Hubert Rhomberg of Rhomberg Holding GmBH in Austria was the keynote speaker at the Wood Design and Construction Solutions Conference held on Feb 28. In Vancouver. His topic, "Construction in the 21st Century," examined the big changes heading towards the industry.
Rhomberg quoted a WWF report which said that if humanity keeps its current lifestyle, by 2030 two planets will be required. Construction, he said, is one of the biggest users of natural resources, and by using wood the ecological impact of construction can be lessened.
"Every building is a prototype. No two are alike," he said. But for over a millennium, we have been building in the same way, he added, and this is no longer a sustainable practice.
The problem is relying on project management styles to bring a unique result, and a pursuit of the lowest prices and transfer of risk. There is no knowledge transfer, because "no-one shares what they know," he said.
There is also a new supply chain for every project, and the business model is no longer aligned with success.
"Innovation and emerging technologies are not driving the industry," Rohmberg said.
But soon, every process, work and model will be digital, and this will fundamentally change the industry, he said.
It is time, he said, to "act or get 'Uberized'."
But he pointed to Uber and AirBnB as companies that use resources that are already present, which is a sustainable solution.
In effect, he added, digitalization destroys the model of scarcity that construction and other industries have traditionally relied on.
Consistency of components and reliable fit are important, Rohmberg said, It isn't the life span of the whole building, he said, but rather the life span of all its components.
"Digital Darwinism" will also pare down the construction industry, through components that can communicate with each other, virtual reality simulations to test buildings before they exist and other innovations.
Over the next five to ten years, Rohmberg said, analutics and data, horizontal and vertical system integration, use of cloud based data and augmented reality will all radically change the industry.
Integrated product design is key to changing construction, as is reduction of prototypes, complexity, embodied energy and interfaces. Modularization, standardization and connectivity reduce project "friction."
To accomplish this reduction and efficiency, revamping the supply chain is key, Rohmberg said. RFID tag on each component allow for tracking and efficient assembly of modular parts.
Parts can now communicate with each other as well, without a need for human interaction.
The end result of all this change, Rohmberg said, is a shift from an industrialized world to a connected one. The industrial world was complicated but relatively stable and predictable, and the the new connected world is much less predictable.