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Expert Interview

They are mainly concerned with the “non-technical” part of construction. What are your thoughts on the use of standardized systems instead of unique solutions that are constantly being developed?
Well, we economic engineers are concerned very much with the technical side of construction, however, we also take the economic components into consideration. Standardized systems are naturally more efficient for planning, implementation and monitoring. System solutions serve for finding qualitative verified solutions that function even with a lack of specialist personnel.

How important will the use of resilient connectors that have a low error potential be, especially due to the lack of specialist staff you addressed? 
I would use connectors that are easy to use without significant error potential in the medium-term. The lack of specialist personnel will further intensify along the entire chain in the woodconstruction industry. We as a technical university are not able to find enough students in the MINT area*. And the lack of personnel on construction sites is also striking. Resilient systems help to alleviate the initial need.

Can you keep your finger on the pulse of the times with connection technology?
The principle of connection technology is even more current than ever. With the current collective agreement increases of nearly 10 percent, construction can only be made affordable through increases in efficiency. In this, standardized connectors support above all reducing time on the construction site.

There is a tradition of a higher degree of prefabrication in wood construction nowadays. What potential do you see for further improvements in assembly on the construction site related to connection technology?
At our institute, we have already been able to examine some projects with the aid of assistants and students to analyse the potential of prefabrication. Flippant statements that wood construction is generally more expensive than solid construction don’t help. Instead, operational planning methods such as a selection of procedure, work preparation, timing, the use of subcontractors and secondary services such as scaffolding work and the TGA and interior fittings must be included in the overall consideration. A comparison can first be created. I still see the potential for optimisations over the entire value added process at 5 to 15 percent of the costs. A similar magnitude can be found in the construction time.

All of these processes are also subject to controls. This gives the ÖBA, the local construction supervisory authority, a certain monitoring task. What does that mean with regard to the inspection of statically important connections?
The more trusted systems are utilised, the faster the ÖBA can carry out the monitoring. Laborious inspections in individual cases are avoided and the dwell times for quality assurance are reduced. With regard to documentation, routines can be developed using approved systems. The same applies to statically important connections.

This means that system connectors are easier to document than individual solutions?
Because construction always involves high investment in which emotions also play a large role, if there is an error, the search for the guilty party is inevitable. We have to prevent catastrophes in the future, such as the collapse of the ice pavilion in Bad Reichenhall. Within this context, the documentation of standardized connection solutions ahead of individual constructions is safer and less complex.

How will BIM (Building Information Modelling) change planning and constructions in general?
With standardization, the use of BIM will increase. Planners, manufacturers of connection elements and executors will all utilize component catalogues more in the future, which creates an increase in efficiency. At the end, even the users know which elements and even connectors have been installed.

The building industry faced economic challenges in 2023. Will material scarcity, high building material prices and increasing interest also be critical for building conjecture in 2024 as well?
2024 will represent a turning point. The latent low number of building permits results in a subdued construction market in building construction. Private investors have utilized the persisting low interest phase and government aid to cover their investment requirements. Even with cash-strapped coffers, public contractors still have a high maintenance requirement that continues to be fired by ambitious climate goals. The current situation should be used by the companies to reconsider their own processes and drive innovation forward to further qualify the existing staff. However, diversification plays a subordinate role for wood construction companies.

What is your prognosis for wood construction?
It is important to reinforce the benefits of wood construction with innovative systems, in the integration of HVAC, but also in the successive trades and in fire protection. The CO2 taxation on energy-intensive building products will ultimately also generate financial advantages for wood as a construction material. The awareness of climate-friendly products is rising in any case.