With a diverse range of products, unparalleled environmental agenda and ongoing educational commitment, Verosol is a go-to for any design professional looking for window furnishings that perform exceptionally, look the part - and help score points on their Green Star Building project.
Here, Verosol’s Managing Director, Jules Di Bartolomeo, talks to us about the shifting nature of innovation, explains why fostering design freedom has always been one of the brand’s main priorities - and lets us in on how to achieve best practice with performance window coverings where Environmentally Sustainable Design and Section J are concerned.
We can’t talk about Verosol without talking about innovation. In 1965, Verosol founder Cornelis Verolme developed a process of applying a microscopic layer of aluminium to textile, to create innovative performance fabrics. This process of metallisation of fabrics is, to this day, completely unique, and while the company has further refined the invention - with SilverScreen as its most coveted expression - the competition has failed to come close. What role does innovation play at Verosol today?
Since glass was becoming a prevalent feature in the built environment at the time, Verosol was born out of the desire to create a better environment inside buildings. That has shifted, and innovation has become not only about creating a better environment on the inside, but also externally. Now, the way we make products is as important as the effect they have on the environment. All of our manufacturing plants in Australia and in Holland are powered by solar energy, and the drive to create sustainable solutions that generate a more sustainable environment is firmly entrenched in our DNA.
But there is also another side of our innovation efforts. Offering architects and designers a true design freedom and ensuring they don’t have to forego performance to achieve a beautiful aesthetic has always been one of our main priorities. Over the years, we've enhanced the performance of our products, but we’ve also become very flexible in terms of enabling industry professionals to tailor colours to their specific project requirements or vision. And because we know that not every building requires a high-performing solution, we have been developing other products, too. We have pushed our design capabilities and while we are global leaders in performance products, we also offer high-quality non-metallised fabrics and different types of external and internal rollers, shutters and draped curtains, to name a few.
Do you think this ability to recognise where to focus Verosol’s innovation has helped the company maintain its undisputed position as a global leader in this space?
Regardless of colour, our metallised products offer the same performance, energy savings, reduction of CO2 - and reduction of costs. We have been innovating it for years, and we’re very proud of that achievement. And that also comes down to the fact that we manufacture our products here, in Australia, and spend more time checking them than making them. We take great pride in having extremely low error rates, and take ensuring that our products not only look but work exceptionally well incredibly seriously.
Between the ongoing commitment to creating better environments for people to work and live, Verosol’s long-standing membership with Green Building Council of Australia - and supporting green building schemes such as Greenstar, LEED, WELL and BREEAM with points through products utilising performance fabrics, what’s your sustainability focus at the moment? And what role do certifications play in advancing the agenda?
Accountability and transparency are extremely important to us. The majority of our core products are Global Green Tag as well as GREENGUARD Gold certified, and hold Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and Health Product Declaration (HPD). This commitment to transparency is also why we already provide energy reports, which lay out both energy and cost savings, and we’re about to start issuing carbon neutrality reports. So when you buy and you put up one of our products, we'll tell you how many days before it becomes carbon neutral.
We’re also committed to ensuring that our supply chain is sustainable. We work with a range of organisations, such as Global Green Tag, who thoroughly check the supply chain - from the chemicals used on the yarn to our factories and production practices - before awarding the certification. We’ve recently completed work with Global Green Tag on Best Environmental Practice PVC for our PVC-based metallised performance screen fabrics. I believe we are the only brand in Australia to currently hold a Best Practice PVC rating for internal window coverings.
As part of their potent sustainability profile, performance fabrics can help advance Environmentally Sustainable Design frameworks. How can Verosol products help achieve that?
This is particularly exciting for us because it really goes back to the founding principles of Verosol, and the focus on the environments inside the buildings.
Our metallised blinds do two important things. The main thing that everyone thinks about is the fact that they can reflect up to 85% of solar radiation, which reduces energy required to cool down the building rather substantially. But in the colder months, our blinds can also be used to harvest the sun. You can put them up to allow the sun in, and then put the blinds down again to keep the warmth in. So there are energy and cost savings where heating is involved, too.
And so our products can help provide a healthier indoor environment by maintaining a consistent climate inside the building, and minimising heat and glare, while reducing CO2 and energy consumption all year round - without obstructing the view nor access to natural light. So they can reduce the environmental impact of the construction, generate a healthier environment - and improve energy efficiency while decreasing the costs. One of the recent projects that used our products saw cost savings of over half a million dollars.
Window coverings can help industry professionals surpass the National Construction Code (NCC 2019) – Section J energy efficiency requirements. Why is it so important to reach beyond compliance itself and what role can automation play in achieving that?
The standards set out in Section J are the bare minimum, and it’s crucial to reach beyond it. Our performance products can definitely help them surpass these basic requirements - and the best way to achieve best practice in terms of window coverings is to use high performance products along with automation technology.
The combination of motorisation, automation, and window furnishing provides enormous benefits with the high performance fabrics. There is a symbiotic relationship here which results in having the best performing textiles on a window in the right place, at the right time, all the time - and without the need for human intervention. And that really is the epitome of integration between humans and their living and working environments - no matter what industry vertical.
These opportunities around Section J, ESD and automation highlight the importance of education in navigating some of the industry’s complexities. Verosol is the only window covering company with formerly accredited CPDs. Two are already in the market - and two more are coming by the end of the year. Why is education so important from your point of view?
One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that a blind is just a blind. It’s really important to give industry professionals the right information so they can make more conscious, better choices. That’s why one of our CPDs is an introduction to window furnishings. It builds a basic understanding of the colours and types of furnishings - and an insight into how window solutions can make or break a project.
Similarly, we’re passionate about educating industry on the potential of high performance solutions in the context of ESD, where passive design and occupational comfort are concerned. As an extension of that, we try to take the fear out of Section J and our CPD offers well thought-out solutions on how to take a project to another level, and reduce the construction costs along the way.
Our next CPD will focus on the importance of automation and motorisation. With the ability to connect to the lighting system, the Building Management System (BMS), electronic devices or a phone app, it’s really important to educate the industry on what automation can and can’t do, how to go about it - and how to maximise its benefits in conjunction with performance fabrics.
And the last CPD we’re working on is about sustainability and certifications. It’s something we’re hoping to engage both Global Green Tag and Green Building Council of Australia, to help architects, designers and specifiers understand different levels of certifications and offer pointers on what to look for.
And what does the future hold - for, and with, Verosol?
As strong believers of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, we’re on a clear path of sustainability. We’re focusing on features, and ways to conduct our business, that advance that goal. We also want to continue producing products that keep pushing the boundaries of design and performance, which includes coming up with new window covering solutions to enable architects and designers to be creative and not have to hold back on great design.
As a result, collaboration with architects and designers will become a much bigger part of our business moving forward, because we want to work with people who use our products, and give them the design freedom they need to deliver exceptional - and exceptionally sustainable - results.