Actually, the geometrically complex "non-standard" projects are the low hanging fruit in this respect. There, the complexity is clearly visible at first sight and it quickly becomes obvious that manual on-site production is maybe not a good idea. Producing 18 000 running meters of timber beams, curved in space, to form the roof of the Centre Pompidou Metz for example, would have been impossible without digital pre-fabrication. Therefore, the fabricator needed a precise digital fabrication model, and at 1,800 bespoke components it was also rather obvious that nobody wanted to model them by hand. So, a parametric model was created, that generated all the intricate details automatically. Still, we only came into the project after the timber contractor had been handed an imprecise 3D-model of the beam axes, which left us re-doing the basic design surface as a first step – five years after Shigeru Ban had won the competition.
Now, of course all building projects are complex, not just the 0.1% curvy "Formula One" projects. As soon as foundations and structure, building envelope, MEP, interior fittings etc. need to be coordinated on a reasonably big project, there always are more interdependencies than an average brain can't handle alone. But while it's "all or nothing" in the non-standard projects, in standard projects you are often still confronted with someone cutting off the BIM-discussion by saying: it's always been like that, so why change? Currently we hear a lot about digital transformation of the AEC Industry. How do you apply the concept of digitalisation to your company?
There is no black magic involved, but we are breaking a few rules. For the free-form projects for example, we use one of the cheapest 3D modelling programs available on the market (Rhino from McNeel),
and we exploit it by extending its abilities with our own tools and plugins we program, often project-specific. Over the years we have developed an efficient workflow and a handful of "design patterns" and we learned how to handle large scale parametric digital 3D models with tools that were never built for that. This pragmatic, hands-on "hacking" approach of cleverly re-combining existing tools adds much to our internal productivity. But the main trick is to care about the digital interfaces to the world outside of our company. We are plugging into the other project partners' workflows and provide digital information in a way they can use without additional effort – be it 3D-models, raw tables of data or even ISO-G-Code for their CNC-machine if necessary.