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Curiosity and a pinch of courage

A focus topic at BAU 2019 was digitalisation, where virtual reality is playing an ever­greater role in addition to the planning tools for the process chain.

PROFILE: What about digital technology is of particular interest to you in your everyday work?

Dr. C. Herrmann: As a consultant in the area of corporate development, we support different companies primarily in the area of strategy and marketing as well as innovation management and digitalisation. For this reason, I am particularly interested in the application of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). However, here you need to differentiate between the technical solutions. VR may make sense in certain situations, but for many people it is still too complicated. By wearing the glasses, you are taken too far out of the real context. Many of our customers are therefore bypassing this step and waiting for augmented reality, which is the connection of actual reality with new digital technologies, to offer better solutions in terms of user friendliness and developments.

PROFILE: Could you give me an example of this?

Dr. C. Herrmann: Wouldn't it be amazing if you could take a photo of a building and use AR to see what a new façade system would look like in place of the existing envelope? And this would happen within seconds, including variations – that is a real added value which reaches far beyond the purely technical gadgets. But it's also a huge challenge!

PROFILE: What about Schüco and digitalisation?

Dr. C. Herrmann: Schüco is setting a benchmark in the area of digitalisation, as the company is consistently thinking in networks and is focusing on the entire process chain. Many suppliers are developing isolated solutions for individual parts of the value chain. These of course have their place, but Schüco is thinking in terms of an overall strategy here. It has been implemented in various areas, such as for the inspiration stage in archipinion or for the BIM­oriented planning process in Plan.One, where you can also search for suitable products and their manufacturers. These are all important components, because, ultimately, the most important thing is having a functioning process chain.

PROFILE: Where is there still a need for action?

Dr. C. Herrmann: Starting at the beginning of the process chain, the inspiration and information stage could be even better. With the range of options on offer, even architects and developers are increasingly running the risk of losing track of the technical building supplier and product landscape. We are finding ourselves at the intersection between architecture, design and technology. New digital technology is enabling new creative choices and design options. Architects are innately technophiles. They have been working with CAD programs for a long time, and increasingly with BIM too. They are therefore open to the digital world. However, when it comes to their core skill, creativity, and enriching the design process with new technical possibilities, they often struggle. The competition will change the market here too.

PROFILE: This quickly brings us onto the topic of artificial intelligence (AI). If the cloud is able to create a technologically optimised building from the best available designs, do we even still need architects?

Dr. C. Herrmann: That is the biggest question and also the challenge posed by digitalisation across all industries. It will make certain aspects of an architect's work obsolete. However, it is also establishing new creative freedoms for the work of architects and developers. For example, which architect still has time to provide a comprehensive consultation to their client? Most architects I know have to deal with an enormous amount of time, work and price pressure. The more digitalisation makes their work easier, the more time they have back to focus on their important role as experts and consultants. Construction will change, not only for technological reasons, but for ecological and resource reasons too. Digitalisation is undoubtedly a challenge for the role of the architect. Above all, however, it offers them key opportunities to reinvent their profession.

Photo: hm+p