Urban's Q&A with Martin Vana from Source Corp Victoria

Urban's Q&A with Martin Vana from Source Corp Victoria
Nicholas FaillaMay 28, 2020

Urban: Sourcecorp is the distributor of Fibo panels in Australia. Fibo is founded in Norway and supplies interlocking Waterproof Wall Panels throughout Northern Europe, Great Britain and North America. When bringing Fibo into Australia, what were some of the issues of concern (e.g. climate) when considering Fibo’s suitability for Australian consumers?

Martin: Our assessment of Fibo was managed in the same way as every other product we import.  Prior to launching Fibo in Australia, Sourcecorp had imported wall lining products from China and the United Kingdom.  In particular, Sourcecorp had acted as the representative of another waterproof wall panel product sourced from Scotland.  After visiting the Fibo facility in Lyngdal, Southern Norway, and reviewing the extensive body of testing the company had undertaken we quickly decided to change suppliers.  Not that the previous waterproof product was of poor quality, it is simply our belief that Fibo is a superior manufacturer with a greater commitment to quality assurance processes.  This was not only shown by the array of tests completed but also the accreditations that Fibo had received.  To top this off, we have had Fibo tested against Australian Standards as required under the Building Code of Australia and ultimately the Fibo System has been CodeMark Australia certified by Bureau Veritas.  This proves that Fibo is suitable as a waterproof system under Australian conditions.  The CodeMark certification also indicates any limitations to the product’s use.  The significantly cheaper supply price was the cream on the cake.

It can be challenging to find products that are suitable across Australia due to the varying building code requirements and diverse climates.  While Sourcecorp has not as yet installed Fibo in northern Australian regions, there have been many cases of the product being used in a broad range of climates from the freezing Arctic to the balmy Southern USA.  The one area that we know we must always pay great attention is to installation.  Sourcecorp is growing its base of experienced Fibo installers with hands-on support.  With any building material, we know that a product or system is only as good as its last installation.

Urban: Ever since introducing Fibo to Australian households, has there been any significant changes in terms of consumers’ preferences? What has been the response?

Martin: Most bathrooms do not receive much in the way of natural light, so in these spaces designers predominantly employ lighter decors, particularly white to create a sense of volume and a clean crisp look.  This is most important in laundries, ensuites and bathrooms.  Often when wishing to add a personal touch many customers add a feature wall, which adds a dramatic designer feel to any room.  While Sourcecorp does stock Fibo in Australia, it is not currently practical to hold the entire range of over 500 different product lines.  Unstocked lines are ordered with Sourcecorp’s regular shipments and take between 10 – 15 weeks to arrive - subject to volume and décor type. In most cases we first start talking to clients while they are planning their works which gives us time to import any line the client wants from the Fibo range.  This is generally the case for commercial projects. 

We find the response to Fibo improves dramatically once a potential customer or architect has seen an installation and touched the product.  We encourage interested parties to visit our Collingwood (Victoria) showroom for this purpose.  Having said that, if a potential sale warrants it, we are prepared to travel.  

Without doubt many customers are attracted to Fibo because it is a grout-free system.  The benefits are obvious.  This is particularly important within commercial buildings that are subject to rigorous, frequent cleaning.  Fibo cuts cleaning costs and also reduces the impact of harmful cleaning agents on their cleaning staff and the environment.

Urban: Homebuyers today are more inclined to go for eco-friendly and sustainable materials because they see it as a long term investment. How does the design and function of Fibo suit this demand?

Martin: Fibo is made of plywood sandwiched between the backing and decorative facing layers of high pressure laminate.  Fibo is a wholly sustainable product that both stores carbon and has very low embodied energy caused by its production and transportation.  To illustrate this credential, when compared to ceramic wall tiles an equivalent Fibo installation weighs about 25% per sq metre.  That represents significant reductions in transportation emissions at the beginning and end of life of the product. 

Fibo sources all of its raw materials responsibly and is certified under the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), which is known as ‘Responsible Wood’ in Australia.  Further Fibo has subjected its products to independent audits in preparing an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which is an objective scientific assessment of the environmental impact of the product from sourcing raw materials to end of life management. Finally, because the panels are easily cleaned there is less need for chemical cleaning agents, which reduces downstream damage to our water treatment systems.

Urban's Q&A with Martin Vana from Source Corp Victoria
Image supplied.

Urban: What are some of the measures that Sourcecorp has taken to ensure that its products (e.g. wall panels, aluminium windows etc.) meet the preference of its customers in terms of sustainable design?

Martin: We have always subjected our products to independent scrutiny so we are clear about the performance of the materials we supply.  The key for Sourcecorp is to thoroughly understand a client’s requirements and match product that is certifiably fit for the intended purpose.

Urban: Has COVID-19 affected the condition of building materials that Sourcecop has? How do you think this will shape your industry?

Martin: In 2020 we expect to see a greater percentage of Government works as part of economic stimulus initiatives.  Private works that have already commenced will continue to completion, however we do expect there to be a general contraction in private work as banks and property developers reassess property valuations.  This will almost certainly lead to less private enquiries as projects are postponed.  The emergence of the off-site (Modular) construction industry may benefit from covid-19, whereby the shutdown and need for social distancing may be a catalyst for works to move to a system that reduces congestion on building sites.

More regular cleaning and sanitising routines may result in commercial building managers looking for products that have lower maintenance costs.  We expect that industries such as tourism and hospitality to be heavily affected for at least another two years.

Nicholas Failla

Nicholas is a content writer and graphic designer who is passionate about cities, architecture, urban planning and sustainable communities.

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