We sat down with Lars Anders, Managing Director of Priedemann to understand his approach to the market and his view of the industry.
How long have you been in the industry and what are some of your stand out projects?
To be honest, I´ve been in the facade industry for nearly my whole lifetime. My father had a locksmith’s shop in Berlin, which I took over and grew up to 55 employees. We had a lot of big projects in the newly reunified Berlin, the whole country was in a gold rush mood. But some clients decided for against paying, or paying later and less, that was fatal for many smaller and owner led businesses. So I turned from manufacturing to consulting and engineering.
With my entry to Priedemann and my engagement as one of the managing directors, we extended our services from consultancy for architects and developers to engineering and advice for the executing players in the construction process. So we used my hands-on experience as well as the knowledge of many in our company who came originally also from facade fabricators.
If you ask me about my biggest project challenges, I remember quite well a long-gone time, the early 90ies. At that time we carried out the work for one of Zaha Hadid´s early projects, in Berlin-Kreuzberg, as the fabricator in charge. That had robbed me of my sleep, but finally it was a great honour and promotion for my young enterprise.
Later followed our first Priedemann shop drawing job for a complex facade design. It was a twisted 220 m tower in Kuwait and a local fabricator took us on board to support him entirely in all issues of production and assembling preparation. By learning the lessons we boosted our knowledge and broke a lot of our own records, not at least due to the thousands of drawings and 3D data files which were needed. In the end, together we reached the aim, in time, quality and budget. Thus I´m absolutely thankful until this days for the trust we received from our client Alico and the architects Norr and Al Jazera.
And yes, we are always brave enough to assume new challenges, as we did it with one of our current projects in Russia, previously for Foster + Partners and now for our Russian client Diamond. It´s the new headquarters for the Russian Copper Company in Ekaterinburg – Siberia, the facade elements are two storey high and measures up to 12 x 6 m. We created a hybrid facade solution with steel and aluminium to tackle the enormous loads up to 6 tonnes per element. Furthermore we redeveloped the fabricators production process, among others by placing welding robots, which we fed with the 3D files we prepared. And now the production is running, it all works and in the meanwhile almost all elements are installed.
The key question…in summary, how do you bring value to your clients and best integrate with the consultant design team?
There is no standard recipe. Projects, team members and the setting of tasks are always different. No matter at which stage, or which party takes us on board, we can get involved in a project anytime. For us it starts with listening and learning to get an understanding of what is the real demand. As soon as we have that understanding of the initial intent, we can create a tailored facade solution and strategy.
It´s also about the experience what mainly drives a client and for sure it is different if we work for architects or main contractors for instance. As our staff come from almost all parts in the construction sector, we have that grasp to absorb what the client is looking for. And in the long run we have the toughness and capacities to bring the project from the first sketch until finalization up to the last nail on site. The experience from doing and the knowledge from research & development as an integrated part of Priedemann allows us to bring early ideas to their final destination. And simply said it´s always about the right balance between quality, timeline and budget. So the value we are able to add to a certain project, is quite simple. It is not only talking about a nice facade solution, but it is about evolving a comprehensive concept we can really bring to life and which works for the expected building life cycle. And finally to bear the liability for our doing.
What are the top 3 lessons you’ve learnt in your career that facade contractors should adopt?
To make it short:
Firstly: Rely on your experience and learn new lessons. Don´t stuck in a >We have always done it that way< mode.
Secondly: Cherish and care for your proven network but at the same time be open minded for new business.
Thirdly: Focus on your key skills, strengthen and widen them out.
In your opinion, why is it so difficult for façade contractors to survive and thrive in today’s market?
Depends on the market. As practitioners with global experience we’ve learnt a lot and sometimes painful lessons too. But there are not always and everywhere only struggling markets. In Germany we can see a quite reliable market these days, investors appreciate the safe political and economic situation. At the same time we had to find different strategies for our Istanbul office. With that example I want to say, you have to be flexible and it´s pretty helpful to have a further leg to stand on.
The competitors don’t sleep and there are many highly motivated and technological developed fabricators, just even in Eastern Europe, not to mention the well-known big names. The technological progress is faster than ever and sometimes for smaller companies it´s not easy to bear the necessary investment for machines and knowledge or to follow and take on new trends.
How do you see the role of architects in relation to façade design currently and moving forward?
The architect will remain to be the key person to design a project and to organize and integrate the specialist’s contributions. Pending on a local plot, situation and the certain circumstances he will create the appropriate idea, as he has always done. Design tools like Rhino, Grasshopper, Revit and others may allow him to create free forms and to push the boundaries of well-tried architecture. Maybe he´ll lose more and more his role as the generalist, while always more experts are needed in the construction process. However in the end, especially in an integrated team, he will remain to be the professional who is in charge to bring everything together for the final masterpiece.