Construction in transition: the relevance of start-ups

by Philipp Haude | April 18, 2024

At a time when innovation and technological advances are setting the tone, the traditionally conservative construction industry is also undergoing significant change. From digital planning and construction processes to sustainable building technologies, start-ups are fundamentally changing the way we build. Find out in this blog post how start-ups are becoming increasingly important in the construction industry.

The current state of digitalization in the German economy reveals an alarming reality: the construction industry is in last place. Even without an in-depth analysis of statistics, the industry is notorious for its insistence on traditional ways of working. Most processes are still manual, linear and time-consuming, paper-based, for the sole reason that “it’s always been done this way”.

This sluggish attitude towards digitalization not only has an impact on efficiency and productivity, but also impairs environmental sustainability. Compared to other sectors of the economy, the construction industry is lagging far behind when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using environmentally friendly technologies. There is therefore an urgent need for action to catch up and implement innovative solutions that offer both economic and environmental benefits.

For a long period of time, the industry remained virtually unchanged, in a sluggish, stagnant state. In recent years, however, a development has finally begun to emerge that is slowly picking up speed. While established companies are slowly beginning to open up and adapt to the new requirements, it is above all the up-and-coming newcomers who are pointing the way to the future of the construction industry with fresh ideas and innovative approaches. But what specific initiatives and projects are driving these changes and what impact could they have on the future of the construction industry as a whole?

Current challenges in the construction industry

Aktuelle Herausforderungen in der Baubranche​

The exact definition of a start-up is not clearly defined. In general, a start-up can be regarded as a newly founded company with a high potential for growth in an innovative market. The age of the company is not necessarily decisive. Only when a company has successfully established itself is it usually no longer considered a start-up.

Start-ups are playing an increasingly important role in the construction industry, as they bring fresh ideas, innovative technologies and agile working methods to the table. In contrast to established companies, start-ups are often more flexible, more willing to take risks and can react more quickly to new trends. They offer solutions to existing problems and produce disruptive innovations that can increase efficiency and improve sustainability.

An important contribution of start-ups lies in the digitalization of construction processes. Through the use of building information modelling (BIM), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), they are revolutionizing the planning, design and management of construction projects. These technologies enable more precise planning, better collaboration between project participants and more efficient use of resources.

In addition, many start-ups are focusing on sustainable construction technologies and materials. They are developing innovative solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of construction projects, for example through the use of recycled materials, energy-efficient building envelopes and alternative construction processes. These approaches not only contribute to environmental protection, but can also lead to long-term cost savings and a competitive advantage.

Another area in which start-ups are active is the modernization of the construction industry through the introduction of new business models and services. They offer platforms for brokering construction contracts, digital tools for construction project management and innovative financing solutions for construction projects. These new approaches make it easier for construction companies to work more effectively, better meet customer needs and increase profitability.

The role of start-ups in the construction industry

Die Rolle von Start-ups in der Baubranche ​

The construction industry is opening the door for start-ups, which brings with it both huge opportunities and significant challenges. On the one hand, there is enormous market potential for innovative solutions and technologies as the industry strives to operate more efficiently, sustainably and cost-effectively. In this environment, start-ups with their agile structure and innovative spirit can respond quickly to this demand and secure a firm place in the market.

However, many start-ups in the construction industry face financial hurdles and investment difficulties. The need for capital to develop new technologies and implement construction projects is enormous, and many start-ups struggle to raise the necessary funds, especially in the early stages of their existence.

Another obstacle lies in the established structures and players in the industry. In an environment characterized by traditional ways of working, it is difficult for new companies to gain a foothold and win the trust of customers. Small companies and suppliers, for example, are often critical of the digitalization of their processes. Change tends to be seen as a cost factor and the added value is underestimated. In addition, regulatory requirements and bureaucratic hurdles can make market entry even more difficult.

Nevertheless, these challenges also present an opportunity for differentiation and a competitive advantage. Start-ups that manage to overcome these obstacles and offer innovative solutions can establish themselves as pioneers in the industry and achieve long-term success.

All in all, the outlook for start-ups in the construction industry is promising, but it takes a smart strategic approach and solid funding to capitalize on these opportunities and overcome the challenges.

Opportunities and challenges for start-ups

Chancen und Herausforderungen für Start-ups ​in der Baubranche

The construction industry is a multifaceted sector that is being transformed by a multitude of innovations and technological advances. To name all areas would go beyond the scope of this blog post. Therefore, only a few examples are listed below:

Building materials and components:
Innovative approaches in this area focus on the development and use of materials that are environmentally friendly, durable and resource-efficient. New building materials can be made from recycled or renewable raw materials, for example, while still meeting high standards in terms of stability and safety. In addition, new manufacturing processes are being developed that enable faster and more cost-effective production without compromising on quality.

Vehicles and appliances:
Innovations in this area are aimed at making construction vehicles and equipment more efficient, powerful and environmentally friendly. Electrification, automation and intelligent systems are key concepts that help to optimize the operation of construction machinery and reduce CO2 emissions. The management of vehicles and machines is also being digitalized through innovative software solutions.

Purchasing and procurement:
Innovations in purchasing and procurement aim to make the procurement process more efficient, transparent and environmentally friendly. By using digital platforms, automated ordering processes and intelligent analyses, construction companies can reduce costs, avoid supply bottlenecks and improve the quality and sustainability of purchased products.

Communication and contacts:
Innovative approaches to communication and contact management focus on improving collaboration between the various project stakeholders. Digital collaboration platforms, virtual meetings and real-time communication facilitate the exchange of information and help to avoid misunderstandings and increase the efficiency of project execution.

Design and modeling:
In the field of design and modelling, new technologies such as building information modelling (BIM) and virtual reality (VR) enable more precise planning and visualization of construction projects. By creating digital models, planning errors can be identified at an early stage, design changes can be implemented more quickly and collaboration between architects, engineers and clients can be improved.

Examples of innovation areas in the construction industry

Beispiele von Innovationsbereichen in der Baubranche ​

An example of each of these areas of innovation in the construction industry will be examined in more detail in order to clarify and illustrate the specific applications and potential of these innovative approaches. 

Akii: Vehicles and devices

The start-up Akii has set itself the task of digitizing the allocation of access authorizations on construction sites. Their solution includes door locks with long-lasting batteries that can be controlled electronically. These can be opened with the corresponding Akii app and the appropriate authorization. The app can be used to assign and manage digital access from anywhere without having to go to great lengths. Akii can also be used as a smart door opener without an internet connection, either via the app or with a key card. Thanks to this mobile control, Akii offers a secure access solution that is particularly suitable for use on construction sites. 

Aeditive: Building materials and elements
Aeditive is a start-up that enriches the construction industry with its innovative 3D printing solutions for formwork-free concrete part production. Their design and production process enables the production of parts up to 11x4x4 meters in size, including reinforcement and embedded parts. The versatility of its printing process allows it to be used both in precast plants and on construction sites, thanks to a modular container concept. This advanced 3D printing technology from Aeditive should not only offer a significant reduction in production time, but also reduce costs and improve the quality of the concrete parts produced.

Restado: purchasing and procurement
Restado offers a digital marketplace for building materials from deconstruction and surplus building materials from construction sites. Its stated aim is to promote the circulation of building materials through reuse, upcycling and recycling in order to make construction more resource-efficient and sustainable. The building materials offered should be of high quality and significantly cheaper than conventional products. Restado claims that its prices are up to 70%, and in some cases even more, below those of conventional building materials.

Flinkit: Communication and contacts
Flinkit is a communication application developed specifically for the needs of the construction industry. The app is designed to facilitate interaction between construction companies, tradesmen, dealers and suppliers by providing an efficient platform for chatting and exchanging information. By using the Flinkit app, it is possible to communicate with tradesmen and suppliers in real time, making it possible to order materials quickly and easily. This fast and direct communication helps to optimize the workflow and increase efficiency on the construction site.

thinkBIC: Design and modeling

With its planBIC software, thinkBIC (Building Information Cloud) offers a comprehensive digital solution for the construction industry that aims to ensure planning reliability and facilitate collaborative working. This innovative platform integrates various powerful tools that make construction project planning more efficient and effective.

One of planBIC’s main tools is the HOAI check. This tool enables an automated check of the completeness of planning documents in accordance with service phases 1 to 5 of the Fee Structure for Architects and Engineers (HOAI). By analyzing construction project documents such as site plans, elevations, floor plans, sections, cost estimates and building specifications in accordance with HOAI, the HOAI check ensures that all planning-relevant documents are available in the appropriate level of detail.

Another important tool is the quality check, which focuses on checking BIM models. This check is carried out automatically and ensures that the models comply with the current standards and guidelines of the construction industry. Through a detailed analysis, the BIM models are checked for compliance with standards such as DIN 1045, the state building regulations (LBO) and the workplace regulations (ASR). This provides users with valuable feedback on individual components and allows them to ensure that their models meet the required quality standards.

Another integral part of planBIC is the BIM tool, which consists of two main components: the BIM base check and the LOI check. The BIM basic check checks the IFC model for basic modeling specifications and ensures that formal criteria such as the layer structure are adhered to. The LOI check (Level of Information) enables a customizable check of the information content of IFC models and ensures the required level of detail.

Furthermore, planBIC offers a directly implemented IFC viewer that enables users to visualize information and data from their IFC files. With various functions such as zoom, rotation and transformation options, users can obtain a comprehensive overview of their construction project and use the transparent display of the components. The ability to create tasks in BCF format and visualize already created BCF issues directly in the IFC viewer also facilitates collaborative work.

In addition, planBIC offers a building application tool that enables users to finalize their building application digitally. This online application offers a completion aid that complies with the regulations of the respective federal state and delivers the finished document at the touch of a button. In addition, specific information is provided regarding the required attachments to facilitate prompt approval of the building project. Finally, an automated HOAI check analyzes the building application documents in accordance with federal specifications and provides support in obtaining planning permission.

Examples of successful start-ups in the construction industry

Beispiele erfolgreicher Start-ups in der Baubranche​

The transformation of the construction industry through innovation and technological advances, led by start-ups, clearly demonstrates the potential for sustainable, efficient and forward-looking development. The sector, which has been stagnating for a long time, is undergoing a much-needed modernization through fresh ideas and agile approaches. From the digitalization of construction processes to the development of sustainable construction technologies and the modernization of business models – start-ups are playing a decisive role in reshaping the industry.

The examples presented show how diverse innovations in the construction industry are and how they can have a positive impact on various aspects of the construction sector. Whether it is the development of environmentally friendly building materials, the digitalization of communication and procurement processes or the optimization of construction project planning using BIM and VR – start-ups present innovative solutions that offer both economic and ecological benefits.

Despite the promising prospects, however, start-ups face challenges such as obtaining funding and overcoming established structures in the industry. But these obstacles also offer opportunities to differentiate and build a competitive advantage for those who can successfully overcome them.

Overall, it is clear that the construction industry is ready for change and that start-ups are an important driving force behind this change. Thanks to their innovative strength and flexibility, they are helping to lead the construction industry into a new era of efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness. It remains exciting to see how this development will evolve in the coming years and what other innovative solutions will shape the future of the construction industry.

Discover planBIC, a pioneering software-as-a-service solution that enables automated completeness and quality checks of construction project documents as well as collaborative working in the cloud. Revolutionize your construction projects with efficient checks.