In the exclusive family-home market, connection with the environment and the transparency that enables it have clearly become the most important factors in the domestic and international trends in custom doors and windows. On behalf of Etna Kft., KAV is participating in the construction of a building with three fully glazed facades. We talked about that special project and the most important directions of the sector with Nikos Zisidis, the executive manager of the client company.
You have been involved with a wide range of projects with your companies, among which exclusive residential buildings represent a relatively new direction. Why have you opened up to this segment?
The high-end residential sector in Hungary is almost empty, as only very few contractors dare to move in this direction. This is because customers expect not only high quality but also extra attention while working together. Our work is also based on a kind of operational way of working, with serious on-site and office engineering work, but we allow these clients backstage; most of them want to see how their house is made. There are instances when the owner visits the construction site several times a day, but many companies cannot adapt to this approach and expectation; moreover, many problems can arise during the construction and preparation process. It is not possible to use underdeveloped materials; the basic requirements in all areas are innovative technology, extremely precise work, and a high quality standard that many find difficult to step up to. It may happen that a faucet system arrives from Italy that is so complex that it may take days to assemble. Many times therefore we have to invest long hours in understanding how to incorporate a new material, reading product brochures, consulting with retailers or just with the manufacturer - so we’re constantly learning and evolving. These unproductive hours are also an essential part of the job. And we are really present from the beginning to the end with full management capacity during the work, as decisions have to be made at the beginning of the project, answers to questions must be given quickly to keep the construction moving along, and in the end the finished coverings and the surface of built-in structures must be protected from other finishing work. Building such a house requires constant concentration, and the customer walks in behind the scenes every day, so we work in an environment that is an experience for him as well. We hand over the whole construction to the client as a kind of experience package, so that not only the building is excellent, but also the mood of our customer.
You follow the process from design to completion. What knowledge does this sector require from the professionals?
Not one thing in the world is automatic other than change. It also means to me that if you don’t put the energy into something, you simply won’t create what you want. It’s also like this at work; you have to add this plus. Specialists must also be continuously trained, while many companies in Hungary still employ people with zero training. I’d rather work with a good-minded career starter than a professional who’s ready and has seen a lot but is incorrectly fixated. I look for a person who wants to develop, whose trade is his profession, and who gives me the opportunity and the breeding ground to master architecture and construction in detail. Meanwhile, of course, my colleagues and I also provide a safety net with our more than 30 years of professional background. None of us is “ready,” my co-workers and I are in an ongoing, intensive learning process.
In addition to knowledge, quality structures are particularly important in the exclusive residential sector. How decisive you consider windows and doors to be? What are the trends?
Now I’m finding two different customer approaches, urban and non-urban. The urban person loves the sight, the light, the downtown skyline or the panorama, so he needs a large glass surface. The non-urban loves the countryside where he’s moved to; he wants to feel the nature around him from the inside, so he also needs large glass planes. Next to a forest in Vértes, or on the hilly ranges of Pilis; every day of the year is beautiful. Watching a summer storm from behind a window in a building that’s well-placed in nature is amazingly reassuring. Doors and windows are therefore very important. The trend is clearly towards transparency, which provides the maximum connection to the surrounding environment, be it the bustling city, the sight of traffic or green nature. Therefore, in general, large-scale, uninterrupted, thin-framed glass surfaces will be the runners-up. However, due to the large surface area, it must be ensured that the energy loss is not high and the amount of incoming light can be controlled. Although three-layer glazing has finally become widespread, parallel with this, the issue of blinds and their placement has become important. You also need to be able to address a number of unique needs. The most common is how to combine the interior with the terrace when there is a need. The issue of doors and windows is thus already crucial in the planning phase. Due to the huge size requirements, aluminium doors and windows are clearly the best choice. Neither plastic nor wood structures can bridge such large distances in the expected slim cross sections. Aluminium doors and frameless sliding doors are therefore the most popular for today's very popular unique minimalist doors and windows designed for high-end single-family houses.
Do you think these are in line with international trends anyway?
This is the trend everywhere now. Clean, simple mass buildings, large glass surfaces. Many times I even wonder where can one find so much sand that is needed for the windows. Fortunately, there are more and more recycling and innovative solutions to improve proven products, so there are no problems with raw materials.
You have a joint project with KAV, where there are special glass wall solutions and huge surfaces ...
Yes, it is an impressive boomerang-shaped building with a full-height glass interior facing the panorama; perforated wall surfaces with traditional windows are only located on the back façade. The goal during the design was to give a greater surface area connected with the environment and to maximize the attracted panorama. You perceive almost no boundary between the building and the city. Obviously something has to hold the slabs; we solved this with a reinforced concrete pillar frame. But there is only one pillar every 8-9 metres, which is an awfully long span. This makes the whole structure very light and airy. This is already moving away from the direction where the living room used to be designed around TV. It looks a bit more like a public institution, in the good sense of the word, since bold spaces were created without compromises, and eventually the design was tied to space rather than to function, thus clearly pointing in a spectacular direction.
How will this house turn out, in your opinion?
Beauty is subjective, of course, but it is still something that catches everyone’s eye. This will be such a building. There are few details in it that will be ordinary. All the solutions are very innovative; the excellent use of materials is combined with an impressive space experience. In addition, the comfort features that are implemented here almost caress the human soul. You arrive by car into a high-ceilinged garage; the pool hangs over the garage, and the sun shines through the stunning glass window built into its bottom, so the broken light is projected onto the garage floor. Meanwhile, you can see that your wife is swimming with the kids in the pool. You take off your shoes on one of the comfortable ottomans and then take the elevator up to the high living area. When you get up, the panorama of the city unfolds in front of you through the filigree frameless sliding doors. This is not an everyday experience at all so far, and the house also offers comfort with numerous intelligent solutions. In a well-designed smart home, you don’t have to turn things on or set things up over the phone; instead the system learns repetitive processes and simply serves the person, just like a good butler. Cooling, heating, shading, much of the facade windows and lighting work automatically (as well) in response to the current activities, habits and environmental impacts of the people living in the house. It learns the people’s routine routes. For example, if someone goes out to drink at night, to support going back to sleep, only 20 percent of the LED light floats at the person's feet, but at the same time the elevator arrives on its own if it detects the appropriate indicative movement. If necessary, the system simulates a human presence. If the resident wants to watch a movie, just press the cinema button and everything works by itself, shutters go down, the projector goes on, the movie selection starts. With this intelligence, a lot of time can be saved. It will be a building that you see in the newspapers that catches your eyes. I think that, in this property, the smart solutions, transparency, custom solutions and high quality I’ve mentioned are the most defining keywords right now in the high-end family home segment. We work along these lines and build the opportunities of the future through continuous learning and innovation.