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Urbanisation: (R) evolution in construction

16.11.2016 | News
Increasing urbanisation is a present-day mega-trend that has had an impact on us for some time. Extortionately high rents for inner-city accommodation or traffic congestion even before and after the rush hour; the effects of migration and rural depopulation are perceptible everywhere. The population drift toward the cities appears to be unceasing and it is set to continue. Right now, about five out of every ten people are city-dwellers, and UN forecasts put that figure at seven out of ten by 2050. Clearly, the demand for accommodation is going to increase even further. In virtually all the world's mega-cities this is already happening, a development that poses major challenges for urban planners and scientists, and indeed for the entire construction industry too. To date, the answers to the problem of affordable accommodation in cities have been sketchy at best. We are still a long way short of finding societally acceptable, comprehensive solutions; a fact that isn’t surprising given the multifaceted challenges that lie ahead.


  • Jens Günther
According to PWC, the Middle East represents one of the fastest growing urban populations in the world, having consistently outpaced countries such as China, and even continental Africa. Currently 85% of the GCC’s population live in cities, a figure which is expected to rise to 90% by 2050. As such the greater challenges faced by the region include maintaining a sufficient level of public infrastructure such as schools, healthcare, transport, pollution control and emergency services. According to the same report, “there are over $4 trillion worth of projects planned or under construction in the Middle East and North Africa.”

In Europe and North America we are looking at radically new concepts for modern lifestyles in the urban environment, but in large parts of Africa, Asia and South America the objective is to gain control over the vast slums springing up round major cities. Currently the situation is further exacerbated by the flight of entire ethnic groups escaping war, persecution and hunger. The preconditions could scarcely be more different, but the fundamental problem here and there remains the same: the need to provide socially acceptable accommodation in the conurbations, both quickly and cost-effectively.

With such challenges, it will take courageous people and visionary companies, working together and driving forward new, creative ideas and concepts to make cities all over the world sustainably better places to live. Showcase projects with innovative architectural and urban-planning concepts, which integrate the use of innovative technologies have already been realised. Revolutionary developments such as 3D printing and robots in construction are still in their infancy, however their ongoing proliferation has clearly indicated their integral role in the future. BIM (Building Information Modelling) on the other hand is already part of day-to-day construction. More and more entrepreneurs, first and foremost institutional project owners and product developers, are coming to rely on this method that uses computer software to optimise the entire process from planning and bid management through project implementation to ongoing maintenance, making everything more transparent and traceable. Studies indicate that as much as 57 % of the work in construction generates no added value, due to mistakes and shortcomings, waiting times and search times, lack of harmonisation across construction processes and poor communication. Construction is lagging well behind other sectors in this respect; the corresponding figure for stationary industry is about 12 %, so there is enormous potential here providing we go the right way and get engaged in new technologies and processes.

In the construction industry we are on the brink of a digital revolution. Laptops and tablets are already common on jobsites. Lists of materials, drawings, delivery deadlines and details of progress on the build are all, only a click away. These days, site managers and foremen get important data like the degree of concrete hardening flashed to their smartphones as text messages in real time. None of this is a vision of the future; this is day-to-day construction on many of our projects. While we have made rapid gains in digitisation and also in terms of productivity and efficiency, there is still plenty of room for improvement and as an organisation we are eager to take up the challenge and see it for what it is: a huge opportunity for the entire construction industry.

About Jens Günther:
The start of next year will see the 46-year-old taking over as Chairman of the Executive Board. He is from Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, and along with the remits of Sales, Marketing and HR, Jens Günther will be pushing major initiatives shaping the future – digitisation first and foremost –designed to keep the formwork specialists from Amstetten in Lower Austria among the industry's world elite. Before his move to Doka, graduate construction engineer and industry insider Jens Günther had worked for companies including Hochtief and ThyssenKrupp, where his last position was CEO, ThyssenKrupp Infrastructure.

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