New European Bauhaus: Dominik Philipp about seamless digitisation in timber construction

The New European Bauhaus connects the European Green Deal to our living spaces. It calls on all Europeans to imagine and build together a sustainable and inclusive future that is beautiful for our eyes, minds, and souls. The New European Bauhaus is a creative and interdisciplinary movement in the making, that we are also happy to participate with our ideas and visions. and you can be part of it!

Within the framework “New European Bauhaus goes digital”, I spoke about our visions and goals on the topic of BIM and timber construction: As pioneers of social, sustainable and digital construction, our aspiration at Dietrich | Untertrifaller is to design flexible, multifunctional buildings delivering the highest architectural quality. We demand to use materials that bind CO2 instead of releasing it. We design buildings that are adaptable and that are assembled from individual components; Individual components that can be dismantled and joined together to form new, modified objects. Buildings that are recyclable.

Here you can listen to the lecture: BIM and timber construction- Simple but Sophisticated Digital Design / Dominik Philipp

Photo: © Aldo Amoretti

If we want to develop buildings of this kind, of this quality and according to this idea, we need to abandon the way construct buildings in our cities today. We need to turn away from composite building materials, where facade and shell are tightly linked. This causes a huge amount of waste once they have to be adapted and refurbished.

We need to change the way we build: reading information and constructing from a 2D paper plan. This is still common practice. Even if projects are already planned in BIM models with highly complex parameters and dependencies. Even if they can already be experienced with VR glasses. Even if projects that have not yet been built can already be integrated on site with augmented reality.
Still: Today the highly complex information mostly remains in the computer.

The 3D information is printed onto a 2D plan to then again create a real 3D object from this 2D information on the construction site.
This means that still, the digital value chain from planning to finished object is broken!

The only thing that has changed is how a line is put onto paper. While before we used ink pen and ruler, we now operate with highly complex 3D BIM models. In the end, the information comes to the construction site via a 2D plan. The accuracy on construction sites is the one of 30 years ago, with centimeter tolerances.

We bring the precision to the construction site

But. If we want to build using individual components, if we want to build making use of spare parts, if we want to deliver buildings that recyclable, we have to be more precise! The final, realized building must a 100% correspond to the planned building in the model: in information and in precision.

This means for us to resolve and remove two variables: the inaccuracy of building with brick, concrete and mortar and the error sources within the information transfer when using 2D paper plans.

That is WHY in our projects, we do not use composite building materials such as brick or concrete. That is WHY we are giving up the paper plan. That is also WHY we use the high degree of prefabrication which is possible in timber construction. And this is WHY we control the CNC milling machine directly from the BIM model. So in the end, this is HOW we mange to bring the desired precision to our construction sites.

Photo: © Markus Buck
Photo: © Dietrich | Untertrifaller

Seamless process from a single source

Our goal is the complete digitization in timber construction from planning to assembly, bringing digitization directly to the construction site and enabling a seamless process from a single source.
For the first time. Our vision of end-to-end planning is digital design, simple but sophisticated.

But. What does simple mean? We work together as ONE team in only ONE model. We maintain all information in this very model, ONE database. We are talking about “single source of truth” here.
From the architecture and the supporting structure to the building services to all production-relevant data which is needed to control the machines and procurement processes. All work “real time” in ONE model. We do not exchange, update and supersede information and plans via a file backup. But we develop the project together with all our design team members, specialists and consultants on this one digital construction site.

Photo: © Dietrich | Untertrifaller

And when we are done with the planning, we do NOT hand over the planning to an executing company so they can set up a new plan to control the machine. WE – from our BIM model directly – control the machine in the respective company. We use it to produce with millimeter precision, without errors, built with the same precision we had when planning. This is how we close the gap from a modern, digital planning model to a high-tech implementation on construction site.

So our buildings can be dismantled and adapted. This is also how we establish the condition for buildings to communicate with their digital twins using the correct sensors. And at the very same time the synchron information during operation. We can analyze individual parts at any time regarding their level of wear. We can reproduce spare parts from the BIM model due to this built-in accuracy.

Even if we have to change the executing company. The machine control happens from our BIM model. We can control the machines of most of the executing companies independently, in 5 years, in 10 or even 20 years.

Graphic: © Dietrich | Untertrifaller

Digitized with precision and built with precision

Graphic: © Dietrich | Untertrifaller

As a consequence – if all buildings in a city or in a certain region are digitized with precision and built with precision, extended procurement and cooperation models are possible.
Information about the need and requirements can be shared at an early stage, at any stage.

From the moment we tag a part in the BIM model for processing, the market can theoretically be informed. The market knows about the need for adaptation and implementation. Companies can offer larger packages, even for a whole city quarter for example. When we create a network between the digital building models, we can create a database of all material resources in a city. Leftover components can be moved from one building to another, exchanged, upcycled or renovated.

Like this, we avoid waste and embodied energy. Like this we design flexible, multifunctional buildings with highest architectural quality and we unlock the sustainability potential of these circular processes.


Dominik Philipp