Maximally reducing the planning time of construction projects through full automation – that is the ambition that underpins the initialism SPB: “Systemic Planning and Building”. It is made possible by smart algorithms that evaluate data from more than one million floor plans and consider the current project’s parameters to calculate efficient proposals in real time down to the last detail. And, as it soon turned out, this approach can do even more.
The platform is designed for a residential construction volume of €100 million and represents a pioneering achievement for the entire construction industry. It enables real estate developers, for example, to quickly carry out an initial cost calculation while still on the greenfield site. For ZÜBLIN, this development is just the beginning. The door to building with data has been thrown wide open, giving rise to the questions: How can a completely digital building process be represented, from planning to construction? And how can data be meaningfully obtained, stored and analysed?
For the Business Unit Managers Till Ackers and Oliver Meißner, and their team from the ZÜBLIN Brandenburg/Saxony-Anhalt Business Unit, the potential behind this innovation goes further than they had originally anticipated: “Initially, we just wanted an efficient solution to speed up planning”, says Ackers. “If you want to build more efficiently in the future, you have to get to the planning earlier”, Meißner is convinced. But the result was a systemic approach that could also map the entire construction in a completely digital process, generate data, and increase efficiency holistically until completion.
The idea was born in 2018, when ZÜBLIN started the Sonnenhöfe project near the German capital with Berlin-based real estate developer DIEAG. But there were to be many more construction projects of this kind. DIEAG’s question to ZÜBLIN was: How do we build them as efficiently as possible?
Together, the two partners launched a competition, the goal being a digital planning process. An Oldenburg architecture firm, now called DIEFabrik, provided the promising approach, which the now three partners consistently developed further to bring it to maturity.
“The innovation behind this approach is that we think of the building process starting at the end, with the product in mind”, explains Daniel Fleischmann, Head of Indoor Services in the ZÜBLIN Brandenburg/Saxony-Anhalt Division. The flat floor plan is created in a 12.5 x 12.5 cm planning grid that can be adapted to the size of the building project as desired. The algorithms and a neuronally linked database play puzzles with the floor plans. They calculate an optimal distribution of the residential units and plan the layout, including an effective, individual divison of the areas. In initial test applications, this reduced the total planning time from the usual half a year or more to less than a month.
The algorithms calculate floor plans according to various rules; for example:
- Adherence to minimum movement areas around furnishings
- Minimum lighting in relation to room size
- Maximum ceiling spans in relation to additional construction costs
- Development of a preliminary static system
- Accurate area calculation according to DIN 276 through already stored standards for room modules
- Exact quantities and masses for cost estimates
- Exact modelling of the 3D geometry, down to skirting boards, sockets and waterproofing
But the resulting digital building blocks are now sparking greater imagination among those involved, as Till Ackers elaborates:
“What if we could also provide parts of these units with other data as the lowest common denominator of production, namely our tact areas? What if this could be used to map information for construction, material data, component catalogues, deadlines, costs, even the CO2 footprint – in short, everything the digital construction process generates in terms of data?”
The answers are virtually on the table.
ZÜBLIN thus suddenly turns from a construction company into a planner. “We are finally getting to where we need to be if we want to build efficiently”, says Fleischmann. Above all, however, it is the systemic idea. “Not serial, not modular: systemic, a standardised individuality is what we have to plan and build in the future”, Fleischmann says, adding, “We have to see the big picture. Not thinking individually in terms of BIM, LEAN, cycle control or component tracking, but understanding and using it all together, as one system.“
Accordingly, perhaps a ZÜBLIN building will become a brand behind which everyone in the industry sees not only the building but also the digital process. The team is not quite at the point where this idea is fully realisable. “We are still developing the tools, we´re not quite yet at the point developing the ecosystem”, says Fleischmann. “But we know what to expect in 10 years – how we will build in the future – and we are now looking for the way to get there most successfully.”