The Builder

Mirko Arend has the construction industry in his genes. He would have been a third-generation building contractor. If he hadn’t preferred to find out how to predict the future. Today, he uses that knowledge in his job as head of the BAU network at Messe München.

Simply fascinated by election predictions that are “incredibly close” to the actual results, Arend studied business administration/marketing with a major in statistics. His first job was in classical market research. For the GfK market research institute in Nuremberg, he was primarily involved in international markets. He calculated the business plan for DHL and learned how serious the impact from missing the planning mark by three percent could be.

But the construction industry did end up becoming his destiny. He couldn’t have predicted that. After stations in market research and new business development at Messe München, he became the director of BAU, the world’s leading trade show for architecture, materials, and systems, in 2010. “I knew the industry and what it involved from family businesses. That was a good initial foundation. The second foundation has always been the experienced BAU project team,” said Arend.

China is the world’s largest construction market: it has twice the volume of the USA. Mirko Arend, head of the BAU network at Messe München

That is why he has set aside neither his analytical genius nor the will to drive things forward. In a certain sense, Arend tested himself in the trade show business before he started to juggle with the future again. “China is the world’s largest construction market: it has twice the volume of the USA,” he explained. Together with his trade show team and the customers of BAU, he tested the market’s potential with a smaller format between 2014 and 2016: a conference with an accompanying exhibition in Beijing.

“It was ‘standing room only’ during the talks and the exhibitors were literally overwhelmed.” The successful first step and its further development, the purchase of FENESTRATION China (turning it into FENESTRATION BAU China), have now become BAU China. The annual trade show rotates between Beijing and Shanghai.

© Dirk Bruniecki

“We must always maintain a slight lead over the industry.” – Mirko Arend

Detecting international markets is one thing, but accompanying the industry and shaping the future of construction is another: “We have to constantly reinvent ourselves without jeopardizing our foundation. That means always maintaining a slight lead over the industry in order to integrate ideas into the trade shows early on,” said Arend. The construction industry is facing the challenge of finding its own way in an environment affected by the megatrends of sustainability, urbanization, and digitalization. Complex projects must be implemented with as much environmental compatibility as possible.

We still need to figure out how trade shows must develop in the digital era so they function as platforms. Mirko Arend

One thing above all helps: Smart IT and automation at the interfaces of planning, building, and maintaining real estate. At BAU 2019 in Munich, construction IT filled one hall and in February 2020, construction software will have its very own event in Cologne called “digitalBAU”—a joint effort between Messe München and the Bundesverband Bausoftware, the German association of construction software providers. It will take place in the years between BAU, which is held every two years. Construction IT needs shorter cycles for exchanging information and a rather unconventional, agile event concept.

Therefore, the exhibition is designed like a digital data highway. “We view it as a well-prepared experiment. In the digital era, how must trade shows develop so they function as platforms?” Arend asked himself with a gesture of puzzlement. He has no answer, not yet.


is beginning in Cologne: The first digitalBAU will take place from February 11–13, 2020 on the trade fair grounds there.

By Petra Kratzert. The article was first published in our Messe München Magazine 02/2019.

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