With a record turnover last year, new appointments set to be made and big plans for the future, Architecture Magazine spoke to Managing Director of Aquarian Cladding Systems, Paul Richards, about how far the award-winning external cladding supplier has come and how the company is set to continue its rapid rise.
For Aquarian Cladding, the rise from fledgling company to market leader has been rapid. And the North Somerset and Winchester-based company is not resting on its laurels.
Paul launched Aquarian in 2007 after acquiring a wealth of experience in the ‘supply link’ of the construction industry thanks to working for the UK’s largest brick and timber distributor for more than 20 years.
Starting out by counting bricks and timber in the yard as a junior stock-checker at just 16, he soon moved to the company’s head office and got involved with sales support before becoming a Divisional Director.
From there he was made Cladding Systems Divisional Operations Director before deciding to go it alone. Paul explained: “Having learnt an awful lot about the industry and the marketplace I had some ideas of my own and backed myself to start Aquarian. I wasn’t happy with the status quo and lack of investment in innovation within the construction industry, particularly in the way buildings were clad with slow, wet trades.”
Thanks to his years of experience of supplying cladding to the construction industry, Paul identified an offsite brick panel system produced in Belgium called Gebrik and negotiated an exclusive distribution agreement for the UK.
The system’s success has helped drive Aquarian’s growth and, from Paul working from home on his own at the very start, the company now has 10 employees nationally, has increased turnover fourfold over the past four years and has to date supplied more than 350,000 sqm of brick cladding across nearly 400 projects throughout the UK.
The company has made one recent appointment and is set to make another one this month to cope with the increasing demand for its Gebrik brick cladding and terracotta rain screen systems.
Quality products, first-class technical support, a customer-focused approach and strong supply chain relationships are the reasons why Aquarian stand out in what is a very competitive market.
Paul said: “The way we do things makes a difference for our suppliers and customers. We have succeeded thanks to our focus on providing that special level of personal service that all supply chains need but too often fail to achieve.”
As an example, Aquarian created a unique Approved Installers Network for its Gebrik Cladding System to ensure the installation of its products is right first time, rather than have to respond to avoidable problems on site.
Meeting the challenges
The ban of combustible cladding on residential buildings, hospitals and schools in England and Wales above 18m, and the uncertainty of Brexit, proved hugely challenging market conditions last year and despite conditions remaining tough, Aquarian’s 2019 Q1 was up 10% on 2018.
For Paul, it’s all about how Aquarian have tackled these headwinds to make sure they are still at the forefront of the industry.
“Conditions have been tough. Our challenge as a responsible supplier is to educate the market and demonstrate to our clients that our system remains safe for use for hotels and offices above 18m and all buildings below,” said Paul.
With the only materials approved for external walls for the above buildings above 18m being A1 and A2 class materials such as clay, metal, stone, or glass, Aquarian’s terracotta rainscreen cladding system is becoming more and more popular.
An eye on the future
Mindful of the long-term future, Aquarian Holdings was created in 2018, Paul concludes: “It’s been a fantastic 12 years for us, and our customers, and we feel we have everything in place to continue to drive forward for the future. It’s a really exciting time at Aquarian Cladding.”
For more information on Aquarian Cladding Systems:
t: 0808 223 9080