Construction: Modular and Digital as well as Efficient and Sustainable

How much can the use of BIM increase efficiency in construction and why sustainable construction is appealing to all players in the industry. An Interview with Pascal Bärtschi, CEO of Losinger Marazzi AG.

Mr. Bärtschi, Losinger Marazzi is committed to being a leading swiss company in intelligent construction. Can you tell us more about this aspiration of yours?

As a company leader and out of my own personal conviction, I firmly believe that it is essential to always aspire to be a driving force in the market and to regularly take a critical look at what we do - including my own professional decision-making. It is generally known that the competitive pressure in our industry as well as in related sectors is high, in some cases very high. An intelligent, strategic positioning and the requirement to constantly improve is therefore essential for a company in order to distinguish itself from the masses. If this question is directed at our company, I am proud to state, that a strong pioneering spirit has always been present at Losinger, Marazzi and Bouygues. We are inspired by this spirit- it is part of our DNA - it is what drives us forward.

Recent studies show that digital construction with Building Information Modeling (BIM) can lead to cost savings of up to 20 percent. Is this a realistic scenario?

BIM is an incredibly interesting development in our industry and a huge catalyst for industrialisation in general. Increased efficiency tends to be the goal of any innovation being implemented, of course. However, it is unlikely that 20 per cent of actual costs can be saved in construction alone. After all, the lifecycle of a property is very extensive - we are constructing buildings which will remain in use for many decades to come. Therefore, the demands placed on them may vary greatly and change during their existence. But BIM can indeed increase efficiency and reduce costs from start to finish - from planning, execution, operation, conversions and, in the end, demolition. It is therefore difficult to give a detailed estimate of the costs at this stage, but it is worth the effort anyway.

Theoretically, all parties involved in the industry - from architects and engineers to companies involved in interior design or electrical installations - can take part in the application of BIM. This includes many small businesses working in the sector. Is it worth it for them to purchase and make use of BIM? Do you expect a strong push for this digitalisation process?

Yes, everyone can theoretically participate, but the question arises as to whether this is sensible. Within the framework of working with BIM, it is possible to release individual sections to be worked on. Let's take the scaffolder for instance. He will less likely need to use BIM (or not at all) rather than an electrician, for example. There are a large number of small businesses, which have implemented BIM into their work processes and we feel a great deal of agility in this respect.

3D printing and robotics are among the next trends in the construction industry. Is it a real trend or momentarily still largely being researched?

A lot of research is being carried out for new exciting approaches and we are happy to pursue them. It is difficult to determine exactly which trends will prevail at this point. However, I am certain that modular construction will continue to be established. This means that entire elements will be prefabricated either at the manufacturer's premises or at one of our local factory sites and then delivered to the building site on time to be assembled. 3D printing and robotics could be used in the production of these elements, for example. This would reduce actual production times but also increase demands on logistics at the same time.

Will we still be needing construction workers for decades to come or will there be mainly IT-specialists and engineers "programming" the construction of buildings?

If you compare job descriptions from our industry from 30 years ago with today's jobs, including those of construction workers, you can already observe a strong development towards digitalisation. Good local craftsmanship and quality management will not disappear, but the awareness of processes involving more and more digital elements and the cooperation with machines will certainly continue to increase.

There are new trends not only in process development but also in the choice of building materials. Clay, wood, hemp stone for instance- where do you see the greatest potential?

It is not so much "new" building materials but rather a rediscovery of old options. I believe real sustainability will not take place in the use of materials or processes, but in the planning stage. Because, after all, every single area that is built on unnecessarily is one too many. So, the smaller the difference between gross and net floor space, the better for sustainability. Intelligent planning must also go into the design and the construction of a building to increase its flexibility and diversity in order to keep up with changes and new demands for future years, thus reducing the need for costly conversions - this is intelligent planning. Let me give you a simple example: an underground car park of an office building is mostly used between 08.00 and 17.00. So why build an underground car park for a neighbouring residential development next door, which is mainly used at night? Both stakeholders could use the same underground car park. We see a massive potential in the multiple use of such spaces and this is certainly an emerging trend.

Losinger Marazzi has long been committed to sustainability. What do you say to other entrepreneurs who are still clinging on to the old ways?

Climate neutrality is clearly a must. The question is how we can achieve it - Is it through more efficient logistics or the use of electric vehicles, through the use of sustainable building materials or better planning? In my opinion, it is a mixture of all areas which will help us achieve that goal. It should also be noted that changes in the construction industry tend to take a little longer to be implemented, our industry is rather conservative. But it takes a strong commitment and efforts from all of us to really make a difference.

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