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“Our Sustainable, Future-ready Solutions are Setting Trends in New-age Constructions”

By: Monnanda Appaiah, Wienerberger India

In an interview with Monnanda Appaiah Managing Director at Wienerberger India, he spoke about his company, their business in the Indian market, their sustainable and future-ready solutions for new-age constructions, manufacturing facility, a few significant projects in which their products are used, and on the future of façade and cladding industry in India. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Please tell us about your company Wienerberger, and yourself. How long the company has been in this business in the Indian market?

The Wienerberger Group, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, is a leading international provider of smart solutions for the entire building envelope and infrastructure. Wienerberger is the world’s largest producer of bricks (Porotherm, Terca) and the market leader in clay roof tiles (Koramic, Tondach) in Europe.

Wienerberger is the world’s largest producer of bricks (Porotherm, Terca) and the market leader in clay roof tiles (Koramic, Tondach) Wienerberger is the world’s largest producer of bricks (Porotherm, Terca) and the market leader in clay roof tiles (Koramic, Tondach)

Wienerberger started its operations in India in the year 2009 by setting the first-ever state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Asia at Kunigal, 70 Kms from Bangalore. It’s been a fantastic journey as I have had the opportunity to lead the India operations since 2010. Our organisation in India has grown organically over the years while marking several milestones and setting benchmarks in product development, process innovation and market expansion.

Our sustainable, future-ready solutions are setting trends in newage constructions while improving people’s quality of life. Porotherm clay perforated blocks are manufactured in Kunigal and these offer significant technical advantages over conventional walling materials apart from being environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Bagmane IT park, Bengaluru Bagmane IT park, Bengaluru

Since its inception, the company has provided walling materials to build more than 45,000+ apartments across South India and 20,000+ independent houses in addition to building many other prominent and prestigious hospitality, commercial complexes and educational institutions. The company is also strongly associated with several CSR activities like providing primary healthcare facilities and affordable housing in the vicinity of the factory.

Tell us briefly about your journey with the company over the years, and also about your major success stories in India.

To understand a bit about our journey so far in India, here are some of the milestones to consider. This would also give you an idea of how we have consistently developed and introduced new product lines in India, keeping in line with the market requirements.

Orchid Hotel, Pune
Orchid Hotel, Pune

2009 – the launch of Porotherm HP for non-load-bearing construction

2010 – the launch of Koramic clay roof tiles; Launch of Argeton clay façade tiles

2011 – the launch of Porotherm VP for load-bearing construction

2012 – the launch of Porotherm thermo bricks, best in class for thermal insulation

2014 – the launch of Porotherm HPG+ Dryfix System, a super glue that eliminates mortar and speeds up construction significantly

2015 – the launch of Aspect clay façade tiles

2016 – the launch of Tondach roof tiles

2018 – the launch of the Koramic roof component system to provide complete roofing for Indian climatic conditions

2019 – completed 10 years of operation in India

Over the years, Wienerberger products have received accreditation by the Indian Green Building Council, IGBC, and GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment).

Interiors of the factory Interiors of the factory

In fact, as an affirmation to our commitment to sustainability, we recently switched over to natural gas from solid fuel, thus reducing the carbon emission by >40%.

What are the product categories offered by Wienerberger?

Wienerberger’s India product portfolio currently includes clay building materials solutions for walls, roofs, and façades. Wall solutions include products like Porotherm HP, VP Load Bearing, Thermobrick, HP Grinded + Dryfix System; roof solutions include Koramic and Tondach; and façade solutions include Aspect and Argeton. The company is also constantly looking at new growth opportunities in the Indian market including the launch of new sustainable and future-ready solutions for construction.

Please tell us about your company’s facilities and structure.

Wienerberger headquarters in Bengaluru houses a dedicated showroom for our product range
Wienerberger headquarters in Bengaluru houses a dedicated showroom for our product range

In terms of facility and structure, our biggest investment is our manufacturing facility, spread across 32 acres, the manufacturing process began in 2009. The fully automated factory performs specialised production methodology with a view of achieving quality and operational excellence and efficient use of locally available raw materials, including clay silted from dead water tanks in the vicinity. The factory has the distinction of running 365 days a year, 24/7 with a production capacity unmatched by any other brick industry in southeast Asia. This one-of-a-kind production unit also houses a state-of-the-art laboratory and testing facility.

Apart from that, we have our Headquarters in Bengaluru, which also houses a dedicated showroom for our product range. Here, customers are free to walk-in to see our product range and from walling material to roofing and façades. Our in-house sales representatives and technical experts are also available for consultations. We also have sales teams spread across the various major markets that we operate in – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This is complemented by a network of dealers across major and nonmetro southern cities.

Our application and product development teams are also constantly working on new product development and innovative solutions to address our customer needs and provide timely support on-site.

What has been your or your organisation’s contribution to bringing about the current revolution in the cladding sector?

Good architecture implies an unending creative quest for new applications. The use of clay for façade cladding is perfectly attuned to this philosophy. Clay façade tiles have already been in use for protecting dormer windows, gable ends and blind facades. However, they also offer major technical and architectural advantages as facade cladding. Wienerberger offers an exquisite range of clay façade tiles under two brands Aspect and Argeton.

Payload operator M410IB | Brick stamping | Stock yard | Robots in action

We were one of the earliest players in the building materials industry to launch clay ventilated façade tiles for cladding. Both the façade brands provide the visual impact of a timeless modern façade with the distinctive character of natural clay. Wienerberger’s clay façade solutions have created a union between natural aesthetics and state-of-the-art technology. High strength and tested safety make Argeton and Aspect façades suitable for homes, offices and public buildings while providing the architect an opportunity to experiment with colour, styles and finishes to lend a touch of singular beauty to any building.

Please tell us about a few of your iconic and innovative products.

Ingenuity and sophistication are the hallmarks of our façade offering. Its appeal when combined with steel, glass and wood lie in its subtlety, symmetry, natural elegance and timeless perfection. Wienerberger’s clay façade panels are weatherproof, high impact resistance and require absolutely no maintenance. Our 3D print tiles are one of the innovative products available in the market today to achieve any design or pattern created by architects.

Our glazing finish made with a double firing process can offer any colour as per the design intent. Aspect’s louver range has innumerable shapes and sizes which creates a unique character to the building. Our customised tiles are available in every imaginable colour, shape and surface, these factors have significantly contributed to the major shift in the cladding segment towards the clay façade tiles. Finally, a patented robust dry installation system for our range of façade tiles are capable of withstanding high wind loads.

Wienerberger factory - Admin block Wienerberger factory – Admin block

Please tell us about a few significant projects in which your products are used.

We have completed more than 150 projects pan India across public and private sectors. The notable among them being Delhi Metro stations, ESI Hospital – Chennai & Coimbatore, Dial 100 – Lucknow, Mangalore Airport, and many other IT buildings around the country.

As per your view, how important is the role of the right material in cladding?

Façade and curtain wall systems are of paramount importance while considering issues of green building and sustainable design. It becomes imperative for a building construction specialist to understand the importance of improving the performance and sustainability of the building envelope.

Bescom, Bengaluru Natural red clay tiles applied on façade
Bescom, Bengaluru Natural red clay tiles applied on façade

Many proponents of green design certainly believe that it is high time to move away from the conventional façade formats mostly visible in high-rise buildings for the past half-century. Some of the world’s most prominent “green” skyscrapers are looking at greener options to envelope their buildings.

Well-executed façade cladding, with clay façade tiles, is an excellent heat insulator. Thanks to its mass, ceramic has a high heat buffering capacity. The effect is as if the house were sheathed in a continuous second skin. This minimises heat loss in winter and prevents overheating during summer.

Clay is an ideal building material due to its ultimate properties of longevity, non-colour fading, low maintenance and design flexibility. Another significant feature is the water-tightness of the building envelope and also natural ventilation.

Wienerberger’s clay façade tiles are highly engineered with high flexural strength and are vitreous in nature with very low water absorption. In addition, clay helps moderate internal temperature ensuring comfortable working conditions throughout the year. The voids on the clay tiles further enhance the insulating properties of the product. Even in terms of aesthetics, our range of natural façade tiles ensures nil fungus or algae formation.

There is an assumption that clay façade panel systems can’t be used in high-rise buildings. What is your say on it?

This is a prevalent myth. There are many references of high rises (>60 m) buildings which have been successfully cladded with clay tiles in their façade and our robust installation system has been tested for high wind loads (3.5 kPa).

How well aware do you think the decision-makers are in general about the availability, use and installation of the products for cladding? How to gauge their functionality & effectiveness based on the type and geographical location of the buildings?

The preference in India is still higher for the conventional materials and we are working on educating the market about the wide range of benefits in using clay façade tiles. With regards to availability at any point of time, we maintain enough stock of the standard tiles in our Bangalore warehouse. We have trained and certified multiple installers across India on the installation process.

Dial 100 – Lucknow Dial 100 – Lucknow

In terms of geography, since clay ventilated façade tiles are an all-weather product, we haven’t faced any major challenge about convincing our clients on the need or even the effectiveness of our range of tiles. However, as per the complexity of the project, we also recommend trained installers to customers. Once a project is awarded to us, we ensure through our partners and regularly conduct quality checks to ensure that the installation is as per global standards.

What is the emphasis laid on R&D, especially for the Indian market?

Delhi metro station
Delhi metro station

Our core strength is R & D, understanding the architectural trend and preferences we have been ahead in launching new products like 3D print tiles, glazed finishes and countless shapes created as per architectural intent. Even in our other product range, primarily in walling materials, we are constantly innovating on new, effective products under the Porotherm range, helping address various applications and challenges in the construction industry.

What do you see as the main challenges faced by the cladding industry?

Current major challenges due to the COVID pandemic remain as projects are delayed and launches have been considerably reduced. Also, the Indian market is a very price-sensitive market, we are emphasising on the life cycle cost of the product. Our product is virtually maintenance free and the life cycle cost of the product turns out to be way economical as compared to other conventional façade materials.

Tell us about your channel expansion strategies in the market.

We have a pan-India presence, and currently, we are developing a new retail supply chain with dealers and installers to address the retail requirements for midsize commercial buildings and renovation markets

What keeps your company ahead of its competitors in terms of services offered?

As you are aware, Wienerberger India is present in India from 2009 with a large manufacturing facility for Walling material and the façade products are supplied directly to the projects by Wienerberger. We offer 10 years of warranty and our consultation services support starts right from the inception of the project façade design itself where we offer tile size recommendations to optimise the wastages at the time of installation.

IOCL, Lucknow
IOCL, Lucknow

In addition, we also provide on-site technical support during installation. We work very closely with architects to develop customised designs and finishes. Wienerberger India also provides architects the opportunity to design 3D models of the projects with Aspect Clay ventilated façade solutions. Wienerberger India uses Revit® software for 3D Modelling and project representation. Aspect façade tiles come in .RVT files which can be shared with the architects and installers who can use the files to create 3D models of individual projects in Revit®.

How do you see the cladding and façade industry evolving in India and where do you see the façade industry evolving over the next 5 years?

The emerging building trends in India, provides for a great opportunity to create aspirational buildings. It is very evident, that there is a phenomenal improvement in terms of aesthetics and design intent – be it residential homes or commercial buildings.

A notable change is visible in the architecture of buildings across cities. Not just in Tier I and Tier II cities but even in Tier III cities. People are paying closer attention to the look and feel of the buildings and spending staggering amounts to make them conducive and heat insulated for the occupants as well. As the market matures, customers will prefer products that are sustainable and compliment the climatic conditions. The comfort of the occupants will be paramount, and designers will be compelled to think about and specify products that reduce glare, heat and acoustic disturbances.

Monnanda Appaiah, Wienerberger India

Managing Director

Monnanda Appaiah has over two decades of experience in the manufacturing space. He started his career with the Canadian multinational, Alcan in Montreal and worked in various functions ranging from product development, production planning, business development, and sales & marketing across the country. In the year 2000, Appaiah joined the Aditya Birla Group based in Mumbai and was responsible for the Alumina chemicals export business of Hindalco. In this role he was in charge of the business operations to 35 countries. Monnanda Appaiah assumed the role of Managing Director, of Wienerberger, India in July 2010. He is a BE from NIT, Surthakal and completed Executive Management Program from Montreal, Canada.

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