Originally scheduled for the beginning of May, the 2020 edition of the BIBM Congress will now be held from 14 to 16 November 2021 in Copenhagen owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions. The Managing Directors Dr. Ulrich Lotz and Michael Voss as well as Project Manager Denny Bakirtzis of Building Congress Forum, the organization hosting the congress, answered the questions asked by the BFT editor-in-chief in an interview:
BFT International: Good morning, Dr. Lotz, Mr. Voss, Mr. Bakirtzis. The BIBM Congress is scheduled to be held in Copenhagen on 14 to 16 November this year. Mr. Voss, a congress in the second half of 2021? And What is so special about the BIBM, the European federation?
Dr. Ulrich Lotz/Michael Voss: Right, the BIBM Congress will definitely be the first congress to be held in 2021, still in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, as an in-person event of the precast industry. We are very sure about it because we exactly know under which conditions this event will take place.
The Bureau International du Béton Manufacturé (BIBM) is the European precast industry federation. It was founded back in the 1950s and has been holding a major European congress ever since at three-year intervals. 2020 will see its 23rd edition. This year’s venue, the Tivoli Congress Center in Copenhagen, is the proverbial perfect match for our industry because it was built with precast elements.
BFT International: That’s really a very attractive city to hold a congress in?
Dr. Ulrich Lotz: Yes, that’s true, and it provides a pleasant backdrop even in the autumn season thanks to its contemporary architecture that makes use of concrete in a very laid-back and playful way. Generally speaking, Copenhagen is an enormously open, young European city, which also fits in perfectly with our congress. Since January 2020, Denny Bakirtzis has been working in his project manager role overseeing the preparation of this event. We had begun to prepare the congress even earlier together with the previous project manager. Since then, Mr. Bakirtzis has familiarized himself with all matters regarding the congress very quickly and is making very good progress.
BFT International: You said that the congress will be an in-person event. According to its agenda, it will deal with highly relevant topics such as decarbonization, digitization, the circular economy, and recycling. Mr. Bakirtzis, what is so special about this event?
Denny Bakirtzis: As a matter of course, the special thing about it is the European idea behind. This year’s headline is “Precast Excellence in Nordic Countries”. In these countries, the precast industry is much more advanced than in Germany, approaching precast construction in a completely different way.
Dr. Ulrich Lotz: Right, at the BetonTage Congress 2020, Denmark was our guest country, and Claus Bering, the President of the Danish Precast Association and at the same time President of the European Federation until November last year, appeared as a guest speaker. This is where he presented a completely different idea that is not just about delivering precast elements but adopting a holistic mindset in order to develop entire buildings or construction projects out of precast elements. We want to showcase these Scandinavian advances to the whole of Europe.
BFT International: Why are the precast associations and service organizations of the German State of Baden-Württemberg in a particularly good position for hosting this congress?
Dr. Ulrich Lotz: Because we are not only hosting the BetonTage Congress and can look back to several decades of experience in the event management field, but also because we are providing many other services within our organization. For instance, we are also an accredited testing, quality control and certification body employing three highly skilled construction engineers who visit contractors in the field every day and know exactly where the day-to-day problems occur.
BFT International: Does that mean that you are in a particularly good position for hosting this event because you combine your event management experience with hands-on industry expertise?
Dr. Ulrich Lotz: Absolutely, and we’re also organizing a large number of seminars and training courses and possess intimate market knowledge that is basically second to none, I might say. Yet the entire congress will be built upon various types of cooperation. As organizer, Building Congress Forum GmbH has already taken over the organization of the BIBM Congress from FBF Betondienst GmbH (BetonTage) at the end of 2019. At the same time, an interesting option arose, which we are very happy about: Bauverlag, the industry publisher, and its new owner, Michael Voss, have contributed a lot to the process. The members of the BFT team provide an interesting backdrop enabling us to utilize our congress expertise, but also the wide range of media published by Bauverlag.
Michael Voss: For instance, the publisher is in a good position in the field of architecture, but also publishes BFT International, one of the leading magazines of the concrete industry. We are particularly pleased about the strong commitment of the BFT magazine with its editor-in-chief, Silvio Schade, and its senior sales manager, Jens Maurus. That’s a wonderful project embedded in our newly established entity named Building Congress Forum (BCF), with which we also intend to host other events in the future.
And the BFT International 11/2020 will also publish the congress proceedings. This is another instance, in which we can clearly see the mutual benefit and cooperation within the new BCF entity.
BFT International: Are there any other partners in this cooperation?
Dr. Ulrich Lotz: Yes, of course, the BIBM team in Brussels headed by Alessio Rimoldi and Magdalena Herbik. Another major supporter is the International Prestressed Hollowcore Association (IPHA) with its managing director, Carsten Friberg. Mr. Friberg and the IPHA are demonstrating an equally strong commitment and have become our official cooperation partner, which we are extremely grateful for.
BFT International: Is it still possible to register as an exhibitor? We’ve heard that the accompanying exhibition is nearly fully booked. Is this correct?
Denny Bakirtzis: Yes, that’s true, it’s almost fully booked. But there are a few last slots available for exhibitors. We have been able to create more exhibitor spaces due to the good demand. Our website at www.bibmcongress.eu provides all information regarding the exhibition and registration as an exhibitor or congress attendee. The congress website also features downloads such as the agenda, the exhibitor information, and our Covid-19 response plan.
BFT International: You’ve been referring to the next question indirectly already. We are still living in “Covid-19 times”, and many people are talking about sanitary conditions, disinfection and so on. Perhaps some are even experiencing fear or anxiety with regard to staying safe at the event. What should attendees actually expect, and how you would you describe the current situation in Copenhagen?
Denny Bakirtzis: Hygienic concepts were also used at trade fairs and congresses in Denmark last year. As early as in August, for example, the Formland Design Show was held as an in-person event in Herning. This has of course been an event outside our industry, but it demonstrated that Denmark has made good progress. We expect to welcome about 650 attendees and up to 80 exhibitors. So it’s looking very good currently regarding such events in Denmark, even more so because the Tivoli Congress Center is also prepared to take the necessary precautions.
BFT International: What do you base this assessment on?
Denny Bakirtzis: Together with the other two hotels we are cooperating with for the purpose of the congress, the Tivoli Congress Center is a member of the Arp-Hansen Hotel Group, which has been awarded the “Safe to Visit” seal by Horesta, the association of the Danish hospitality industry. Only establishments adhering to the rules 110% get this award.
One prime example of this compliance is the well-thought out Covid-19 response plan, which includes, for instance, freely accessible sanitizer dispensers, cleaning processes adjusted to the new needs, and raising awareness among cleaning teams on a daily basis. Unlike other venues, the Tivoli Congress Center also makes it possible to comply with the minimum distancing requirements rightfully imposed by the relevant authorities.
BFT International: Which means that you can travel to Copenhagen with a good conscience. And although the congress is very employer-friendly, there will also be a full-fledged social program, right?
Michael Voss: Exactly, the first item on the agenda will be a sightseeing tour of Copenhagen on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning will be free for attendees to discover the city on their own. On the evening, there will be a first get-together with welcome drinks and snacks, and the exhibition will have opened by that time, too. Monday will be the first full congress and exhibition day. On Monday evening, the Langelinie Pavilion opening up to the harbor canal next to the Little Mermaid statue will await the congress attendees. Its charming Danish interior dates back to the 1950s and provides a pleasant backdrop to the gala dinner planned for the evening. In addition, a trip into the surroundings of Copenhagen will be offered to persons accompanying congress attendees on Tuesday. If you are interested you can stay one night or two nights longer and experience Copenhagen again in person. All information is available at www.bibmcongress.eu.
BFT International: Thank you very much for this interview. We wish you every success in hosting the first in-person congress of the European precast industry after the long “Covid-19 time”!
Interview: Silvio Schade,
Editor-in-Chief BFT International