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Partners in Panels: Novulo makes efficient modular construction the new standard


“We are building a narrative that has to outlive us,” says Thijs Vanhoutte, founder and CEO of Novulo Buildings. Thijs, co-founder Tom Bogaert and data expert Piet Van Haute see a great future in modular construction. Much more than that, in fact: they consider it as the construction method we need to save our planet. But for this to be able to happen, the construction industry has to reinvent itself. Novulo aims to accelerate this reinvention – with the help of Unilin Panels.

Reinventing the construction sector

Let's go back to 2019. Thijs Vanhoutte and Tom Bogaert require more space to accommodate their rapidly growing roofing company. They believe that a modular unit for their office would be the perfect solution. However, after speaking to several construction companies, they are unable to find one that fully satisfies their technical requirements. So Thijs and Tom decide to build their own – which is the start of a great adventure.

The duo run into a number of obstacles over the course of the unit's construction. These all come down to the same issue: the construction sector has an efficiency problem. Smarter construction therefore becomes the main mission of Novulo, the company that Thijs and Tom launch in 2021. Through a consultancy firm, they examine almost every aspect of construction, from different methods to environmental factors and transport.

You could describe it as extreme engineering. Energy-neutral construction, for example, is not enough: Novulo wants its modular units to be energy-positive, in order to give back to the planet. Together with colleges and universities, Novulo looks into ways of consuming water and electricity as efficiently as possible, with the Green Deal acting as its guide. Production methods must also become as sustainable as possible, which all starts with material manufacturers. This is what led Novulo to Unilin Panels.

The material evidence

Although Durelis was developed for wood frame construction, it is also perfectly suited for steel frame construction. This chipboard remains airtight while still being permeable to vapour, an important requirement for the healthy indoor climate inside any Novulo unit. Durelis is made entirely from reclaimed wood.

Find out more about Durelis construction boards >

Clicwall is the perfect finishing board for modular units. Why? Wet systems such as plasterboard need time to dry out, slowing down the overall process. With Clicwall, you can eliminate drying times and drastically reduce construction times, which is crucial to Novulo's rapid construction concept. Thanks to its variety of decors, Clicwall provides the ideal solution for every interior.

Read more about the qualities of Clicwall >

Everything can be made more sustainable

Durelis and Clicwall fit perfectly into Novulo's sustainable vision. The simple assembly – with Clicwall boasting an ingenious clicking system – means that Novulo uses little adhesive material. This makes dismantling and recycling a unit at the end of its life an easy task. In other words, everything about Novulo is forward-thinking, based on a circular philosophy.

This is all music to Koen and Simon's ears. With their sturdy Durelis base panels and the easy-to-install Clicwall system, they can provide the perfect material for the modular units. However, their contribution does not end there. Their experience in modular construction has also given them insights into the automation of production processes and the reduction of cutting waste, which they are more than happy to share.

Let us zoom in on cutting waste, a major issue within the sector. The first six Novulo units generated six containers of waste. Much to their dismay, while this did include packaging waste, it was largely made up of cutting waste. Koen, Simon and Novulo therefore explored which Clicwall formats were best suited to the project. The result? Reduced cutting waste and a more efficient production process, allowing Novulo to take another step forward in its sustainability mission. Managing Director Piet also played a major role here, drawing crucial insights from the data.

Testimonials on their partnership

Simon: “While we may not be knocking on each other's doors, we have a tacit agreement that I will answer the phone whenever Thijs calls (laughs). In urgent cases, such as delivery problems, we respond very quickly, though where we can, we prefer to take our time and develop well thought-out, sustainable solutions.”

Thijs: “Unilin Panels has a strong track record on sustainability, which we are delighted to benefit from. While we also have a clear vision on sustainability, we've not yet been able to prove ourselves in this regard. So to be able to associate our brand with a pioneer such as Unilin Panels gives us that extra edge. And of course, the materials they deliver are of high quality.”

Koen: “Partners such as Novulo continue to challenge us, especially in terms of sustainability, which pushes us to question ourselves and redefine our limits. Transparency and open communication are crucial to a circular approach. This is the only way we can make progress together.”

Piet: “We try to optimally align our processes. If we didn't, we would never achieve our goals at Novulo – it's as simple as that. We need Unilin Panels' unconditional support in order to produce and to grow our business as efficiently as possible.”

Efficiency gains squared

To say 'efficiency' is to say 'automation'. That is why Thijs and Tom brought Piet on board, to optimise as many processes as possible using data. It all starts with the ordering of materials, which is not determined by quotations, but by leads in the pipeline. This allows Novulo to get to work faster when the orders come in. When it comes to predicting orders, Piet's background in business psychology comes in handy – in addition to hard data, of course.

In manufacturing, automation often equates to robotisation, as seen in the pharmaceutical and automotive sectors, for example. Novulo wants to do the same. The company builds on a completely horizontal level, with not a single ladder in sight – saving time and money in terms of safety considerations and ergonomics. While it currently applies this principle to manual work, horizontal construction is also perfectly suited to robotisation. This means improved quality, with construction faults automatically detected and rectified. So the efficiency gains are squared.

In short, Novulo has great ambitions, alongside a clear goal to build more efficiently, with care for both our planet and its inhabitants. While they are playing a pioneering role, they could never achieve this all on their own. Through Koen and Simon, Unilin Panels is proudly supporting them in their mission. What about you?

Thijs Vanhoutte
Novulo Buildings
  Piet Van Haute
Managing Director
Novulo Buildings
  Koen Kuppens
International Sales
Manager Industry
  Simon Vermeersch
Area Sales Manager Construct

Wondering what Clicwall can do for your renovation? Or want to join Novulo in helping us build a more sustainable future?

Discover the possibilities here or read more about our One Home-ambition