Innovative buildings are only possible when design and construction, craft and digital fabrication, as well as lifecycles of buildings and material use are thought of as one.
»Knowledge is the new currency«
PROFILE: What role do the aspects of this year‘s exhibition motto »Experience Progress« play in your daily work?
Ronald Schleurholts: Here at cepezed, we are never satisfied with the status quo and are always looking for new developments and innovative combinations of technology wherever possible. As the nature of the construction industry is quite conservative, it pays to let yourself be inspired by technology in other industries or to get to know the research departments in certain specialised companies. For example, the smartphone and tablet industry has pushed the quality and strength of glass to extreme heights. And from the heavily industrialised greenhouse sector in the Netherlands, we have adopted intelligent, efficient sun shading systems which enable us to economically use »adaptable« façades. As designers, we come up with new ideas ourselves but, as I said, we do this together with the research departments in other companies. They often have very good ideas that are just waiting to be implemented. Last but not least, buildings can become more interactive and responsive, more aligned with their actual use, and »smarter«, interacting with modern digital devices and technology. Just think of Tesla cars, which receive upgrades and new functions in real time.
PROFILE: How flexible will buildings need to be in future?
Ronald Schleurholts: We strongly believe that the quality and adaptability of buildings can be improved by fundamentally changing the construction process. We strive to avoid onsite production and construction as far as possible. Our buildings are assembled dry using industrially produced components. Welding and concrete pouring do not take place on our building sites. We have developed a »modular system« approach, which requires the adaptation and development of materials and solutions. This results in a higher level of quality, as well as buildings which are easy to dismantle and maintain and above all are adaptable. As different components have different lifespans, you need to take account of different lifecycles and usage cycles. Our construction methods also allow materials to be upgraded and reused over time. For example, we can easily integrate recycled materials in our »modular system«, as we have done in the Green House Pavillion in Utrecht.
PROFILE: What is important to you when implementing new architectural ideas and concepts?
Ronald Schleurholts: I strongly believe in incorporating the knowledge of the suppliers in the design process and linking the creativity and empathetic, integral approach of the designer with the production knowledge and technical skills of companies that actually produce and develop constructions. Both parties need to be openminded and forwardthinking, but these collaborations bring about the best solutions and increase the quality and improve the materials that are used in the built environment.
PROFILE: How will digitalisation continue to have an impact on architecture?
Ronald Schleurholts: First of all, improvements can always be made with a more integrated approach to the planning, construction, maintenance and dismantling of buildings. We need to render our digital 3D models even smarter and share them in a more open process. However, most product suppliers and BIM models are still not really aligned with each other. In the planning stage, digitalisation can be used to make better design decisions and better engineered buildings. It can help with daylight studies, performance simulations and much more. The faster and more integrated these tools are in the construction process, the better and more optimised the results.
PROFILE: Do you use digital tools and methods such as BIM at your practice?
Ronald Schleurholts: Yes, of course we use BIM. We have been using it for about 10 years. We continue to invest in it and develop it, so that we can keep abreast of changes. BIM has vastly improved the possibilities with regard to multidisciplinary, integrated design and absolutely leads to higher quality. However, a lot more headway still needs to be made in order to use the 3D models at all stages of a building‘s existence, from the design and construction process, integration of the supply chain, and maintenance and operation during the buildings lifespan, through to dismantling.
PROFILE: Which tools make planning easier for you? Do you use the options for configuration in virtual space, augmented reality tools etc?
Ronald Schleurholts: Yes, we use these tools extensively for design purposes and quality control, as well as to go over the specific user experiences or the adherence to certain requirements with clients and stakeholders. While working on the new pier at Schiphol airport, we used them to check a wide range of things with the relevant stakeholders, from the security zoning, route planning for different passenger groups, and the staff workflows, through to clearance levels, seating areas and the positioning of commercial advertising and signs. Everything was positioned in the 3D model and checked using realtime software.
Photos: Lucas van der Wee | cepezed