A Chilean subsidiary of the world’s market leader in window coverings and architectural products develops its own alternatives to respond to the exacting demands of Latin American professionals. Susana Baumann profiles HunterDouglas Chile, which has been assisting architects in their projects.
The concept of “sustainable” or “sustainability” was born in the 1990s to refer to the idea of reducing the use of energy and specifically, dependency from fossil combustibles. In reality, this is not a new concept. Architecture adopted this concept in the 1960s and 1970s, and successively carried it on with different names such as “green,” “ecologically friendly” or “environmental architecture.” Those were the days of self-sufficient homes, semi-grounded projects or super-insulation systems.
HunterDouglas, a company of Dutch origin founded in 1919, rapidly became a pioneer and leader in the industry of window coverings. Its products are found in homes and buildings around the world, as a result of its application to architectural projects that dealt with energy savings.
HunterDouglas today operates three commercial segments: windows covering, home and architectural products. A highly decentralized conglomerate of small- and medium-sized companies manufacturing and marketing similar products that respond to the local markets, HunterDouglas fosters a dynamic and performance-oriented management style with total autonomy.
“Our company’s internal slogan is `maximum accountability with minimum interference’ and in my many years of management at HunterDouglas Chile, I have seen these concepts work with the best results,” said Patricio Mardones, general director for Chile and Latin America.
The company’s industrial plant is located in San Bernardo on a 50,000-square-meter property with a 25,000-square-meter facility, and the commercial offices in Santiago, with a total of over 400 employees. HunterDouglas Chile commercializes an ample variety of products such as coverings, roofs and metallic ceilings under the Luxalon brand name. The company also distributes Luxaflex window coverings, Venetian and vertical blinds.
“According to the company’s guidelines, we develop proprietary products for specific projects, usually at architects’ requests. Our facility has two divisions, window coverings and architectural products, which include metal claddings, sun louvers and aerofoils, metal roof tiles and wooden products. For 40 years, we had the autonomy to develop innovative products, which later became part of the company’s brand names,” said Mardones.
The real success of the Latin America operation, with representatives in Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina and manufacturing facilities in Chile and Colombia, is based on a direct marketing strategy to design professionals. “We work directly with architects and design professionals, we support schools and associations as well as universities and colleges financing and publishing books and offering presentations,” said Mardones.
Through its 25 distributors, the company estimates each project according to the professional’s specifications with custom-made solutions.
With annual production of 500,000 square meters of window coverings and eight to 10 tons of aluminum, the company has high quality standards supported by an ISO 9001 certification. The company also follows local and international environmental regulations.
Ninety percent of the production is aimed at metallic products and 10 percent utilizes wood. “Wood is mainly utilized for high design, high performance ceilings, using traditional woods such as oak and cedar, and also exotic Latin American species,” Mardonas explained.
BEAUTIFUL AND FUNCTIONAL
The Luxalon Software 25 panel is a unique geometric curved panel to be used as a cladding. It is manufactured plain and perforated with five different patterns. Its design makes it appropriate for acoustic applications as well as sun passive control.
Another popular product is the Thermobrise tilting sun breaker louver, a product designed with a high insulation coefficient specially designed for sun protection and against external noise to cover facades.
Hunter Douglas perforated products are specially manufactured to perform as sun louvers. They are intended to accomplish solar control functionality and also add a modern design advantage to architectural applications. This last concept also applies to metal claddings and metal ceilings. Besides the natural varnish option, different alternative colors as light oak, honey or California oak are applicable to all varieties.
NEVER SAY NO
The company exports 20 percent of its production and has experienced an accelerated growth in the last three years. “The construction market is slow in Chile, with only a 6 to 7 percent expected growth. However, our products have become a commodity in the architects’ array of designing tools. We are practically a boutique offering customized products to our very demanding clients,” Mardones explained.
HunterDouglas architectural products are more than a mere manufactured element but they also mean service and installation advice to the professionals that choose to work with them. For instance, the headquarters for the Central Highway and Vespucio Norte Express, a project designed by architects Alex Brahm, David Bonomi, Marcelo Leturia, Maite Bartolom‚ and Alfredo Mu¤oz utilized the Natura wooden modular ceiling and external metallic covering. The Cumming subway station by architects Gubbins and Burmeister utilized the aluminum tile coverings and ceiling coverings with perforation. The material, aluminum Mill Finish, reflects movement and colors that take place at the station.
“Our leadership position flows directly from continuous innovation within our business, which is the philosophy of our parent company. Innovation in our product lines, manufacturing processes, distribution network and marketing programs are essential in an aggressive market where we are positioned far ahead from our competitors. These innovations come from us as well as from other 19,000 Hunter Douglas employees worldwide. Their talents and skills are the true strength of our organization,” Mardones concluded.