In just over 20 years, Estonian thermally modified wooden materials producer Thermory has grown from a modest cladding and decking operation to a true export tiger, proudly claiming the title of global market leader in its field.
The technology of treating wood to extreme heat for reducing its humidity content is not new, but Thermory has been investing consistently in its further development to achieve an unparalleled level of quality and scale. Wood is placed in specially designed ovens and baked like bread under the watchful eyes of sensors and computers, as each wood type requires different processing. As a result, wood becomes more durable and better protected from the elements without the use of fungicides or pesticides or any chemical treatment.
Thermory started as a simple sauna materials manufacturer in Estonia, but soon began collaborating with international customers, who saw a perfect fit in combining the sales and manufacturing of saunas with other categories like cladding, decking and flooring. Focusing on thermally modified wooden material has paid off, as today Thermory exports to over 50 countries and has 8 factories in Estonia and Finland combined, plus two warehouses in the United States. Andres Kangur, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, attributes this success to Thermory’s approach to business, which is summed up in the corporate philosophy of “Leave a lasting impact”. “We have a very strong focus on sales and customer service, our brand has a good reputation for sustainability and vertical control over Thermory’s supply chain allows us to remain commercially efficient with a minimal environmental footprint,” explains Kangur.
This holistic approach is evident in Thermory’s regard to customer and partner relationships. “We no longer refer to like-minded biophiles as just clients, but as members of our Thermory Tribe. This tribe comprises forward-thinking architects, designers, homeowners, property developers and builders who share a passion for using recyclable eco-friendly materials in construction and for integrating natural materials and processes into the built environment.”
Wood does not last forever, but it is completely recyclable and renewable. In recent years, with demand growing for sustainable materials, this has become a positive selling argument for attracting discernible customers. On overseas markets, Thermory competes with tropical wood and plastic-wood composite materials. The former’s ecological footprint is harrowing, while the latter leaves homeowners with the question of what to do with the material after the house is demolished. Sadly, it all goes to landfill and takes centuries to dissolve. Forward-looking and eco-conscious clients are already thinking about the impact of materials well after the life-span of both the houses and their residents. With thermally modified wood used for flooring, decking and cladding, buildings can stand for at least 25 years without major maintenance.
Most Thermory products do not require on-site extra treatment, because they have been fully prepared in the factory – thermally modified, brushed, primed, painted for decoration or fire protection, etc. All products come with a variety of practical installation methods, saving time and money on installation costs. However, thermally modified wood is not meant to be a construction material, rather it is best suited for decorative purposes, especially in demanding climate conditions.
As the world’s largest modified wooden material producer, Thermory takes pride in the level of upgrading they apply to wood as a material. “We owe this to ingenuity and also the sheer volume of investment that has gone into developing the process – even Finns have complimented us on how much value we are able to add to timber, and they certainly know their forest industry’s ins and outs,” smiles Kangur.
Finns also happen to be world leaders in nearly everything related to saunas. Thermally modified wood is perfect for building saunas, as its thermal stability is better than almost any other material. Through years of dedicated focus, Thermory has become a leading market player for wooden sauna materials in Finland, which per capita is the largest sauna market in the world. Recently Thermory has launched a new proposition – Auroom – a brand for tailor-made and bespoke sauna solutions for the wellness and spa industry around the world, which is enjoying particular success in many European markets.
Interest in wood as a building material is increasing all over the world, particularly in North America, Asia and Australia. Some areas like the Gulf region could represent further growth potential, as the scale of their construction industry is impressive, while the use of wood is so far limited. “We work through a wide network of customers (importers and distributors), sometimes even without knowing where the final product will be used. For example, it was our great delight to discover that the world’s largest Disney store, recently opened in Shanghai, was built with our cladding. It happened thanks to an American customer and architect who we had worked with previously,” says Kangur.
Export forms 90% of Thermory’s sales and the company’s global reach and diversified portfolio gives its Estonian owners the peace of mind that Thermory is more resilient to upsets in the worldwide marketplace. Kangur believes that high ambitions are a natural characteristic of Estonians, who are known to be pragmatic and result-driven, yet quick, flexible and with a clear vision for the future. “Estonia is a very dynamic country and we are seldom stuck in comfort zones. It’s in our core as a nation to believe that we can achieve greatness regardless of the size of the country itself – we can be the best in the world and remain humble, honest and genuine at the same time as well,” concludes Kangur.
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