The construction industry is undergoing significant changes these days. You could blame it on COVID-19, but it is the slow pace of innovation and technological progress that often causes headaches for design and construction. Little innovative technology is coming to the fore, which is mainly due to overly traditional and not necessarily open-minded certification processes. On the other hand, it is also possible to see that the professionally outstanding, genuinely unique solutions have always made their way.
What is new in the construction industry
Like all industries that necessitate physical work, the construction industry has changed significantly in the past year and a half. COVID has not only brought unknown challenges to the surface, but has amplified problems that have been present in the market for years. On the large contractor side, a fierce battle for cost efficiency has begun. Investors are becoming less and less forgiving of additional costs. This has clearly brought to the fore new technologies that reliably increase quality while reducing one of the most unpredictable but essential cost factors: the cost of human resources. However, developing unique solutions in a key sector like heavy industry is not easy and certainly not cheap, and developing new technology is only one step in the whole process of bringing it to market. The real challenge comes afterwards, as construction is one of the sectors where professional certification is a dominant factor. This is perfectly understandable, as we are talking about homes and facilities where safety and predictability are essential. In other words, companies and research centres with accreditation and certification rights have a serious responsibility towards the market. They are therefore characterised by a high degree of caution and a refusal to accept the slightest risk. This can only be ensured if they base their validation procedures on experience, testing, re-testing, and verification of tests. Anyone who has ever encountered technological developments will know that these extra safeguards are a serious impediment to innovation, since the very essence of a specific technology is that it is as of yet unknown, and therefore it is impossible to have experience with it. Hence, comparative measurements are usually the only option, and many developments that could be used in practice fail because the results cannot be evaluated. Of course, the larger certification centres invest a lot of effort to keep up with technological development, but the process is still relatively slow.
By 2021, there will be some nanotechnology solutions on the market that have passed all the certification hurdles, making them the first of their kind worldwide to be certified by a leading certification centre. After a lengthy testing process, the insulating material technology, which is now internationally recognised under the Tarrasch07 brand name (original working name “GWR Nano”), received official TÜV-SÜD certification this year, which showed that it could achieve energy savings of up to 43% compared to uninsulated surfaces and 9.5% compared to the most traditionally used solutions on the market. On the cost side, these figures represent a significant improvement on the solutions currently available, but we cannot ignore the enormous environmental impact. Although, in my opinion, these two facts seem simple when written down, they are an excellent illustration of the process that a company wishing to create new technology in the construction industry has to undertake. The test process for certification did not exist before and had to be built up both conceptually and professionally by the company owning the technology. In addition, the first validation is not for the technology itself, but for the adoption of the testing methodology, which had to be done in agreement with and with the approval of the validation centre. Windt Technologies, as the owner of Tarrasch07, carried out the process both professionally and financially. According to them, it took almost two years, a lot of negotiation, and a very significant investment to bring such a technology to the market. In addition, since without certification, the sales process is not actually viable; it has to be financed entirely by the owner. This is one of the reasons why the startup mentality and openness to new technologies familiar to other construction industry sectors is not very popular with local businesses. And anyone familiar with startup ideology knows precisely what it means when smaller firms lack innovation. But that is why it is good to be a pioneer in this field. Tarrasch07 can lead the way for real innovation in the construction industry. It can also draw attention to the need to innovate traditional, often old-fashioned certification procedures, and stress that investors and contractors looking for real cost efficiency and new technologies should rely more on alternative tests or their own experience. There are already good examples of this and regions at the global level where new technologies are tested by prospective customers themselves at their own expense, respecting and understanding that the technology owner has his own tests and, therefore, his own costs. And, of course, you don’t have to accept them, but it is worth a vote of confidence to conduct the test.
There is a growing demand for new technologies in the construction industry that will require closer collaboration between innovative companies, test centres, and prospective customers. The story of Windt Technologies and Tarrasch07 is a perfect example.