Nicola Leonardi: You have been at the company throughout your career. How do you think the company has changed and how has the approach to an ever changing market adapted? Jørgen Tang-Jensen: I’ve been at Velux for 32 years and I’ve been lucky enough to have different roles in different countries. This has really helped me to understand what is going on around the globe. Velux has changed a lot, keeping up with the times to make sure it is never caught short in the face of international change. We have always placed a lot of emphasis on looking after resources, initially working to eliminate waste and, later, on technological innovation, setting new energy efficiency standards for our products. There are fashionable trends, but we believe that constantly seeking to reduce the amount of energy we use at home will never go out of fashion. We spend about 90% of our time indoors, so it is extremely important that inside is synonymous with having the ideal conditions to make the most of natural elements and avoid waste.
N. L.: One of the strong points of Velux is having a brand that represents the brand, the product and the company at the same time. How do you think this helps you in today’s market? What challenges lie behind this opportunity? J. T. J.: Velux is probably the best known global brand for construction materials, but the origins of the name are probably less famous. It comes from “Ve” in ventilation and “Lux”, meaning light in Latin. It really was a stroke of genius as our goal is to improve living conditions through natural light and fresh air and it is a word that is easy to pronounce in any language. There are, of course, potential drawbacks from having a strong brand. In some countries, Velux has become the generic term for roof windows. This potentially leads to a “degeneration of the brand” and a loss of the brand rights. People who buy our products expect a combination of perfection and an ability to keep the rain, wind and snow out for decades and decades. So, it is critical that the Velux logo is always synonymous with the highest quality.
N. L.: Sustainability is essentially a very local concept and depends heavily on the climate. How are Velux products customised from country to country? J. T. J.: We face the challenge of differing climates by studying solutions that use different types of glass, gas and filters. The goal is to provide a product that is optimal for each situation and reduces energy consumption in relation to the climate in each country.
N. L.: You launched the idea of “living laboratories” a few years back. This really was an exceptional thing to do as it means you can better understand and monitor how your products are performing in a given setting. Are you happy with this approach? Was it a strategy that was decided on in advance? J. T. J.: We’ve built 6 houses in 6 different European countries to learn more about the influence of the climate on a building. We had a family move into each house so that we could focus on optimising the construction techniques to ensure an ideal micro-climate and lower energy consumption. We gathered as much data as we could so that we could use such information in developing our products.
N. L.: Home automation was added to Velux to open up growth opportunities for the company. How can such technology be developed to ensure end users find it both simple and useful? J. T. J.: We worked with specialist engineers to develop technology that is simple to understand and can work with the new generation of Velux windows. This gives users a simple interface that helps reduce energy consumption and leaves us with the task of working out the best settings for sunscreens or whether windows should be open given the weather conditions.
N. L.: Velux has joined the “active house protocol”. How does this work and what’s your role? J. T. J.: We started from the concept of a “passive house”, although this is now a dated idea, and focused on cutting energy consumption in winter, without taking into account general living comfort. To get to the idea of an “active house” and ensure excellent comfort in the house plus energy efficiency over the year, we worked with experts from universities and other companies. Our job is to promote this new concept, develop new technologies that fit the concept and then disseminate them as much as possible.
N. L.: You clearly place great attention on avant-garde design, using new materials and technologies. I know that Velux is launching a whole new generation of windows. What are your thoughts about this launch? What is new? J. T. J.: The trend is toward perfect thermal insulation for all building components, but this is not easily applied to windows since they are there to let light and fresh air into a house. The new generation of Velux windows allow just such a combination, with excellent heat insulation and large glazed areas.
N. L.: How do you see collaboration between the various parties who play an active role in creating a house? Would better communication between companies, constructors, architects, investors and so on ensure a better end product? J. T. J.: Definitely. Yet, having so many people involved would definitely run the risk of failure. Things can go wrong and there is no solution, unless it is a “type house”, in which case the specific goal makes everything easier. It is not a linear process, but in our own little way we are trying to streamline it to reduce errors and the consequent disappointment.