Wienerberger Brick Award 2012 | Interview: CEO Heimo Scheuch – Part 2
Wienerberger no longer offers only brick and clay products, as the recent takeover of Pipelife (Note: leading manufacturer of plastic pipe systems in Europe) shows. What were the considerations behind this acquisition? Will Wienerberger grow in the service sector, too?
Scheuch: For me, the complete takeover of Pipelife represents an enormous success in our strategic efforts to expand the core business of the Wienerberger Group. We see us as a provider of future-oriented construction material solutions, regardless of the material. At the same time, of course, we also offer services such as on-site technical consulting. You will find our employees in the architect’s studio, at the roofer’s and on the construction site, where we also offer application training for the people who actually work with the product. In the digital age, it goes without saying that we also develop planning and visualisation software. For example, a program to handle the complex structural calculations for earthquake-proof construction – with the matching clay block delivered by us, too, of course.
Can you give us an example for innovations at Wienerberger?
Scheuch: Our most recent innovation in the field of energy-efficient construction is a clay block filled with mineral wool, or rather with perlite (Note: an insulating material made of volcanic rock) – a solid and environmentally friendly alternative that makes additional thermal insulation, for example with polystyrene, obsolete. Or take the Dryfix system: a gluing process developed by us that allows brick walls to be built even at temperatures of up to 4 degrees below zero.
In 2012, everyone is talking about sustainability. How does Wienerberger do business sustainably?
Scheuch: We are dealing intensively with this topic, which is also firmly anchored within the organisation. In addition to our Head of Sustainability Management, we also have Sustainability Officers at each of our 27 national subsidiaries. We look at sustainability along the entire value-added chain. For us, this includes responsible clay mining, the subsequent restoration of the clay pits and resource-friendly brick production. We also implement local initiatives that contribute to improving the living conditions of the people who live near our production facilities. By supporting the construction of schools and wells or offering healthcare in India, for example.
Wienerberger is celebrating its 193rd birthday this year. How are you leading the company into the future as the number 1 brick producer?
Scheuch: Brick has long been a part of our culture and during thousands of years it has always attracted attention in the architectural community. As the world’s largest manufacturer of ceramic brick products, we consider it our mission to not only preserve this heritage, but to continuously develop brick as a building material in response to the wishes and needs of contemporary architecture. This latter aim is pursued in mutual consultation with architects and clients, who provide us with a constant stream of new concepts and ideas for corresponding product innovations. I am convinced that a company can only orient its business toward future success through product and process innovations and in this way assure its future existence. Today, however, we no longer think purely in terms of products; we think in terms of solutions and systems. We consider the entire building, including infrastructure and landscaping. With our subsidiaries, we can successfully cover even these areas.
Brick and clay products today are increasingly facing competition from concrete and wood, and there is debate within the architecture world – some of it quite heated – as to the best building method. Also, there is no clear agreement among the experts as to the most economic and environmentally friendly solution. Where does Wienerberger stand in this discussion?
Scheuch: Our answer regarding the state of construction in the future lies in our so-called e4 concept, which allows for healthy, energy-efficient and affordable construction. In Zwettl (Note: a town in Lower Austria) we offer proof that this is all possible with brick. We are currently supporting a family build Europe’s first “e4 Ziegelhaus 2020”. This “house of the future” already fulfils the new EU Building Directive, which as of 2020 will require new buildings to meet nearly-zero energy requirements. The brick house produces more energy than it consumes and uses 100 percent renewable energy sources for the building’s energy supply. The family will move in this summer. Over a period of two years, the energy consumption will be measured and recorded by the AIT, the Austrian Institute of Technology. With this project, we are setting a clear signal for modern, affordable construction.
Supposing you were building your own home. How would you describe this house in just a few words? Which functionalities would you give particular emphasis?
Scheuch: Important for me is the use of durable materials, clear and consistent architecture, as well as the subject of energy efficiency. The focus must also be on comfort with a high level of indoor air quality that influences well-being in a positive way. I see the façade itself as a person’s calling card; alternatively, the façade can also be compared with a painting. Moreover, façades made of brick live and breathe and change in the light.
Architecture often also is a characteristic feature of a country. In which country can we find your preferred architectural style?
Scheuch: I find a strong form of expression in the yellow and red houses of Belgium, the Netherlands and northern Germany. In these countries, the combination of house and garden has a strong tradition which, for me, represents a harmonious whole.
Thank you for the Interview, Mr. Scheuch.
About this entry