“Insulation is quite topical now because of the recent H1Energy Efficiency building code changes,” says Autex New Zealand Managing Director, Rob Woolner. “New Zealand, historically, hasn’t always been at the forefront of energy efficiency and thermal envelope design. Now, as a result of that code update, there are some significant changes being implemented which will be really beneficial for building occupants.”
A true New Zealand business success story, Autex was born over a pint and a handshake in an Auckland pub in 1967. What began as an offering of needle-punch carpet and acoustic wall-coverings has since grown into a global industry-leader in acoustic design and high-performance insulation. “I’ve been with Autex for just over 11 years,” Rob says. “I originally joined as an account manager and, as the business started to really grow, globally, I managed the export division. I played a part in the development of the business in America and supported the UK’s development alongside our established Australian arm which works in tandem with the New Zealand business.”
The products and technology have evolved a lot during Rob’s tenure, particularly on the acoustic side of the business, where Autex’s sleek acoustic design creates spaces that are both functional and beautiful. “The acoustic products can really become a feature with both standard and customisable options, but as I’ve stepped back from global sales into the MD role back here in New Zealand, my attentions have shifted.” Since refocusing on the domestic market, Rob says he’s become increasingly involved in the insulation side of the business, in particular through the polyester insulation GreenStuf. “GreenStuf has always been a big part of the Autex New Zealand business as one of our stronger brands, but I hadn’t worked with it much overseas, as insulation is typically too bulky to export. It has been a big learning curve moving from the acoustics space into more of the insulation space, but I’ve really fallen in love with it.”
Proudly made in New Zealand, GreenStuf boasts a lot of benefits including zero-waste manufacturing, safe-to-touch (and breathe) installation and a minimum of 50% recycled content. “Polyester insulation like GreenStuf has always been at the more premium end of the market, and we stand really strongly behind its environmental story. It is made using recycled PET plastic and any waste we trim in production gets repurposed back into the manufacturing process. It’s also produced in such a way that it can be recycled again at the end of its life, as long as we can get it back without contamination.. We do have to vacuum-pack bales in plastic wrap for freighting purposes, but we have a take-back scheme for the plastic it’s shipped in. Once it’s installed, we take that plastic back and send it off to be recycled. We’re really trying to reduce waste at every stage.” The business is currently rolling out additional environmental initiatives, Rob says, including an entirely carbon-neutral acoustic product range and developing truly innovative waste reduction technology “We have an amazing team of really technical salespeople who just love what they do and make it really easy for our clients to specify acoustics and insulation the right way.”
While Greenstuf is primarily used to increase thermal performance, Rob notes that all of Autex’s thermal products do also offer increased acoustic performance. “GreenStuf has a thermal value and, as a by-product, works to absorb reverberation and echo in buildings when left exposed.. In our larger commercial builds, for instance, we’ll put GreenStuf in the ceiling to improve the thermal envelope, where it also helps dampen external rain noise. And because it’s made from PET plastic, the insulation is highly durable and holds its shape,. While alternatively in the wall cavity it will not slump or sag over time which gives better performance for the life of the building.
COVID-19 and the recent H1 changes have caused big changes throughout the industry, Rob says, with Autex shifting their focus from quite product-specific ranges toward more systems-oriented solutions. “Logistics and freight have been turned upside-down because of the pandemic, but demand in New Zealand remains very strong. Because we typically operate in commercial and high-end residential builds, we’re lucky that we’re able to keep up with and look after our clients incredibly well. But it has changed how we go to market and encouraged us to simplify our range.”
The acoustics side of the business continues to grow very quickly on a global scale, Rob says, with a lot of those products being manufactured here in New Zealand. His focus now is on trying to find longevity with the insulation side of the business. “We need to balance how we continue to expand globally with our local demand for GreenStuf It is all about being able to drive efficiencies while still staying true to the GreenStuf brand. We also want to keep pushing better building with respect to the updated building code, and producing quality insulation here in New Zealand. We’re a really proud Kiwi business made up of innovators and engineers, but we’re also much more than an insulation manufacturer. We really care about and look after our people.”
To learn more about Rob’s work, visit https://www.autexglobal.com/nz/ and https://greenstuf.co.nz/ and follow GreenStuf on LinkedIn.