Sustainable performance in the construction industry


This interview was published in the Ergon Magazine SMART insights 2020. Order your free copy now ->

With 1,100 employees, the Amstein + Walthert Group is one of Switzerland’s leading companies for building services engineering, offering modern approaches to develop and maintain buildings, facilities and infrastructures. Its thirst for innovation is deeply engrained in the company culture. And discussions about digitalisation, energy and sustainability are part of its everyday business. Construction supervisor, Paul Hitz, explains to us why quality control is beyond essential.

As a construction supervisor, you are crucial to the renovation and extension of the hospital. What are your responsibilities?

I make sure that all work meets the building owner’s demands; and that all deadlines, budgets and quality standards are met. I manage the many contractors on the site, on behalf of the building contractor. I handle defects and help solve problems.

That sounds rather complex. What if an error arises?

Errors happen everywhere. The point is to detect, process and resolve them as quickly as possible. Quality control is key.

Amstein + Walthert AG stands for sustainability. How does this translate in practice?

We aim to work more efficiently, by constantly applying the latest industry developments. To optimise energy consumption, we carefully monitor the lifecycle of property and make sure that all specifications are not just met but executed in a sustainable manner.

Your hunger for progress is quite infectious. Was it boosted by FieldWalk?

FieldWalk was a breakthrough. I tried working with various apps but they were all too inefficient or too pricey, making the processing and management of defects only more complicated. The founder of FieldWalk approached us and asked us to co-create the tool, together with other construction companies. Before we knew it, a prototype had been developed and immediately tested in the field. I remember being impressed by how intuitive the app was and after working with it for ten or 15 minutes, I realised what a time saver it is.

What is the most valuable benefit of the app?

Optimising our resources. The app is very hands-on, allowing us all to work more efficiently, save valuable time and enhance quality standards. It is the most user-friendly tool I know, thanks to its uncluttered design. And it is forward-thinking, too as we see more progress in our industry, moving towards BIM and 3D models. We are approaching a future, where pen and paper are replaced by digital models.

“Take a construction site with 10,000 defects. Without FieldWalk I would need ten to 15 minutes to register and manage every defect; with it, I am two or three times faster.”

Paul Hitz federally certified building services planner specialised in facilities, site manager, Amstein + Walthert AG

Why is user-friendliness so important?

It should be as easy to use as a smartphone, with its data being accessible in real time from a variety of devices. You need a central hub that gathers and constantly updates all the vital information, so it is accessible to all parties. FieldWalk has it all.

One of its latest features is indoor navigation. How does this help you?

The total floor area of this construction site is over 140,000m2, with 10,000 rooms across 20 floors. Now imagine you have a defect in room 425 on the second floor; to find this room quickly you need a clearly designed plan, that shows your current location, too. With indoor navigation you know where you are at any given moment and can update that defect immediately. For a more holistic approach, it also offers a feature to plan your whole inspection walkabout.

Can you expand on this for us?

Take a construction site with 10,000 defects. Without FieldWalk I would need ten to 15 minutes to register and manage every defect; with it, I am two or three times faster. This means less work and less cost. Across all projects, there are hundreds of thousands of defects that Amstein + Walthert has to register and manage. So the ROI for this tool is great and at the same time it raises our quality standards.

Sounds as though you would like to improve the whole industry?

Certainly! I think everyone should be using it. If a tool is easily adaptable, and defects are constantly updated and accessible, that is extremely valuable to all stakeholders. So it is obvious they would want to benefit from it – wouldn’t you?

“This is great. It is easy to use and I see great benefit,” was the feedback from one of our contractors, with whom we collaborated via the tool. Once a defect was resolved, it was automatically updated on the app. It gives contractors more autonomy and saves them valuable time.

Project “come together” at the cantonal hospital St. Gallen

The construction works to extend both the cantonal hospital St. Gallen, and the children’s hospital of eastern Switzerland started in 2016. “Come together” will include patients of all generations and is due to finish in 2017. Its biggest challenge is to continue the works amidst the ongoing business of a hospital. Thanks to its modern-day construction process and the use of cutting-edge technology, the construction work is more effective, more cost-efficient and of higher quality than ever before.

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