“Innovation is the revolution that is still pending for construction”. This is one of the main conclusions of the BBConstrumat 2017 Report ‘Growing to return to normality. Innovating to preserve it’, written by the Instituto de Tecnología de la Construcción de Cataluña (ITeC) for the twentieth edition of Construmat, the International Fair of the Construction Industry run by Fira de Barcelona, which takes place between 23 and 26 May in pavilion 2 of the Gran Via site under the name of Barcelona Building Construmat.

Construction is actually one of business sectors least affected by digitalization. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), in 2015, only 1.1% of expenditure on innovation was made by Spanish companies in the construction business, a sector which accounts for 10.4% of GDP. Only 5.8% of companies in the construction sector are considered innovative, compared to 23.3% in industry and 7.1% in the primary sector.

Ione Ruete

Ione Ruete, director of the BBConstrumat

In this sense, the director of the fair, the architect from Navarre Ione Ruete, considers that “innovation in the building sector has to usher in the creation of a new concept, that of Construction 4.0, in which digitalization is the means for achieving more sustainable, efficient and productive construction.

In her opinion, “new tools such as Big Data, Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things, Robots and 3D printing, along with new systems like Integrated Project Management, LEAN methods and Building Information Modelling (BIM), will transform the sector”.

This is the reason why Barcelona Building Construmat has taken innovation as its principal leit motiv, with an exhibition space of over 2,000 square metres called Future Arena where different types of innovation will be on display, from the more technical approaches that originate in universities and technology centres to the more tangible advances presented by the companies taking part in the fair.

This drive towards innovation is also “the best safeguard” against a repetition of the crisis that has afflicted the sector since 2008, according to the authors of the BBConstrumat Report, Josep Ramon Fontana and Ferran Bermejo, who have made a painstaking analysis of the impact of the latest crisis on different sectors and different autonomous communities.

The study points out that the sector is showing signs of recovery. However, the division of the sector into segments such as residences, offices, renovation work and civil engineering reveals that it is not a full recovery.

Despite the increases registered, especially in home building, the lack of investment by the Public Administration in public works and infrastructures is having an enormous influence on the sector.

If we examine the impact on autonomous communities, we see that those which were less affected by the crisis, namely the Balearic Islands, Community of Madrid and Basque Country, are where the recovery is more intense, while the Community of Valencia, Murcia and Castile-La Mancha are at the opposite end of the scale. For their part, Catalonia, Navarre, Galicia, Aragon, Castile and Leon, Asturias and the Canary Islands are somewhere in between.

BBConstrumat is growing

The expansion of Barcelona Building Construmat means that it occupies 25% more space and has 27% more exhibitors than the previous edition held in 2015. With 13,800 square metres and nearly 800 brands taking part, the flagship event of the sector is itself an indication of the recovery taking place in the Spanish building industry.