Key Topics

"Triggering the Right Strategic Issues Already in the Present" - Interview with Prof. Dr. Pillkahn About the Future of Construction

BEFIVE 8 10 2020 0224 2
29 October 2020
Built Environment

Our cooperation platform for the construction, real estate and infrastructure industry BEFIVE has analyzed the most important future trends together with its partner companies and experts from science, and developed a vision for 2030 - the "BEFIVE Vision for Buildings - Building and Utilizing Buildings in 2030"! We spoke with Prof. Dr. Ulf Pillkahn, who as a foresight expert methodically accompanied the development of the vision, about the newly gained insights and opportunities for companies.

On October 8, the participants met again to jointly reflect on the core statements of the vision picture and to derive first concrete activities and projects - the perfect opportunity for us to experience the results first hand from Prof. Pillkahn.

Prof. Dr. Pillkahn, you played a major role in the development of the vision "Building and using buildings in 2030". What is the goal of the project?

The project aims to sketch a picture for the future design of the entire construction, real estate and infrastructure value chain - starting with the planning, construction, use and refurbishment or deconstruction of buildings. The aim was to gain an understanding of possible future roles and participants, processes, technologies and important influences. Since not so much has changed technologically in the last 100 years, this industrial sector will see even more changes in the near future. A common vision of different companies from the industry provides a good orientation, which makes it possible to initiate the strategically correct topics already in the present.

Should such a vision be turned into concrete measures?

Exactly. We have visualized a picture of the future that shows essential developments and interrelationships. On this basis, it is now possible to define topics and tasks that are to be worked on in the form of joint projects which contribute to the big picture. At the same time, the vision serves as a point of orientation for each participating company to check their individual future planning and corporate strategy, which can also lead to concrete corrective measures.

On what basis did you develop the vision?

I was previously at Siemens and helped develop a "Picture of the Future" methodology, which was also the basis for this project. This gave us a systematic approach to the question of how our environment is changing. How are main areas of our lives changing? Can this be specified or described? Some areas change slowly, some by leaps and bounds. In this way, we can discover what a picture of the future might look like. This is a methodology that has already proven itself in other industries. In other words, you develop a picture of how the environment is changing and use it to derive how the construction and use of buildings is changing with it. The first step is therefore to look at the macro-environment which we cannot directly affect, such as politics and its decisions or social trends. Then we move on to the micro-environment, in which everything revolves specifically around buildings or infrastructure.

BEFIVE Visionsbild 2 0 Highlights Wertschoepfungskreislauf © UnternehmerTUM Projekt GmbH, Illustratorin Natascha Römer

Vision Built Environment value chain

What do you think is the exciting thing about this kind of futurology?

The exciting thing for me is always how the methodology is ultimately handled: Every project is different and so is what the companies make of it. Some do nothing and are then confronted with the corresponding omissions. Everyone has a different vision of the future - and bringing these directions together in one vision was particularly exciting about this project.

Although there is a potential for action, it is often not used?

Correct. A very good example is the Corona pandemic. It is very clear that the lockdown has created room for many new ideas, but the potential is often missed. In a time of uncertainty, serious decisions have to be made - with the information that is currently available. This is the difficult part, also for the economy.

What additional value does a vision project have for companies in the built environment industry?

Every company should be given a projection framework by this vision, a guiding star, so to speak, with which it can make decisions. Not from the gut, but on a solid methodical basis. So it is a huge strategic support.

What is the advantage of dealing with the future on a cross-company basis?

Thanks to the very wide-ranging, interdisciplinary input from the participating companies, the picture of the future is much richer and covers many more aspects than with just one project partner. This also brings with it greater challenges, as moderation is required between the individual companies, but the BEFIVE team has mastered this very competently.

Which major trends will decisively shape the Built Environment value chain in 2030?

I think the vision unanimously agreed that automation, industrialization, digitization and networking will shape the construction industry the most. BIM will also continue to gain ground. What I personally also read out is that sustainability, recycling and material cycles will become increasingly important, because continuing to build in a CO2-heavy and resource-wasting way as before is no longer an option. In addition to high social pressure, there may well be corresponding regulations, but hopefully the industry itself will also become more sensitive to the issue. We need major breakthroughs here, such as those achieved in other industries, e.g. by Amazon with Alexa or Tesla - this is still missing in the construction sector. Basically, there are still many areas in which digitization will bring real quantum leaps.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Prof. Pillkahn received his doctorate at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich on the topic: "Innovation between planning and chance. Building blocks of a theory of conscious irritation". His work was awarded the title 'magna cum laude'.

He was a guest researcher and is a lecturer at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen. Since 2014, Pillkahn has been a lecturer at the FOM at the Munich University Center and was appointed professor there in 2016. At Technical University of Munich he is lecturer for the lecture "Theory and Practice of Futures Studies". His research areas include foresight, innovation management and technology strategies with a focus on 'How to generate and drive radical innovations in larger organizations'. He is the author of several books (e.g. "Trends and Scenarios as Tools for Strategy Development" (2007), "The Wisdom of the Roulette Ball" (2013)) and a sought-after speaker and lecturer who knows how to share his findings from research and practice in an inspiring way.

As head of the trend monitoring program at Siemens AG, he was responsible for the technology and innovation strategy topics and issues at Siemens for 13 years.

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