In Hungary, an association unites the manufacturers of high-quality aluminium windows and facades. ALUTA, like trade guilds in the old times, provides joint representation of interests and also outstanding professional quality to its members. We discussed the present and future of the facade industry, alongside the association, with Sándor Fegyverneky, Chairman of ALUTA.
ALUTA, i.e. the Aluminium Window and Facade Association, is the professional and interest representative organisation of its members. Why is it important to have such an association in Hungary these days? What is its purpose?
ALUTA was established in 1999; next year we will already be 20 years old. Every trade group, not only in the construction industry, has an instinctive attraction, even where companies are competitors. Guilds already realised that earlier. A joint discussion of the issues in the profession, and jointly achieving something in the interest of professional standards, vocational training, the trade’s reputation and maintaining integrity were already important objectives in the Middle Ages. ALUTA is the association of businesses manufacturing facades from metal and glass, as well as glass roofs, and takes care of the same objectives as guilds used to in the old times.
Who are its members and who can become a member of ALUTA?
The association has around thirty members; all of them hold their ground in the profession in an excellent manner. There is an admission procedure to be completed. There are companies that were admitted after a waiting period because, for example, they had only just come to Hungary and first we wanted to see what the company would do in the Hungarian market. By the way, an entire facade may be assembled from ALUTA products without the need to go anywhere else. The association has profile manufacturing, glass and glue production, door opening equipment manufacturing and fitting, installation and in-factory preparatory companies. Nearly half of our companies are European enterprises with long standing traditions; through them the European work culture is arriving in the domestic construction sector. This segment has some more special features. One of them is while the construction industry works with centimetre precision, the facade industry does it with millimetre precision. The other, which is rather unique within the construction industry, is that they produce exportable products. In addition, these companies are forced to work to the highest technical standards. Glass walls of several centimetres thickness “need to know” a lot more than traditional building walls: they must be resistant to wind, protect against the sun and heat, protect against prying eyes break-ins and condensation; it must be possible to open them.
How do these materials and solutions fit into Hungarian architecture and the Hungarian construction industry? Is the Hungarian market able to pay for these technical solutions?
After the change in the regime, upon the emergence of the office block investors, demand for this European style appeared in Hungary. Initially, the need for incoming natural light and a visual relationship with the outside world, as well as having a view, appeared in these buildings. For office blocks, the price of all these was not an issue, since this was the only way that a visual relationship between each floor and work station and the environment could be created. The family home segment is already a different matter.
What KAV does, it is a mission. Abroad, mainly in California, Australia, and South America, architects have long been creating the kind of family homes that are just starting to be built here. In this segment, technical performance is a necessity but not a sufficient condition for a company to survive in the market.
What else is needed?
Liaising skills, for example. In the family home segment, the manner in which a company deals with customers is very important. And KAV is very good at it. As I see, this company has a sincere will to do something good. There is a precise company manager, who above all truly wants to create the best possible outcome, and this will to act spreads to the entire company. And the customer can see it. A company can acquire such jobs only if it behaves like KAV. For example, the prestige prize they were awarded is not only seen as a tool for being good in the market but a result of it. And this is a huge difference. Otherwise, KAV shines out from the ALUTA members that its company size still allows for a family ambience and personal attention to each project.
You mentioned the award of excellence. Why was it important for ALUTA to create such a recognition? Is this an important gesture for the trade, the members, or rather to the segment?
I have to say all of the above. I ask at every members meeting why is it good to be an ALUTA member? The first answer is always that it is good to be together. That someone is able to sit down with a competitor and look him in the eye. On the one hand, a human relationship is formed, and on the other hand they can find their shared level of interests in the association. Apart from this, members also monitor the work done by the others, and not only as competitors. And when somebody is granted an award of excellence, it presents the project concerned, becomes an example and we talk about it jointly. And it also has weight in the market, since, irrespective of whether someone knows what an award of excellence means, it radiates that something good had to be done to get it. And we grant an award of excellence not only for the tenders submitted by our members but we also have designers’ and innovation awards of excellence. If somebody designs something good and beautiful from these materials, a designer’s award of excellence will be awarded to him. It feels good when I can see our award on display in a designer’s office. It means that it is also important for him that he won that award.
What does the future hold for this segment?
I have to say that, in terms of building technologies, the quality of the facade is the most important, after the environmentally conscious aspects or as part of them, and this faces the biggest development. One of the significant advantages of a curtain wall facade is that it may be renovated without any damage to the building. If you visit Brussels, you will see that builders are busy removing the curtain walls installed in the eighties. They change the building’s “clothing”. With slimmer profiles, with a better quality glass, a lot more attractive facade is created. There are a lot of opportunities still in this segment. Today heat is reflected by using a certain glass layering; a heat preserving glazing is used. However, the future stands for variable quality glass: when the sky is grey, the glass is clear, and when the sun starts to shine, the glass starts to get darker. These days we use lot of glass to manufacture solar panels, and light sensing layers generating electricity are also attached on glass. From now on, this electricity generation will take place on the facade, since the development of see-through sensors has already started. One can see through the glass while the glass generates electricity that can be used for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. Science already knows these technologies but they have not been introduced into the facade business yet. But for example, fantastic opportunities lie in curved glass technologies. Or, for example, the profession is still facing the challenge of changing the facade in existing buildings while work still continues inside. And we haven’t spoken about the amazing shape solutions. For example, building skyscrapers is the space technology of the construction industry. A hundred and twenty metres up, the installation of a glass wall is different than at 20 metres, since wind and frost conditions are different, etc., and we have not mentioned cleaning and maintenance... For example, self-cleansing glass also belongs to the technologies of the future. But science already knows the bacteria resistant door handle, i.e., if a person suffering from flu opens it the next one will not catch the disease because there is a bacteria-killing layer on the door handle. We know a lot of things already about the future of facade technology but I believe there is a lot more to face.
By the way, why are facades so important in architecture?
This is the part of the building that is visible. This is how it participates in the urban landscape. However artful the mass or interesting the shape of a building, if the facade is tacky or it is rendered, it is not a private matter anymore! The appearance of a house’s facade in the urban landscape is already a public asset. Therefore both designers and developers bear a huge responsibility. It is a serious public interest that what one can see from a building is of a durably good quality.