Mr. Dokoupil, you started as a working student at Xella in 2019 and 4 years later you are department head for BIM units that drive three-dimensional building design in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. How did you manage that?
The fact that I am here today is a combination of hard work and a lot of luck - because when I joined Xella, the BIM department for the Czech Republic and Slovakia was established and support was sought. So I started there and I just gave 3D modeling a try - and was on fire shortly after I opened the modeling program! That's when I first realized that I wanted to do more of this.
What kind of building was this?
It was tiny! A pretty small, flat building - but it took off with that first model: it was cool to see the whole building in 3D. I really enjoyed the modeling process, setting the walls and everything. I learned quickly and I went deeper and deeper, you could even say I got hooked. That was towards the end of my working student years. I did a few more models and when my colleagues saw that I could do it and work hard for it, I was offered a permanent place - full time. That's why I already spent a lot of time working here during my studies. I enjoy creating 3D models of the planned buildings and watching the building rise in 3D. When I had my master's degree in materials engineering in my pocket in January 2022 this year, I was promoted from BIM specialist to BIM coordinator.
The department head position came along because my former boss changed jobs. I have only been a BIM team leader for half a year for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, so I'm pretty new. Just last month, I met all the BIM leaders at Xella for the first time.
That sounds impressive. Why did you apply to Xella as a working student in particular?
I studied materials engineering and a big focus was on the use of new building materials. We studied them scientifically - I liked the practical work in the labs, experimenting with building materials. I really liked the characteristics of building materials made of autoclaved aerated concrete. That's why I applied as a working student. When I got to know BIM, I decided to stay in this industry.
Why did autoclaved aerated concrete in particular arouse your interest so much during your studies?
I was fascinated by the material properties of YTONG and Silka in my studies - they are clearly the best building materials for me. Because they are so variable, because you can cut and shape them as you like, I have always preferred them in university projects. As a materials engineer by training, I also like the physical aspects, of course: The ability to store heat, the great acoustics that prevent us from hearing neighbors next door. Above all, the low-energy processing of autoclaved aerated concrete is something I saw as a big plus for its sustainability even in my studies - you don't need very high temperatures, large kilns or a lot of gas to manufacture it.
What does BIM mean to you?
For me, it's a new way of thinking - a whole new way of thinking about construction, about how to do projects, about how to draw. It's not just about moving from 2D to 3D, it's about collaboration. With BIM, you can no longer say, 'I've done my part, I've sent it to the others and I'm out.' Everyone is working together on the BIM model, and the complexity means everyone has to rethink their perspective on it. It's the next step of construction into the future, especially from a sustainable point of view, because you can also use the BIM models to monitor for ecological aspects. And for me, you could say it's the future of my career.
You are still very young. How does that enrich your work?
Yes. I'm 26, and I think my age gives me exactly the flexibility you need when working with BIM - especially in terms of mindset. We've only been using the method for a few years and a leap like that doesn't establish itself overnight. There's still a lot of new things happening and everything is changing so quickly that we're in a constant process of discovery, so to speak. Being able to adapt to these changes is extremely important and tends to be easier for younger people. On the other hand, older colleagues with more experience often take a leap of faith that we younger people still must earn. So every age has its advantages!