Andreas, you are responsible for Digital Building Solution and Transformation (BIM) at Xella. What is it that interests you so much about this topic?
It really began in Australia in 2008. At that time, I was working for a general planner who employed 1200 people worldwide and was looking for a lot of architects. But then the global economic and financial crisis also hit Australia. From one day to the next, many projects were cancelled, and many colleagues were laid off.
At the beginning of 2009, we participated in two public competitions. We won the tenders for the planning and construction of two hospitals and had to implement a closed BIM project based on the BIM software Revit overnight. At first it was a disaster because we had already modelled in 3D, but we weren't really working with the data behind it. It was like jumping in at the deep end. But by then I had already started to like it.
What did you study?
I studied architecture at a small university in Wuppertal. In 1996, our professors placed a lot of emphasis on teaching us to model three-dimensionally. Here it was first about creating a 3D model, but that was the basis. After that, I worked in an architecture firm for five years - and I was the only one who modeled in 3D.
Wuppertal, Australia – why did you come back to Germany afterwards?
Life in Australia is very enjoyable, but you are very far away from family and friends.
After my return, I started working in a planning office in Cologne in 2011. At that time, we planned multi-family and commercial buildings in three dimensions. But again, that had less to do with BIM and became too boring for me after two and a half years. So I switched to a large general planner in Düsseldorf (from Manchester). That was perfect! There I could use the BIM tool again, which I knew from Australia. We planned shopping malls, which were really large projects. In the four and a half years, I gained valuable experience that prepared me for my current job.
And then Xella asked you.
Yes, the Dutch and Belgian colleagues were the BIM pioneers at Xella at that time. We were no longer discussing whether we should plan and build digitally, but how we could improve it. Our goal was: We want to offer real customized solutions for the construction site!
It was my job to bring BIM to other countries as well. Together with our local colleagues, we made a start in Denmark and considered how we as Xella could serve the market, which was already ticking quite digitally. It didn't take long before our colleagues were able to create offers from digitally planned models. And they did so much faster. So, we took advantage of the so-called early mover factor and were able to establish BIM quickly.
What was it like in Germany?
One thing I had learned over the years was that you always need a good reference project. In Germany at the time, that was the Marissa Holiday Park in Lower Saxony, which we realized together with project developer and builder Alfred Köpke. A total of 500 residential units were built there - five standard houses, which were built 250 times, and one multi-family house, which was built 17 times. We were able to show that digital planning delivers real added value: We saved six months of shell construction time in combination with our BIM planning and our large formats. These are the arguments that everyone understands.
That was the breakthrough?
Yes, after that there were endless visits from customers on site who wanted to see for themselves, and I gave many seminars. Things got better and better: In the first year, we completed a total of 60 projects – a turnover of seven million euros.
And: The more projects came in, the better we became. We saved time because less coordination was needed, streamlined processes, and drastically reduced redundant work. In the meantime, we are focusing on medium-sized and large projects, i.e. multi-family houses, type houses, entire terraced housing estates.
At the same time, we have built up our teams, invested in further training so that they are proficient in the software they work with. BIM is becoming a matter of course.
BIM is now established at many Xella sites. From your perspective, what is the reason for the success?
We quickly understood that BIM is not just software, but a process. No matter in which countries - we always look at: What else can we achieve with this process, what additional services can we generate for our customers? This is how Xella Construction Services came into being, for example, which are now established in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland.
What do you appreciate about Xella as an employer?
If you work as an architect in a planning office, then the possibilities are rather limited in my opinion. You handle one project after another and have little time to concentrate on new things or to let your eyes wander and develop new concepts.
At Xella, it's different: We don't just do this project work here, but also have a permanent eye on how we can develop further in the interests of our customers. How we can make work for them even easier, more efficient, and more sustainable. That's why we're looking at new technologies, such as augmented reality, to see how we can add value for our customers.
Did you build your house by yourself?
Sure. I actually made a BIM project out of it and modeled everything myself.
I also used the model for analyses such as calculations, sun course simulation and visualizations.