Tim Westphal

Posted by Tim Westphal
on 22.05.2020

Do. And do not hesitate.

How we learn to live a new everyday life: Corona pushes the digitalisation of building.

“We are beginning to understand that we could have done much more than we have done so far. It’s the perfect time to be creative and try something new.”
Fermín Tribaldos, Founder Architects not Architecture

In recent weeks, many of us have had to stay at home involuntarily. We have learned to come to terms with the current Corona situation – and are now working in our home office. But there are many construction sites that are still going on. Many building product manufacturers have continued to open their plants. A number of freelancers who organise specialist events for architects, for example, have been hit hard. How is the industry dealing with the current situation? And how does it look forward to the coming months?

While researching the “doers” who continue to work outside on construction sites, in factories, offices and home offices, we came across a current article in the DBZ issue 5/2020, which is supplemented by further statements on the DBZ website. We would like to share these snapshots from architecture and planning offices, freelancers, professional associations and building product manufacturers with you. Why? Because we have to look ahead together: Open to new ideas and with solutions that make our work easier and more efficient.

The construction sites are underway. Unfortunately the building permits are not.
The architects surveyed are cautiously positive, because their projects are continuing. This is different from the mechanical engineering or automotive sectors. Because of Corona, none of the construction sites have been closed so far. Nevertheless, a lack of skilled and unskilled workers, who cannot come to Germany due to border closures, for example, is making the situation more difficult. Added to this are supply bottlenecks for building products – fortunately rather the exception. Far more serious is the fact that the building authorities in many federal states remain closed or only continue to work to a very limited extent. The consequence: building applications are not processed. This is also reported by Nathalie Dziopek-Bepler, Management + Consulting of baukind GmbH.

Source: Baukind
Source: Baukind

“The current authorisation procedures have been temporarily suspended as the Offices are closed. Fortunately, however, we are currently still affected by few restrictions on our construction sites, so that our current projects will be continued and we will do our utmost to meet all planned deadlines”. Nathalie Dziopek-Bepler, Management + Consulting, baukind GmbH

From draft to law – in just 16 days

New projects can therefore not be started. This will not have an immediate effect, but by autumn/winter 2020/2021 at the latest, things could get tight. There has been much discussion in recent weeks about what needs to be done. This is because the building permit process continues to “decelerate” the draft law presented on 29 April to ensure proper planning and approval procedures during the COVID 19 pandemic (HAUFE reported among others) will now quickly improve this. In future, it will be possible to hold digital meetings instead of on-site appointments at the office. The important law was passed by the Bundestag a good two weeks later on 14 May and confirmed by the Bundesrat on 15 May.

It is seldom that fast in politics. But architects, specialist planners, the construction industry and building authorities need planning security. And in the truest sense of the word. The acute worries and restrictions in work processes are therefore neither solved nor resolved for the time being. This is also documented by the numerous contributions of architects and planners in the above-mentioned article in the DBZ. Nevertheless, one thing remains to be said: 16 days from the draft law to the decision in the Bundesrat show the will of the Federal Government to quickly support the building industry and to further promote the use of digital tools.

Wu Wei
Source: Wu Wei
Source: Wu Wei

»Then we learned that the number of corona infections in Germany was increasing. The gmp sites in Hamburg and Berlin partially switched to home office from mid-March onwards. The experience we had previously gained in China helped us to make the changeover quickly. Plan B came into action – lucky in disguise.« Wu Wei, Partner in the office of Gerkan, Marg and Partner, Shanghai

Corona is the digitisation driver of an entire industry

Nevertheless, the crisis could have a lasting positive side effect: The digitalisation of the building industry is accelerating. Even if of necessity. In March and April 2020, for example, every industrial company developed ad hoc individual solutions for decentralised working and anti-corona strategies for production. This was easier for those who were already well positioned digitally. In addition, service providers have long been providing support in the form of digital services that offer architects, planners and the construction industry, for example, precisely tailored platforms for efficient data and information exchange such as Plan.One.

Corona’s main target group were the digital hesitants and deniers. Because it was a question of either locking up or continuing to work in a decentralised manner from the home office. Within a few days, complete company divisions, with the exception of factory production, were sent to the home office. A return to an old normality seems impossible only a few weeks later. But the thoroughly positive perspectives of this changed working world are analysed by Matthias Horx and his Frankfurt Zukunftsinstitut in a current white paper „”The Economy after Corona”“.

Knauf Gips KG
Source: Knauf Gips KG
Source: Knauf Gips KG

»Knauf has been pushing digitalisation in construction for years. The benefits of this preparatory work are now becoming very clear. Our customers have made the experience that not only all the necessary basic information from Knauf is available to them at all times. They can even generate more complex, individually tailored data requirements very quickly using various configurators and tools..« Klaus Salhoff, Head of Civil Engineering Central Europe, Knauf Gips KG

Freelancer: work without net and double bottom

The creative industries are an important driver of innovation in the economy and in construction. Without the large number of agencies and lone fighters, the construction industry would hardly be viable in many areas. However, its significance is currently being underestimated. Unbureaucratic support: no chance. Aid provided in the course of Corona Solo self-employment should cover operating costs such as office rent and electricity – but not living expenses. On the contrary, those who use the aid for this purpose misappropriate the grant and can even be prosecuted for subsidy fraud. Many things remain unclear at present, as, for example, the tax consultant Jens-Martin Müller, who specialises in artists and freelancers, points out

Nevertheless, a lot of new things are happening. And personal initiative is still the best antidepressant. galleries or museums relocate their exhibitions and collections to the web. present their stage programmes or films available on the net. This also applies to Fermin Tribaldos. He is the founder of the internationally successful event format Architects not Architecture, and had to cancel all events throughout Europe due to contact restrictions and event bans. But he is confident and sees the crisis as an opportunity that can have a positive impact on society and the economy. He is currently working with new format and online in the starting blocks. Fermin, like many others in the industry, continues to go from strength to strength: “We are beginning to understand that we could have done a lot more than we have done so far. It’s the perfect time to be creative and try something new.“

Irene-Osei PokuAnA
Source: rene Osei-Poku/AnA
rene Osei-Poku/AnA

»Corona turns everything upside down, but it can help us to see ourselves and the world we live in a little differently and to recognise new opportunities. The “normality” after the pandemic will be different, much richer and more interesting than before the crisis. Let us use these crazy times to develop socially. I am optimistic.«
Fermín Tribaldos, Founder Architects not Architecture

The quotes from Nathalie Dziopek-Bepler, Wu Wei and Fermín Tribaldos are excerpts from articles on the DBZ website.

Tim Westphal

Tim Westphal
Author and industry expert, specialising in architectural journalism on topics requiring explanation and complex building stories.

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