Innovative and Creative Piping Solutions

Aquatherm

Pipes are one of the most important parts of any building. They transport the water people drink, water for bathing and cooking, and can even be used to heat and cool a home…

When pipes fail, the quality of one’s life deteriorates. Having well-made piping material for a home or business cannot be taken for granted. Cheap materials that are not properly installed can wreak havoc and chaos.

At Aquatherm, settling for the status quo of “just good enough” piping is unacceptable, and the company prides itself on making pipes that don’t fail.

Headquartered near Provo, Utah with offices in Calgary, Aquatherm provides environmentally friendly piping that meets the highest of standards. Aquatherm’s piping and fittings are made of Polypropylene-random (PP-R), a thermoplastic made up of chains of carbon and hydrogen. This material is both chemically simple and stable so it does not contain harmful chemicals or react with its surroundings. The “R” in PP-R refers to the random blend of long and short hydrocarbon chains which provides both rigidity and flexibility, resulting in a material with strong structural properties that can still bend enough to absorb impact. Because PP-R doesn’t react with water, there’s no corrosion or scaling, and the pipe is joined using heat fusion, which quickly and easily turns the pipe and fitting into a single piece. Other systems use glue, solder or gaskets to hold the pipe together and those types of fittings risk failure over time.

PP-R is also non-corrosive, so it does not wear out or clog after a few years of service. Even hard water doesn’t affect PP-R, making it the perfect piping material for nearly any application.

Aquatherm’s endless drive for improvement and innovation has made the company a world leader in PP-R pressure piping systems for potable, hydronic, and greywater applications. The company also has a logistics centre and partners with national and regional wholesalers throughout North America to provide product availability for its clients. Aquatherm provides training, engineering support and prefabrication capabilities to make sure installations are as exceptional as its piping.

President and Chief Operating Officer, Adam Clark, discusses why Aquatherm’s piping systems can handle the diverse piping needs of its clients. “At Aquatherm, we’re really quick to throw out ‘the way it’s always been done’ if we see a better way to do things,” Adam says. “While most piping companies try to create bandages for inherently flawed piping systems, we went back to the drawing board and built piping systems that are actually 100 percent compatible with water. The best material, the best connections, the works. And while many other piping products are commoditized and are sold at rock-bottom prices with little to no support, we’ve adopted a high-value approach with hands-on training that provides a better overall experience to the installer and end-user.”

Aquatherm was launched in Germany in 1973 by Gerhard Rosenberg. Rosenberg began designing and installing radiant in-floor heating systems, but was dissatisfied with the quality of the pipes and the connections. He started looking at alternatives and found PP-R. He and his team engineered the PP-R to be perfectly suited to potable water and heating applications and launched Fusiotherm, which would later become Aquatherm Green Pipe.

In 2005, Steve Clark, an engineer living in Alberta, became familiar with Rosenberg and Aquatherm after piping material in a hotel he was working on suffered a catastrophic failure. Excited by this better piping system and the vision of Rosenberg and his team, Clark shut down his engineering business and partnered with Aquatherm to launch the product in Canada. Adam Clark came on board around that time, tackling sales, marketing, training, and technical support for the company. In 2007, Aquatherm expanded Steve’s operation into the United States, where it would become an INC 5000 company and a two-time Forbes 100 Most Promising company winner.

In 2012, Rosenberg stepped down as President of Aquatherm and his three sons took over as Managing Directors. Aquatherm North American opened up a distribution center in Lindon, UT, that handles inventory for both the US and Canada. This facility serves as a training centre for contractors, engineers, and distributors.

Sadly, Steve Clark was killed in an RV accident near St. George, UT in 2013. Seeing Steve’s vision through to fruition fell to Adam (President and COO) along with Jordan Hardy (CFO since 2008) and Clark’s brother-in-law David Chen (who managed supply chain and logistics since 2007 and is currently CEO). Aquatherm currently manages the company using the Managing Directors approach that Rosenberg used in Germany. “Each of us runs a separate part of the company, but we must all agree on large decisions,” explains Adam.

Aquatherm employs 34 people in North America, ranging from warehouse staff to engineers to graphic designers. The North American division handles all the sales, logistics, engineering support, marketing, and training and large-fitting production. Aquatherm GmbH still produces all the pipe and moulded fittings. The company offers two general training courses for new and existing staff, one course focusing on Aquatherm products and how they work, and the second course an in-depth look at the entire cycle of Aquatherm’s processes.

Adam explains that the two highlights that truly set Aquatherm NA apart from its competitors include its product catalogue and its training program. “Around the rest of the world, people are used to dealing in metric and working off text that has clearly been translated from another language,” he says. “In the US and Canada, the catalogue needed to be in imperial units and it needed to sound like it wasn’t a German translation, so we had to redo that catalogue right off the bat. It helped us gain credibility right out the gate to have our materials be strongly ‘American-ized.’”

Another highlight includes training American plumbers on heat fusion. “In Germany plumbers and pipefitters are taught heat-fusion in school,” says Adam. “In the US, they’re not, so we had to build a whole program for training plumbers and pipefitters as quickly and thoroughly as possible.” Since Aquatherm launched heat fusion training in 2009, the company has trained over 15,000 installers across the US and Canada. “It’s been critical to the success of Aquatherm.”

Some of the company’s recent achievements include being listed as a Forbes “100 Most Promising Company” in 2012 and 2013, and becoming an INC 500I5000 company last year. “Opening the logistics centre in 2012 was also a big step, as it bridged the gap between Germany and North America,” shares Adam. “We also just had a massive alignment meeting with Ferguson, the largest PVF (pipes, valves, and fittings) distributor in the US and one of our key partners. We plan to have similar meetings with EMCO (our largest partner in Canada) and other regional distributors over the next year.”

Adam also feels that moving the company forward after the tragic death of Steve Clark was an achievement in and of itself. “Getting through this last year has been a big accomplishment. Steve was the founder and visionary behind this company, and his loss was devastating for everyone. Fortunately, Steve had a talent for attracting great people, and we managed to pull together and still see 30 percent plus growth in a year where we could have easily fallen apart. The fact that the company is resilient and strong enough to thrive despite a huge loss like that is something we’re all very proud of.”

Currently, Aquatherm is developing project planning training for contractors to help them come up with the most profitable strategy for installing Aquatherm products. “Right now, we’re doing the training in-house, one company at a time, but our plan is to develop the right tools that we can send out to our reps and wholesalers so the training will be available on a broader level.” In addition, Aquatherm is planning to launch a new version of its Green Pipe product later this year, which will see higher flow rates and higher pressure ratings.

Certainly, Aquatherm has had its share of challenges, but continues to prosper and excel. “The building industry took a huge dive in 2008, right when we were entering the market, so it made our starting years extremely lean and difficult,” explains Adam. “We had to learn to operate smarter, which in the long run has been good for us. It also shook up an old industry and made many companies search for better, more sustainable products like ours. While the economic downturn was devastating for jobs, I think it’s helped the industry as a whole by forcing piping companies to innovate and become more efficient. It’s even helped us make friends with Union contractors (who are traditionally against plastic) because they see Aquatherm as a more efficient option that still requires that training and skill that trained union pipefitters and plumbers pride themselves on.”

With these developments, Adam sees a bright future ahead for the company. “Overall, the industry is starting to come back, and we can feel the momentum building. It’s like being at the very top of a roller coaster just before it takes off, and we know we’re in for a wild ride.”

A dedication to high quality pipework and the need for buildings to replace metal piping with PR-R is what drives Aquatherm. In spite of its challenges and tragedies, Aquatherm as a company is a force to be reckoned with. “An owner of a building should look into using Aquatherm for their piping systems,” believes Adam. “In the past, they’d have used copper or steel or stainless steel, and it will have worked, but not very well. They’ll have spent money on repairs, on maintenance, on replacements, etc. If they’re willing to try something new, they’ll find it greatly improves the way they do business. We operate by always trying to find the best solution, and we encourage everyone else to do so too.”

For more information about Aquatherm, please visit http://www.aquatherm.com/

June 4, 2020, 11:58 PM EDT