Autoclaved Aerated concrete and you - how did it all start back then?
For me, autoclaved aerated concrete is deeply linked with Ytong. And Ytong and I met in 1984 at the former Ytong factory in Hamm, Germany. I was 22 years old at the time, in the middle of my architecture studies. A friend suggested that I apply for a part-time job there. The former head of assembly components, with whom I am still connected through our "Old Ytong Group" that meets regularly, looked at my, let's say, slim figure in a checkered shirt and just asked if I could also draw (laughs). I affirmed, and that's how I got involved. I then drew installation plans, also swept the floor, later cut special components, and even took on a shift. It was a good, very relaxed and camaraderie-filled time. And so it was clear to me after completing my studies: I wanted to continue being a part of this.
What happened next?
From November 1986, I worked in the internal service Bausatzhaus and assembly components for about 4 years, then I switched to sales. That's when my image as a 'Ytong man through and through' solidified. During the construction boom of the 90s and into the 2000s, my focus was on establishing Ytong modular wall panels in the German market. That fascinated me immensely. In 1996, we built the first 15 houses of a specific standardized house type using system wall elements in Bochum, delivering them to our customers. By '97, we were already in the triple digits. In the year 2000, it was 1,200, and then another 800 houses.
During that time, we spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, coordinating with our colleagues there and learning from them, as they had been offering this system for much longer. It was good to be able to tap into this international pool of experience - and to receive some pushback if an idea wasn't that great. That knowledge transfer was very valuable.
Was knowledge transfer also your focus later?
Exactly. Advising on our autoclaved aerated concrete, planning projects together with customers, and finding the best solutions is what fulfills me in my job. It has always been that way. If I believe in something, I also advocate for it - and I passionately enjoy talking about it. For example, my sales colleagues often ask me to accompany them directly to customers for certain specific topics that require explanation, such as Ytong partition wall panels.
What are the special features and advantages of autoclaved aerated concrete for you?
Autoclaved aerated concrete is simply a great invention that was groundbreaking in its time and still is today. It was developed in Sweden back then to create an alternative to wood, with considerations of ecology, ease of processing, and advantages in handling on the construction site. These properties have remained relevant for a whole 100 years. And in the end, you have a wall with excellent thermal insulation properties - keeping the heat outside during the summer and in the winter the cozy temperature inside.
So, is AAC the building material of the future?
Yes, it is! There are many products that are useful depending on the task at hand, but autoclaved aerated concrete offers numerous advantages in various scenarios. The strategic orientation of the project developer plays a crucial role in the consultation process. Factors such as the regional aspect and the CO2 footprint of the building material are important aspects that carry more and more weight - and that we, as Xella, can fulfill. Due to its diverse product properties, you have to consult on autoclaved aerated concrete more than on sand-lime brick. But this consultation time is well invested when, in the end, you have a design that is ecologically, sustainably, and strategically long-term oriented. That's why I enjoy talking about Ytong so much."