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Digital Processes


“We were already aware of the quality, since we, in a certain way, had already built the building digitally. After construction began, there was no real need to improvise anymore,” said Finnish BIM expert Marko Rajala about planning Helsinki’s Division of Urban Environment building. His approach reflects the vision of a brave, new digital world of construction. Manufacturers promise, and builders hope, that building information modelling (BIM) will lead to better adherence to deadlines and budgets, higher execution quality, and fewer unpleasant surprises at the construction site.

Are they getting what they hope for? This question is explored in the current issue of Detail. We look at five different projects to examine digital collaboration, how processes were structured and models were coordinated, and the benefits this brought the planning teams and their clients. Scandinavia is a BIM pioneer and represented with two projects: Lahdelma & Mahlamäki’s Urban Environment Division building, and the Deichman Library by Lundhagem and Atelier Oslo, are both large, multifunctional buildings – and classic use cases for the BIM method. This is because its advantages tend to increase with the project’s size and complexity. This also applies to the Vortex student dormitory at the edge of Lausanne by Dürig and IttenBrechbühl. Though BIM planning was not required by the ­client, it was the only way to complete the mammoth ­building in time for the Youth Olympic Games.

In Brussels the challenge was no less complex, where Neutelings Riedijk, Jan de Moffarts Architecten, and Bureau Bouwtechniek converted the former Gare Maritime freight station into an office building. The digital process chain included everything from laser measurements of the station concourse, to producing the timber components. The only exception: to win the commission for the tendered project, construction companies had to produce 1:1 scale mockups. The takeaway: execution quality cannot be digitally simulated.

To meet the plus-energy standard at Gare Maritime, a comprehensive climate and energy concept was needed. Climate protection was also a priority at the Ilse Wallentin House in Vienna by SWAP Architektur and Delta Projektconsult, which was built with 1,000 m3 of wood. It is no coincidence that digital tools were intensively used to plan and produce the timber structure.

We examine three further projects to look more closely at sustainability aspects, such as energy supply and the life cycle assessment of building materials. These articles take the place of the special Detail Green section that usually appears in the November issue of Detail. They can be recognized by the green page edges. 

Planning culture is changing

Digitalization is not only a technical challenge, but also a cultural one, which architects do not always meet with euphoria. As early as 1968, Oswald Mathias Ungers commented that design “cannot be left to a device that can make if/then or yes/no ­decisions and nothing else.” And as Louis Kahn noted back in 1969, “The machine can transmit measurements, but the machine cannot create, cannot judge, cannot design.”

That was more than 50 years ago, yet even today, the final design decisions are still being made by people – and that’s how it should stay. Nevertheless, planning culture has undergone an enormous change. Marco Hemmerling examines this phenomenon in our Essay, for which he interviewed BIM managers at leading architecture firms in German-speaking countries.

This issue’s main theme is also the focus of our Detail Congress on 25 November, titled “Neuer Standard? Digitale Planung in der Architektur” (New Standard? Digital Planning in Architecture), which convenes in Frankfurt and live on the Internet. You are cordially invited! You can also vote on this year’s Detail Product Awards at until 30 November. If you are thinking about going digital with your Detail sub­scription, we suggest also having a look at our online database: It includes all Detail issues since 1961, grouped according to decade and searchable according to text and ­keywords. 

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