Lighthouse projects - platforms for innovations

Not all markets are ready at the same time for all high-efficiency technologies. This is because there are too many different influences as the result of the legal framework, user habits and standards of living. However, Vaillant wants to call attention to highly innovative products, even prior to the market launch. For this purpose the Vaillant Group has introduced so-called lighthouse projects.

One of these lighthouse projects is the Swiss “Umwelt Arena” (Environment Arena), designed and planned by René Schmid Architects of Zurich. The arena is striking in appearance. The glistening black hexagonal building is suggestive of a crystal. Yet the Umwelt Arena in Spreitenbach, outside the city gates of Zurich, is not only about outward appearances. The striking roof is completely covered with photovoltaic panels and the generously proportioned glass façades allow ample daylight to enter the building. Inside, the visitor is met not only by an arena for events, but also by 45 pioneering exhibits. The themes of these exhibits are sustainability, renewable energies and nature. They are supposed to provide answers to the question of how to achieve sustainability without loss of convenience and at no additional cost. “When we learned of the project, we were immediately interested and followed the progress of the construction,” relates Tobias Loher, Head of Marketing Vaillant Switzerland. The approach seemed promising and, after all, Vaillant Switzerland was interested in contact to the Umwelt Arena. “We decided that we would exhibit one or two products there. We wanted to be a part of the exhibition and to present something that is especially sustainable.” We decided on the micro combined heat and power unit (CHP) ecoPOWER 1.0 – a product that exists on the Swiss market only as a pilot system.

Presentation high-efficiency products

“That is exactly the purpose of the lighthouse projects,” explains Sebastian Albert, Head of Strategic Marketing. “In this way we want to present high-efficiency products in markets where these products are not yet sold.” Implementation of the lighthouse project concept began in the spring of 2013. The ecoPOWER 1.0 system simultaneously generates heat and electricity on the basis of combined heat and power (CHP) technology, which is much more efficient than even the most modern power plants. The micro CHP unit was the first such system in Europe that was designed for the requirements of single-family homes. Other innovative products presented as prototypes in different countries within the framework of the lighthouse projects include highly efficient products that rely on renewable energy sources, such as the zeolite heat pump zeoTHERM. The lighthouse projects can serve as door openers by attracting visitors and demonstrating the high-efficiency capabilities already in existence. Planners, sales men and installers, for example, have the opportunity to see and experience the ecoPOWER 1.0 in operation in the Umwelt Arena. The lighthouse projects, however, are not to be considered a covert market launch. The number and duration of installations in the Umwelt Arena are limited to five years. Afterwards, the concept requires that they be dismantled.

Several lighthouse projects

Meanwhile, the Umwelt Arena is no longer the only lighthouse project. Several projects are in preparation, while others are already installed. In the smart home “Hållbarheten” (sustainability) in the Swedish city of Malmö one can experience a zeoTHERM heat pump that uses the thermal properties of the mineral zeolite. An ecoPOWER 4.7 mini CHP system is installed for example in Bobruisk, Belarus. It is located in the entrance area of the main office of one of Vaillant’s most important customers. The same system was also installed at the waterworks in Zug, Switzerland.

At present, the economic and legal framework prevents combined heat and power technology from being an attractive alternative for all markets. Nevertheless, there is widespread interest in this technology. And when the markets are ready, the lighthouse projects will make room for another innovative product of the Vaillant Group.