Founded in 1835, Sto is a privately-owned international group of companies that specialises in facade insulation systems and the manufacture of plasters and paints. It has a turnover of about *900m (£630m) with 3,500 staff operating in 25 countries.

In 1987, CCS Scotseal, an application company importing Sto products into the UK, agreed a formal partnership with Sto.

In 1999 Sto UK was established and it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sto in 2004. It has offices in Paisley, Basingstoke and Dublin. Gary Bundy, its technical director, talks render, rainscreens and the quest for self-cleaning facades

Describe your market

Sto specialises in new-build facades in most sectors, including residential, leisure, commercial, health and education. Although we are widely known for our render and external wall insulation, there is growing interest in our rendered and ventilated rainscreen system, known as Sto Ventec.

Which sectors are busy at the moment?

Schools, hospitals and housing, particularly under PFI schemes.

Who are your main competitors?

In rainscreen we are competing with a variety of other finishes including terracotta, timber, high-pressure laminates, brick and so on. In many cases, clients opt for a mix of materials. The beauty of render is that it complements virtually all other construction materials and the colour options are enormous. Where most other options have to be broken into smaller panels, our render and carrier board combination allows large areas of seamless facade.

What has been the impact of new Building Regulations on your products?

The changes to Part L, in particular, have had a positive impact. We specialise in facade solutions that include thermal insulation layers. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions through more energy efficient buildings is a key target for industrialised nations, and this will see a need for increasing levels of thermal insulation in our buildings.

What technical developments are you working on?

Sto is introducing finishes in glass and natural stone to add to the rendered rainscreen solution. It’s a way of providing a glass facade with hidden fixings. The opaque, coloured glass panels will simply be bonded to the backing board, offering the benefits of rainscreen but with a fixing solution that will provide benefits to the installation team and the building owner.

Who specifies your products?

Sto in the UK has built its business on specifications developed principally with architects.

What is a recent major project you worked on and what were the challenges?

Sto Ventec rainscreen was used on the Marine Institute building for the Office of Public Works in Galway. Not only was the site very exposed, the building was curved both in plan and elevation making for a complex geometrical shape.

The flexibility both of the render system but also the special recycled glass carrier board allowed the render face to follow the geometry of the building. The rainscreen solution also provided a high performance facade in this severe exposure site.

What are the lead times for your products?

The products are standard items with a normal delivery of seven to 10 days.

What is driving product development at the moment?

Development is driven by environmental issues, but equally we are striving to improve the performance of our products, whether it’s providing better acoustics or more user-friendly application techniques. One of the things under development is the use of nanotechnologies with our paint and render products that make it easier for the finished surface to shed water and dirt. Ultimately, this could result in cleaner facades that require less maintenance.