Volume 14, Issue 1 - January/February 2013


Reinventing the Window

During the Civil War, troops gathered at Fort Evans, the highest location in Leesburg, Va., to look out for enemy soldiers. Today that hillside is the site of REHAU’s North American headquarters, where a bunker from Fort Evans remains as a reminder of the battles fought there. Just as each side had its strengths in fighting the Civil War, REHAU has its strengths in battling against its competition. In the current commodity-type window market, companies have to offer more—much more—to gain market share.

So with an eye toward sustainability and whole system building solutions, backed by REHAU’s expertise and driven by its additional divisions, the company has unleashed a slew of tools in the battle for market share.

Its biggest fight has been one of changing options. In a commercial market where aluminum has long-been known as the premiere product, REHAU, and others in the marketplace that are challenging that premise, must overcome misconceptions.

Material Differences
“The mantra has always been aluminum is better,” says Brian Guyer, market development manager, windows and doors business unit. “Building with PVC can save building owners tens of thousands in heating and cooling costs.”

Proponents of vinyl in commercial applications say it can meet thermal and structural needs.

“Vinyl products can perform better [than aluminum] structurally,” says Guyer. “People don’t think it can go 40 stories. It can.”

Helmut Grohschaedl, the business unit manager for windows and doors, agrees that when architects hear this it is “eye opening to them.”

“They have this misperception that it is cheap and not structurally sound—then we show them the profile cut,” he says. “More are listening now.”

More education still needs to be done, however, and the REHAU Academy aids in that process. The company has a special training room at its facility where everyone from engineers to building owners, general contractors and architects can come and receive insight into a variety of topics. At least every other week there is a training event, and for those who can’t make it to Leesburg, participation is possible via webinar.

Christian Fabian, CEO, proudly reports that as of mid-October, more than 4,000 people had been trained.

This vinyl stronghold is taking place in both residential and commercial applications. In fact, REHAU was one of six window companies that exhibited at the Seventh Annual American Passive House Conference held in Denver in October. At this event, suppliers of high-performance building components were able to meet with architects, engineers, passive house consultants and others looking for energy-efficient products.

Guyer adds that its products are not only energy efficient but offer a long product life cycle. “Independent research shows our product will last 40 years,” he says.

The company even has a real-world testing site dubbed, “REHAU® Montana ecosmart house,” which is a home with the company’s various products installed so it can be used as a platform for testing and training.

“We’re not typically the lowest guy in town,” Guyer adds. “But if you want performance that is better than the competition, we can offer that product.”

That competition is fierce in residential windows and Guyer says it’s a “commodity market now” where many companies are fighting for their share of the shrinking pie. Grohschaedl is optimistic that the housing outlook is changing.

“The signs of an upturn in residential are there,” he says. “There are definitely opportunities and our product is the right fit.”

He also points that while its products do work well for higher-end applications REHAU offers options for all ends of the spectrum including ones that may not immediately come to mind.

“Windows for manufactured housing have done quite well [in the past few years],” says Grohschaedl.

The company also offers a comprehensive door line which is taking off particularly well in Canada. “Aluminum doors in Canada aren’t meeting code so they are looking for other options,” says Guyer.

He adds that, for the North American market to further improve particularly in driving the use of more energy-efficient products, “there has to be incentives that are tied to Energy Star. That’s missing from the industry right now,” he adds.

Sealing in Sustainability
Overall, Grohschaedl says those door and window companies that focused on other markets definitely did well through the downturn and, for many companies, this meant expanding into commercial applications, say its managers. REHAU says its expertise in this area is especially strong given its broad range of business units and the variety of offerings it can bring to building owners (see box page 41).

“From generating renewable energy using geothermal probes to distributing it efficiently through radiant heating and cooling pipes, our HVAC solutions deliver sustainable comfort. And with our window and door designs, you can create thermally efficient walls of glass that seal in this sustainability.”

“So we can also talk to an engineer about their waste management and water supply,” says Grohschaedl. “This is one of our biggest advantages. Go to one shop and stay there.”

REHAU also offers other services including field mockups and energy modeling, and it was this service offering that was the main message representatives took to a recent industry trade show in Las Vegas.

“We went in promoting our services rather than our products,” says Guyer. “As a profile supplier we are sending a message that we are supporting our fabricators and that we will bring business to them.”

Focused Growth
Fabian, who has been with REHAU for more than 20 years in a variety of roles around the globe, was named CEO in July, and says he has a clear focus and clear model for growth.

“Despite a difficult market situation we are poised for growth,” he says.

“We aren’t starting from the drawing board,” he adds. “We have products readily available and we have the experience and people to support that, and we will grow organically. We will then put additional salespeople in to support that growth.” Those fabricators who also are pushing for increases should also focus on innovation, says Grohschaedl.

“Those who will succeed are those who are open to new things and new business approaches,” he says. “If you don’t have an approach that focuses on innovation and a systems approach you will have a difficult time.”

Complex Company Offers Simple Solutions
When talking about REHAU Worldwide, Christian Fabian, CEO, says “it’s a complex company that offers simple solutions.” Following are a few facts on the global supplier of “unlimited polymer solutions” and its various business units.

Employees in North American headquarters: Approximately 130
Employees worldwide: Approximately 15,000 at more than 170 locations worldwide.
Global Regions: Eight
Sales: Privately held: does not release.
North American Regional Offices: The company has regional offices in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Panama to “provide local support and make sure its partners are well serviced.”
Divisions: Automotive, Industry (includes edgebanding and tambour doors for furniture , etc.) and Construction (radiant heating and cooling, geothermal, energy transfer piping, etc).


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