We have recently participated in a fair in Finland, Norway and The Netherlands to talk about, what Hi-Con can add of knowledge, products and solutions within the industry of balconies, staircases and bridges (bridges are currently only a business area in The Netherlands).
Our unique High Performance Concrete creates the possibility for being innovative, which is why we always evaluate every project with a fresh perspective. This approach benefits the whole process, because the types of solutions best suited for any given project will be different.
Furthermore, the different point of views from the respective stakeholders in the various markets must be accounted for, as the power of influence throughout the supply chain differs.
Well, what is the difference between our markets – let us have a look!
Architect Days, Helsinki – Finland
The Finnish market has only just discovered Hi-Con’s slim and special solutions, which is why the balconies and staircases are very popular. Therefore, we stand out positively from the crowd of conventional concrete products. For architects it is more about aesthetics, for engineers it is about the light weight and strength combined, and for developers it is the durability that piques the interest.
Our balcony solutions are mostly for box balconies, because of the demand of glazing and not having balconies placed as a tower outside the building. Especially for those projects we can offer much lighter solutions than if the project was built with conventional concrete elements. Also, there are many renovation, office and apartment projects in the capitol area that need small and lightweight cantilevered balconies.
When it comes to staircase projects, our accordion staircases are the most popular ones. Our High Performance Concrete looks exotically slim and different from the stairs that have been used for decades in Finland, which is why they are so popular.
In fact, the durability and lightness also provide great opportunities for façade projects, which just emphasises the possibilities with High Performance Concrete.
Architect @ Work, Oslo – Norway
The fair was well attended and a total of 1,000 architects were present, and a lot of the architects spoke positively about our solutions created with High Performance Concrete.
However, the challenge in the Norwegian market is, the architect does not have the same influence when it comes to decisions in projects as in, for instance, Denmark. You will therefore experience great enthusiasm from architects who wants to build with us, but in the end, it is the contractor who decides and, in some cases, “take away” what is drawn, if they think other options are less costly.
Our High Performance Concrete is typically compared to ordinary concrete, and because High Performance Concrete is more expensive to manufacture pr. m3, this could be considered as a disadvantage. But, you cannot compare High Performance Concrete with ordinary concrete directly, which is why one of the big challenges in Norway is, to be able to show all the advantages our High Performance Concrete provides, to the project as a whole.
For instance, our High Performance Concrete balconies could make the project considerably cheaper, even though our solutions in direct comparison have a higher price than regular concrete balconies. This can be explained by the fact that, due to lower weight, the cost for foundations, reinforcement, brackets etc. can be reduced, or the thickness of plates over parking basements can be reduced, installation made faster etc.
Our balcony solutions are indeed High Performance, because we can use it to create larger balconies cantilevered without columns – in fact, the balconies can have a total cantilever up to 3.5 meters! Furthermore, the low weight on the balconies is extremely important when it comes to renovation projects, because of the limitations with attachment possibilities in the old façade and the possibility for fast and easy installment.
When it comes to stairs, clients are more concerned with solutions and great looks, which has led us to have many projects with stairs in the Norwegian market. Interest in finished facades is also increasing, and several requests are continuously being worked on.
Renovation Fair, Hertogenbosch – The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, the balcony market can be divided into balconies for new apartments and for the renovation and transformation market of old offices. Our balconies are chosen for the new construction solutions because of the aesthetic appearance (slender) and the possibilities to realize substantially larger balcony surfaces. Regarding renovation and transformation projects there is, in fact, only one important aspect which is weight saving!
The slimness of our product is a nice additional aspect, and we often solve a structural problem for a client: replacing or expanding old balconies with the latest techniques. We see a trend in the Netherlands which is, you should be able to offer a complete component balcony: including assembly, fencing, demolition work and preliminary design.
We all know the benefits of our products, but it is also important to highlight some of the most frequent topics regarding the Dutch market, which is light weight and slimness, lifespan, easy assembly, durability and less dirt adhesion.
In the Dutch market, the balconies are our most popular business area among architects and clients. When the opportunity arises, we usually also take part in between 2 and 5 special stair projects per year.
At last, but certainly not to forget: the super slim bridges! The Netherlands is a country where the main part of the country is below sea level, which means The Netherlands is filled with rivers and canals. This creates an opportunity with our High Performance Concrete, towards a currently major replacement issue in the Netherlands.
The difference between our markets
The perception of High Performance Concrete in the markets is often the comparison between ordinary concrete and High Performance Concrete, and therefore it is natural to draw the conclusion that our solutions are more expensive. The general perception of Hi-Con in the markets are as a supplier of products within the concrete industry, and then the challenge is to raise awareness in the markets focusing on what we really do; create high performance solutions in High Performance Concrete!
The unique selling point differs depending on the markets – for instance, in the Netherlands our balconies are chosen for the new construction solutions, because of the aesthetic appearance and the possibility for a substantially larger balcony surface. In Finland, one the focus points are the box balconies because of the demand of glazing and not having balconies placed as tower outside the building. In the Norwegian market, we meet great enthusiasm from the architects who wants to create new and exciting solutions, but in the end, it is the contractor who has the final decision.
Although the challenges and point of interests might be different across our markets, we are confident of our high performing employees and our High Performance Concrete, and we are ready to explore the possibilities in all our markets!
Thank you for reading the post, feel free to leave a comment and questions below.
Morten W. S. Johannesen
Group Brand Manager