Investing in people and technology is key to keeping up with construction industry trends

Aregger AG takes us through their ten-year journey with Leica iCON construction solutions.

Construction worker with an excavator on the background and measuring with a construction GNSS antenna. Construction worker with a total station and a tower crane on the background.

Aregger AG is a family-owned construction company located in Lucerne, Switzerland. With over 200 employees, the company is active in the heavy and building construction, demolition and real estate industries. Founded in 1925, the company’s nearly 100 years of experience have taught them that investing in people and technology is the key to success and staying competitive in the market.

This realisation was one of the driving factors in the company’s decision to invest in Leica iCON products, especially as the complexity and requirements of new projects become more demanding. The Kubik project outside Lucerne is a great example. This apartment complex, consisting of 42 apartments, is slated to be built with the latest technology to ensure smart and efficient energy consumption.

The company’s first experience with digital layout was about ten years ago when site manager Joel Gwerder began trying out a total station in his living room. The advantages were clear, and Joel didn’t need much convincing that this was the path to more efficient and productive construction workflows.

Today – as the Leica iCON portfolio celebrates its tenth anniversary – Joel shares Aregger’s most significant gains since introducing the iCON solutions to their projects, including the efficiency gains the solutions have brought over time.

Shorter construction times

The digital iCON solutions have enabled Aregger to achieve shorter construction times, not only by working faster and more efficiently but by eliminating mistakes that cause delays. Joel refers to a different project – Tri Adore complex in Rothenburg, Switzerland – to bring some perspective, ‘Fifteen buildings mean fifteen batter boards that are eliminated.’

With the Leica iCON solutions, foremen can work directly with the 3D digital designs, reducing their dependency on surveyors, who often have very busy schedules travelling between construction sites. This eliminates bottlenecks, resulting in significant time saving for both sides while contributing to a more ‘relaxed’ workday for surveyors by reducing the demands on their time.

Aregger relies on the Leica iCON technology to overcome the challenges of the ‘old-school’ methods traditionally used in excavation-related tasks. Lars Schmid, construction manager trainee for heavy construction, offers another great example, ‘Above the village of Ennetbürgen, at a location with a fantastic panoramic view, we’re currently excavating an area that consists mostly of rocks. To work optimally and efficiently, we rely on the Leica iCON GPS. We use the GPS to mark the top of the slope and to check the excavation and slopes. This allows us to work quickly and accurately. In the past, everything had to be measured using axes, which was a big challenge in the steep terrain.’

Andreas Persson

Going back to the Kubik project, the iCON solutions have already yielded many benefits. Once the concrete floor slab has been poured, the next step is to lay out the position of the walls. In the past, this started with marking the exterior walls from the batter boards. Since the batter boards were installed at the beginning of construction, it was very likely that over the course of the project they would be knocked down or damaged by vehicles or people moving around. This means that the dimensions and angles had to be frequently checked using measuring tapes and string, and then adjusted by the foreman. These inaccuracies are now eliminated as the total stations provide tremendous accuracy regardless of who is laying out these points or what has happened to the construction site in the meantime.

Next come the interior walls, which must always be measured parallel to the exterior walls using a tape measure. In order to do that with the batter boards, all of the walls had to be laid out in one go before erecting any formwork in order to avoid disturbing the strings stretching from one batter board to another. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Now, it is possible to lay out one wall, set the formwork, pour the concrete and immediately begin laying out the next wall. This shortens the construction time significantly and enabling crews to work much more efficiently.

Andreas Persson

The iCON robotic total stations make it possible to work more in 3D, which was not possible using tapes. Using IFC models allows regular checking of gable wall height to ensure that there are no discrepancies as they are built. Using this technology every day, in different construction phases, eliminates mistakes that could cost extra time and money. And when rare mistakes occur, it’s easy to quickly identify and correct them, making sure that they don’t create issues later in the project.

Nowadays, Joel spends more time in the office preparing the work and files for his field crews. He says that design changes are easier to manage and there is no more frustration associated with design updates, which can be almost effortlessly sent from the office to devices in the field.

When it comes to very complex designs, Aregger AG finds the digital design layer isolation feature in the iCON build software extremely useful. This feature allows the foremen to filter and hide information that isn’t relevant to their tasks, so they can focus on the specific design elements they need for the immediate work. This flexibility also helps them to execute layout and measurement tasks faster because the information can be user-defined, enabling everyone to focus on what is relevant to them instead of trying to work from comprehensive but overcrowded paper plans.

Aregger AG has experienced the entire transformation of construction workflows. From analogue techniques over manual total stations to the automated functions of the robotic total stations, they have appreciated every step towards digital solutions. This is especially the case with the latest generation robotic total stations, that allow one-person operation for even faster and more precise layout workflows.

Equipped for the future

‘Technology will prevail and continue to develop. We as a company and also every employee will be left behind sooner or later if we don't keep up’, replies Joel when he was asked about the importance of technology adoption within the construction industry.

But who actually operates the new equipment? ‘In the beginning, it was mainly the foremen. But in the future, bricklayers or even construction workers will have to use it too’, says Joel. For the younger generations coming into construction, it has been easier to adopt these technologies because they have grown up with computers, tablets and smartphones. For older employees, deployment of digital solutions has not been as easy – and the foremen were skeptical about it, but Joel admits, ‘Once you’ve worked with the new technology, you don't want to go back.’

Digital tools and modern workflows on construction sites are a motivation for younger people to join the rather ‘traditional’ construction professions and specialisations. This can have a positive impact on the industry’s labour shortages — but the business benefits extend beyond that. ‘Working with digital tools will influence decision-making when it comes to awarding contracts. In the future, it could be devastating if you're not ready’, says Joel. ‘Only those who consistently invest in further training and technology can meet high quality standards’, he explains. Joel strongly believes that future project requirements will change given today’s available construction technology.

Leica ICON

An end-to-end solution

Aregger AG has kept investing in Leica iCON solutions for their robustness, accuracy and the construction-dedicated iCON Field software that is user-friendly and easy to use by anyone. Using the same software across the entire product portfolio ensures that it is easy to learn and that everyone onsite is able to use different sensors and instruments with the same confidence.

While Aregger AG acknowledges that Leica Geosystems stands for precision and performance, technology is not the sole reason Aregger AG has decided to extend and develop their cooperation with the Leica iCON products.

The local Leica Geosystems representative, Zetech GmbH, has been an important factor in this decision, having the necessary know-how to help customers choose the right solutions. They also offer outstanding post-sale support, providing technology onboarding, training and other support services to help their customers get the most from their Leica Geosystems solutions.

Leica NCC

Annual workshops and ‘tips and tricks’ provided by Zetech keep the Aregger AG team up to date with software updates, new applications and best practices to help them get the most out of their Leica equipment. Additionally, Zetech’s responsiveness and professionalism have reinforced the company’s status as a reliable partner, giving Aregger AG peace of mind that any unforeseen challenges will be addressed quickly — right onsite.

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Leica iCON build software

From building foundations to topping out, Leica iCON build is the dedicated building construction software for layout, as-built and verification tasks on projects.
From building foundations to topping out, Leica iCON build is the dedicated building construction software for layout, as-built and verification tasks on projects.

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Custom-built solutions for heavy construction and civil engineering.

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