“We have a different way of doing things in New Zealand than in some other parts of the world,” says Equus Industries General Manager, Rob Roxburgh. “We know everybody and we operate on trust because that’s how we were brought up.” Oliver Verdickt, New Zealand Regional Manager for Equus’ partner organisation, SOPREMA, agrees.
“Business really is about creating durable systems that support durable personal relationships. We all know that, in the construction industry, not everything goes to plan. What makes this partnership thrive is a shared passion for supporting each other to do the work that we both love.”
Equus launched in the New Zealand waterproofing market in 1982, predominately as a manufacturer of liquid and coating products, Rob says. “Being a small New Zealand company, we didn’t have a lot of R&D capability, so we went looking for partners. Oliver and I first met in 2001 when he was working for a Belgian company called De Boer who had a really top-of-the-line waterproofing range. The technology they were using was at such an exceptional standard, internationally, that we were excited to be able to join someone who was already at that cutting edge. When De Boer was bought by SOPREMA in 2018, it opened up that relationship to a range of new products from all over the world. It’s been great for the whole New Zealand industry as it’s given us the opportunity to greatly increase our access to a lot of new technologies.”
While the scale has multiplied, Oliver says, the core values remain the same. “When we joined the SOPREMA umbrella, I went from having about a hundred colleagues to having nearly 10,000, with 101 factories and 17 R&D centres all over the world. The technical nature of our products means that we have had to approach new markets with a lot of support. These products aren’t an off-the-shelf solution, they need explanation, calculations, customisation and on-the-ground advice to bridge the gap between our overseas engineers and the architects, designers and specifiers on the ground here in New Zealand.”
The result has been a fruitful collaboration, with Equus bringing its top-tier sales and marketing force and its four decades of New Zealand industry connections, and SOPREMA providing state-of-the-art waterproofing and thermal insulation products and technologies. “They have introduced us to systems that were internationally standard, but revolutionary here,” Rob says. “I was shocked when we first partnered in 2001 to learn that some of these new technologies had already been in use overseas for 30 years.”
In particular, the pair are working with both above- and below-ground waterproofing, as well as Polyisocyanurate (PIR) thermal insulation. “We provide durable, long-lasting waterproofing systems to protect buildings against the external climate,” Oliver says. “With the hilly landscape here, it’s especially important to protect those below-ground spaces. To ensure that we’re best supporting the specific needs of the New Zealand market, we go back and test some of our historical builds every 5 years to ensure that the customisations we made from the original European designs were the correct ones.”
The Equus/SOPREMA partnership is really picking up speed now, with Oliver relocating permanently to Auckland in 2020. “After 20 years of being based in Asia and looking after the whole Asia-Pacific market, it has been refreshing to come to New Zealand to increase my focus on Oceania. New Zealand is open for new and sustainable product innovations. My job is to analyse the needs and trends domestically, look overseas at the available and emerging product options, and then connect the dots.”
Their collaboration is one of many things to celebrate as Equus hits its 40-year landmark birthday this year, Rob says. “This business was started by a couple of chemists who were committed to developing great solutions to real-world needs and problems. That philosophy has stayed with us throughout. There’s a real reward of working in this business, with 50% of our staff having been here for more than 15 years. In the construction industry, nothing is as it appears on paper, so it’s great to be in a company that listens and empowers you to have a say in the future. That culture is reflected in every facet of what we do, including our interactions with customers and applicators. Joining forces with SOPREMA has been an exciting challenge for everybody. Suddenly, we’re a part of something much bigger. You could say we’ve had a few things to toast as we turned 40, and we’re looking forward to hosting a big industry bash next year to mark the occasion.”
Both Rob and Oliver are excited about the move toward more sustainable building, and they welcome the recent upgrades to the New Zealand Building Code. Oliver says, “we’ve got some really green innovations in progress internationally at the moment. In the UK, we have launched a thermal wall insulation made entirely from recycled fashion waste, where we’re repurposing the fibres from old clothing to use as raw material. We also have our SOPRALOOP factory that converts PET packaging like plastic bottles into an insulation material for roof and wall applications. A big focus for our R&D is around fire retardance of unconventional input materials, which enables us to use sources like waste wood products to create safe and effective wood fibre insulation.”
“We genuinely love the regulation side of things,” Rob says, “because our products have already been heavily tested and regulated overseas. It’s great to be able to bring new, innovative systems to the New Zealand market that balance the functional needs of the build with environmental benefits, and to know that these systems will have long-term sustainability impacts with respect to the life-long operational and energy requirements of the space,” Rob says. “There’s also some technology we’re introducing soon which will revolutionise the way we do things, making installation simpler and quicker for our applicators. Our clients are going to love it.”
The future is bright, Rob says, and both partners believe that a shared passion for relationships and product improvements is what will get them there. “There’s huge diversity in the projects and people I get the privilege of working with,” Oliver says. “Working across all scales and with a hugely varied number of people is what keeps the work really exciting for me.” Rob agrees. “We’ve been working hard to bring the next generation of professionals into Equus and I can already see the benefits of having those different, vibrant ideas. Ultimately, we pride ourselves in people, and we know we should never presume that we know everything. Really great solutions are provided by listening.”
To learn more about Equus and SOPREMA, and to connect with Rob and Oliver, visit https://equus.nz/ and https://www.soprema.com/.
Better still, Rob says, just pick up the phone.