Ben Warren, Managing Director at global building materials manufacturer, Baumit, discusses the aesthetics and functionality of walls in building
Baumit strives to create healthy, energy efficient and beautiful building facades, renderings and interior walls. The company strives for innovation through their amalgamation of tradition, practicality, aesthetics, sustainability and functionality. people to live in ‘beautiful, energy-efficient and healthy homes’.
Created in 1988, Baumit stands for: innovation, safety, partnerships and trust in building and translates from German to ‘Build with’. The company has a presence in more than 30 countries and is headquartered in Wopfing, Austria, the site of its research and development department which ‘represents the heart of the company’.
One of Baumit’s core values is environmental impact of building and raising awareness of the issues related. Their unique technologies and wall finishes help live up to the ethos of sustainability.
There are many solutions that Baumit provides, to help with a healthy and sustainable home. According to research, there are three key principles to consider when building a sustainable home: thermal insulation, external-wall materials, and indoor air humidity. Good thermal insulation not only makes a significant contribution to a building’s energy efficiency, it keeps walls warm in winter and pleasantly cool during summer. This temperate quality is essential to occupants’ long-term comfort and wellbeing. The purity of indoor air is also crucial to our health; particularly when it’s considered we inhale up to 13.5kg of interior air, compared to 1.5kg of fresh air, per day.
The most effective method for creating a healthy living space is to optimally insulate the façade – the better the insulation, the more comfortable the space will be.
IBT caught up with Ben Warren, Managing Director for Baumit, to discuss a range of topics including, innovation, technology, sustainability
What differentiates Baumit from its competitors?
At Baumit we have formed a reputation for putting our customers first, being flexible in our approach and being responsive to our customers’ needs.
We have won a number of projects through unique products and systems, as well as pure hard work and dedication, to reach the customers’ requirements where our competitors haven’t been able to do so.
How do you cater your products to different types of clients, and what is your typical audience?
From the outset we have targeted high-specification private residential projects, rather than chase high-volume projects. It’s a strategy that has worked very successfully for us. Additionally, we have built a highly skilled, loyal base of applicators who we can trust to do an excellent job for the end user.
Excluding the basics of functionality, what makes walls so important?
Our homes are the biggest financial investment we make, bar none. Therefore, the structure’s performance and aesthetic is always going to be high on the priority list. Whether a project is a new-build, renovation or extension, the walls are very often the first consideration.
The beauty of render finishes is that they work as a standalone wall finish or when integrated within an existing brick finish. They also offer the opportunity to change the colour, and to a certain extent the finish, over a period of time. Therefore the façade can be refreshed periodically if required.
With sustainability, clean living and energy efficiency being highly valued in the market, how do you think this has changed the landscape of the industry?
Thermally, we have reached the limit of cavity wall construction so we must consider new technologies and construction methods if we want to engage meaningfully with the energy efficiency agenda. Self-builders and early adopters already know this and we see more and more render finishes to externally-insulated or timber-framed properties.
The key point with sustainability, healthy living and energy efficiency is to consider the wall, and more broadly the property, as a whole. The use of certain materials internally can create much higher levels of thermal comfort which can be felt in real life. There must be performance standards, but what a home feels like on a day-to-day basis is what really matters, and this goes far beyond data and designs on paper. It requires real understanding of how products interact with each other and their environment.
Do you find there is a lot of scrutiny on companies to deliver the high demands of the end consumer in terms of sustainable products?
I think there is a lot of anecdotal scrutiny. Often there are a lot of hot topics which are latched on to, when actually the reality is quite different.
The question of sustainability is quite broad and I am not sure there is a universal understanding of what it means. As an example, I recall the uncovering of what it actually takes to build a Toyota Prius. The batteries are flown around the world in order to build one of the most ‘sustainable’ vehicles on the road, which is clearly counter intuitive.
I would not advocate that we go back to building with sticks and mud, but consideration of where materials and labour are sourced must be looked at.
Could you describe the typical process of building a healthy home?
The design of a healthy home is no more complex than any other. It is purely having a deeper awareness of building materials and their properties. For example, a timber-framed construction can be very thermally efficient. On paper it achieves much higher levels of performance than building regulations require. In real life usage however, the building will most likely suffer from peaks and troughs of temperature due to the lack of thermal mass in the construction.
Thermal mass can be introduced into the construction by way of clay boards being used instead of common drywall. The end result is a solution which is high-performing and regulates temperature gradually, which is a much more pleasant experience for the home owner.
How can your products improve air quality?
We have a number of products which contain lime which acts as a moisture buffer, absorbing moisture when the level is too high and releasing it again when the level drops. Like temperature, relative humidity is important to comfort and health. Being able to regulate both provides the best possible internal environment
How do you ensure innovation in your solutions?
The Baumit motto is ‘Ideas with a Future’ and this sums up our attitude. We are constantly striving to improve what we have to offer and we do this by staying in touch with our customers and the market. We are very lucky to have the support of a great research and development team, but they cannot predict what the UK market needs or more importantly, will need in the years to come.
It is our responsibility to do this, whether it is via formal surveys or informal discussions. Without our customers we don’t have a business and they are the best source of ideas and inspiration that drives innovation.
What trends do you think are particularly prominent in the market currently, what do you expect for 2020?
I think the market is still sitting and waiting to see what happens with Brexit. But one thing that we do know is – we need more houses. In terms of pure numbers, there is a difference between what is being built and what we need. We also see falling standards as house builders strive for quicker and quicker completions.
Modular building can offer part of the solution, increasing quality and speeding-up the build process. But the market must be more open to different construction types and techniques.
Does Baumit have any plans for expansion in the near future?
We talk about sustainability with our products, but we are building a sustainable business too.
We will expand every year through sheer hard work and determination. Our success so far is testament to the quality of the team and how well they work together.
The team will grow in 2020 and I am excited to see what the next year will bring us, so watch this space…
Read more about green technology in construction here.