Antony didn't know anything about building facades until he started an internship with Technoform in Germany nearly a decade ago. He quickly realised the huge discrepancies between building standards in Germany and those he grew up with in New Zealand. "New Zealand facades perform incredibly poorly in comparison. I realised that we're decades behind the rest of the world. And, in that, I saw a business opportunity." He returned to New Zealand and has been working on thermal break solutions with window suppliers here ever since.
Technoform's thermal breaks slow the path of heat escaping from conductive aluminium window frames, keeping the inside of the frame warm and reducing the risk of condensation. They have invented a plastic and stainless-steel spacer which separates the panes of glass in your double-glazed windows. "It provides a perfect separation between the internal environment and the external environment," Antony says.
So why do we still have such an insulation deficit in New Zealand homes? "There is a lack of leadership from the government on regulatory change," Antony says. "Our building code hasn't been updated since 2007. We are decades behind the rest of the world on thermal performance."
Technoforms National Specification Manager, Matthew Torrie, is eager for New Zealand consumers to know that quality insulation should be the norm they expect in their homes. "This is not new or innovative technology. This is not bespoke. My grandfathers' grandfathers had this available to them, but it's not available to us here in New Zealand because we're too busy doing what we've always done. The Number 8 Wire mentality has allowed us to fall generations behind."
Both Antony and Matthew hold health and wellbeing as a key focus of Technoform's work. With most New Zealand homes using highly conductive aluminium window frames that allow heat to escape, Kiwis are living in cold houses which are filled with condensation and mould. This then gets onto curtains and walls and attacks our respiratory systems. "Every year we're spending $7b on respiratory illnesses. And every winter 1600 Kiwis are dying of respiratory illnesses which can be attributed to damp, cold housing solutions. This is unacceptable," says Antony. "Our living environments are killing us needlessly," adds Matthew.
There is a misconception that we don't need to insulate buildings as well here because the New Zealand climate isn't as cold as other European markets. And many architects are reluctant to push for it due to (often unfounded) concerns about the cost.
"You don’t go and get a wet jumper off the washing line and put it on, do you? So why would you live in a damp home? We should be insulating our buildings like we insulate ourselves. It just seems like common sense," says Matthew.
Technoform has performed surprisingly well through this year's pandemic, but they are still looking ahead to how to diversify and improve their offering. The next step, says Antony, is external insulation which he thinks could be a game changer. "So far we've worked exclusively with windows which make up only 30% of the facade. We recently started wondering how we could approach the other 70%. The timber and steel studs in your walls are all more conductive than the insulation between them. Imagine building a dam that doesn't span the full width of the river. Putting insulation in your walls around the timber is like damming only the middle We're on a journey to explore external insulation and how we can eliminate those thermal bridges in the other 70% of your home's facade."
"Heat's lazy. It wants to find the path of least resistance"
In the short term, Technoform is working with customers remotely, leveraging existing relationships, and taking their presence online. In their upcoming Teulo session, Matthew says that he hopes to expand their reach even further, and to open up a new way of thinking that helps bring us in line with global trends that have already been in place elsewhere for decades.
"At 5 o'clock, I go home and live in the same environment as the rest of New Zealanders," he says. "I need to help all of us make it affordable to heat our homes without that money being wasted out the windows. What is best for New Zealand is also what is best for all of us.”
To learn more about Matthew and Antony and their work at Technoform, head to https://www.technoform.com/en/clip