Matthias Kohlbecker of Kohlbecker Gesamtplan, says the company would not be around today if they had not been able to evacuate their employees quickly preceding the pandemic. “Having used Microsoft Teams for a year prior, we had dependable work tools even when employees were at home. From one day to the next, they worked with no decrease in output or productivity, and we were able to handle our projects without many constraints.”
How does a family-run industrial architectural firm that has been in operation for 90 years adapt to this unprecedented change? This pandemic seemingly motivated Kohlbecker to create an entirely new method of working, which now serves as the basis for the company’s next stage of development, but only because the brothers were willing to rethink their strategy and embrace the digitalisation of architecture.
Kohlbecker is ahead of the curve with its innovative AVAT AR platform. A digital twin which facilitates remote coordination of a project’s planning, construction, and facilities management by all parties involved (including the client and operations managers). The brothers perfected the system while constructing a new automobile factory for their customer Audi; the project, set to take place in Northern China, kicked up during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, making it difficult for planners and contractors to go to the site.
With this technology, Kohlbecker can create a digital twin of a project for use in the design process. It’s a computer model of the project that not only renders a visual representation of the plan and technical specs, but also provides an iterative feedback loop. Everything from the impact of a change in window material on energy usage to whether or not a meeting space has adequate oxygen flow for the amount of people that might convene. Everything can be visualised for the architect and client alike.
“What we’re doing is a simulation,” Florian Kohlbecker says.
The Audi China facility was a notable project for Kohlbecker; a 600,000-square-metre automobile factory in China completed without ever seeing the client. “This is truly state of the art technology” Matthias stipulated. “Nonetheless, as the pandemic has progressed, we have come to realise that the physical office itself cannot survive. With our educational program, we are able to teach people from all over the world and put them to work as independent contractors through our AVAT AR system, regardless of where they live, be it Vietnam, Libya, South Africa, or Jordan.”
Although the tool was originally honed to combat the constraints placed by Covid-19, the implications are far greater. From its sustainability efforts of carbon neutrality to working with employees and clients from all over the world. “We are far more adaptable than other companies, seeking knowledge from all over the world where employees can be located anywhere, not constrained by proximity.” explains Matthias “We may have a Kohlbecker conference where we all meet physically once or twice a year” but seemingly, for the sake of camaraderie alone. Matthias Kohlbecker explains that this is truly the reason for AVAT AR, “so that in 10 years, we have positioned ourselves all around the world with global employees.”