Customer reference - Lothar Wählen

Cover: Photography:  Wahlen. Management Wahlen From left to right: Maximillian Wahlen, Löthar Wahlen, Michael Scheppenhors.

Ventilated façades as a second mainstay: a roofer shows the way

“Together with my brother, we have been the fifth generation to take over the management of ‘Wählen. Das Dach. Die Fassade’, a family company that has been around for 140 years”, as Max Wählen points out right away. “Our father, though, is still actively involved – something to be expected in a business that has been family-owned and operated since its inception, back in 1881”. Indeed, ‘Wählen’, a leading roofing and façade contractor in Aachen in the Land of Nordrhein-Westfalen, just across the border from Belgium and the Netherlands, has little left to prove in terms of experience and know-how. Max Wählen adds: “We are not, by the way, roofing experts who happen to do façades as well: for us, and this is true for the whole profession in Germany, the latter are a mainstay. Façades are in fact an integral part of a roofer’s vocational training”.

What sets ‘Wählen’ apart is the company’s in-depth expertise when it comes to façade projects, a fact directly related to the team size: with a headcount of 30, ‘Wählen’ is significantly larger than most competitors. In addition, many team members have been with the company for years. Last but not least, ‘Wählen’ runs its own training programme to constantly improve on the team’s abilities and knowledge.

Ventilated façades: a major activity

Max Wählen makes it clear: “We have been dealing with ventilated façades for 40 years, and we started working with Trespa 30 years ago. As façades account for roughly 50% of our activity, I think that we are indeed façade experts. In 2019, we have installed a total of 5,000m² of ventilated façades, 75% of which are clad with Trespa®  Meteon®  panels. While some years are stronger than others, our expertise becomes all the more obvious when you consider that we regularly tackle particularly demanding projects”. Although this does not mean that the company turns down smaller projects, ‘Wählen’ indeed relishes a good challenge. “One of our regular clients is a chain of drugstores. They have put us in charge of an ongoing, large-scale project: we renovate the façades at various locations with Trespa®  products. The new ventilated façades we keep installing epitomise the current trend: they are increasingly extravagant. Typically, for the shop front in Cologne we are currently working on, we are using a complex combination of trapezoid and triangular panels. The façade will look like an intricate puzzle – it’s quite exciting”.

Valued partners of the architect

With sophisticated façade projects, the architect’s role is central, and ‘Wählen’ is often involved early on in the planning and designing phase. “The architect is looking for a certain skin. But he or she does not necessarily know how to achieve the desired result”, explains Max Wählen. “Then, it’s up to us to make the best of our know-how and come up with the solution. Very often, this means opting for Trespa®  Meteon®. The reasons are obvious: both in terms of versatility and aesthetic potential, Meteon®  cladding is simply unrivalled when it comes to ventilated façades. This is true of the range of finishes and appearances – metal, cement, wood, you name it – and it extends to the highly original effects of the Meteon®  Lumen®  collection, like Diffuse, Oblique and Specular. In addition, the available range of panel sizes make a lot of practical sense”. The various panel sizes (2550 x 1860mm, 3050 x 1530mm, 3650 x 1860mm and 4270 x 2130mm) address a crucial cost issue. Without a close enough match, the amount of cutting waste generated by “crazy” façade designs would become exceedingly costly.“Trespa is clearly in the lead here”, says Max Wählen. “From an economical point of view, minimising material waste can be, quite simply, a make-or-break factor”.  The fact that the panels can be easily cut to size right on the building site deserves a special mention – especially since no special finish is needed on the edges. Drilling the panels is equally straightforward.

In the picture: Udo Wählen, the head of the facade department.  Wählen ©

Unique advantages

Max Wählen finds the flexibility and versatility of the Meteon®  cladding particularly appealing when it comes to achieving refined visual effects and overcoming technical hurdles. “Quite recently, we have installed Trespa® Meteon®  cladding on a curved façade: by choosing a panel thickness of 6mm, we could take advantage of the material’s relative flexibility to bend it, allowing the panels to precisely fit the curvature of the building. Of course, this wouldn’t have been an option had we used a fibre cement cladding”.

He continues: “The specific visual effects are very appealing as well. They help us create subtle variations by using a single colour in different finishes – say a combination of matte, satin and gloss. This will result in a colour depth that clearly sets Meteon®  panels apart. The façades of our own company building come to my mind as well: we wanted them to be black and completely matte, with no reflection whatsoever regardless of the angle. A tall order indeed: to achieve such a result, there is hardly any alternative to the Meteon®  Lumen® panels. Matte, by the way, is currently a favourite with many architects, which makes this uniquely non-reflective Trespa finish all the more attractive”.

Depending on the project specifications, ‘Wählen’ might use cladding sourced from another supplier – be it fibre cement, terracotta, metal or the significantly more expensive GFRC panels (Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete). But Trespa products are definitely in a class of their own, and all things considered, they often end up being the solution of choice. Max Wählen explains: “High pressure laminate (HPL) is immune to stress cracking, highly versatile, dirt and stain-resistant, and the material’s impact strength is astounding. In short, HPL has it all when it comes to demanding applications”. This has not escaped architects: they know that HPL façades, by being enduringly beautiful, will reliably meet all specifications and be valuable additions to their portfolios.

Logistics and support with real added value

Thyssenkrupp Plastics has been supplying ‘Wählen’ with Trespa®  products for many years, and Max Wählen praises his wholesaler for the quality of the provided services: ”As they have a lot of Trespa®  panels in stock, the delivery time for many colours and finishes does not exceed three days, which is rather unusual in our industry. They will cut the panels to size as well, if requested – and they’ll do it fast. We placed an order once for 1,000 m², cut to specific sizes. Within three days, they managed to fulfill and deliver our order. With very large projects, the delivery time will indeed be longer. But it is still only four weeks, give or take a few days – which is much faster than many competitors”.

According to Lothar Wählen, the Trespa customer support is equally outstanding. “To test the partnership between a supplier and a client, nothing is better suited than an serious glitch. We had never been confronted with anything like this before, but it unexpectedly happened with a large project in Mönchengladbach – 2,000m² of ventilated façades on an office building. We were using a Trespa®  Meteon®  cladding with a glossy silver metallic finish that confronted us with rather disturbing colour variations. This was an issue that Martin Holzer, the Trespa representative in charge of our area – who is usually very helpful – could not solve on his own. But he quickly managed to put us in touch with the headquarters, where specialists took over the case. They really impressed me: they were fast, focussed, extremely competent, and highly effective”.

Max Wählen concludes: ”In the end, this issue and the way it was solved only reinforced our trust in the partnership between Trespa and us. We know that we can rely on them, come what may – and in the meantime, the façade in Mönchengladbach looks as stunning as intended, of course!”.