part of the interview deals with the influence of technological factors and innovations on the Construction industry in Germany.

Digitization and automation are important trends. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the construction industry have to adapt if they want to survive in the market. How can digitization and automation be integrated into work processes?

The terms “digitization” and “automation” have to be considered in a differentiated way. Much can be digitised in the building trade, but much less automated. Some examples:

  • The planning can be digitally represented, but the execution is mostly manual / practical.
  • Restoration work is often very special, so little can be automated.
  • With new construction methods there is usually digital data available, here work steps and procedures can be automated.
  • Construction logistics can be automated.
  • Even within the group of SMEs there are differences between the larger (>50 employees) and smaller (>10 employees) companies. They have different potentials in dealing with digitalisation / automation.
Do you think digital innovation is the key to a competitive Construction industry? How can this be achieved for SMEs?

Digital innovation is only one factor. Customer orientation is definitely a more important point, which is not necessarily improved by digitalization. This means that digitization is not the solution to all problems, instead it must be decided where it can be useful.

Over the last decade, the BIM methodology has been increasingly used. As a “tool” that shapes the Construction industry, how does its use change everyday life on the construction site?

BIM is difficult to use for work in existing buildings (refurbishment / renovation) and has not yet been used on construction sites. These are mostly non-standardised works and small working units. With regard to the construction of new buildings, the radius of action is limited because BIM defines work processes to a maximum and does not allow improvisation.

How will the use of BIM affect site managers and their employees? What are the differences in implementation between large companies and SMEs?

The site managers will integrate BIM into the processes and their specialist function will thus expand. Large companies are more likely to use BIM, if only because of the high investment. Small and medium-sized companies will use BIM within their function in the construction process, but in terms of investment they will face major challenges.

New building materials (bio-based, nanomaterials, etc.) open up many opportunities for construction. The knowledge and know-how about their use and application is indispensable. How do new materials influence the construction industry?

Yes, an examination of new building materials is necessary! But how do the new materials affect buildings in general (lifespan) and the people who live in them (physical aspects)? There is no long-term experience so far.

The topic “new building materials” should already be integrated into vocational training. Apprentices should be able to weigh up the properties of new building materials and alternative materials.

What are the key qualifications and competences when it comes to digitalization and technologies in the building industry?

The methodological competences have to be trained. That means the independent examination of materials, processes and situations on the construction site – accompanied by the trainers. The trainees should be enabled to make informed decisions.

How can digital methods and tools be learned “playfully” in order to overcome fear of contact?

The best way is to try it out! We need to create “rooms” for simulations and experimentation in which trial and error is possible – without fear of destroying anything or incurring costs.


Photo: © Roland Falk/private.