After graduating as a civil engineer at Ghent University, Olivier Degroote continued with a Vlerick Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship (2019). Inspired by his knowledge of innovation and entrepreneurship and backed by his technical studies, the ambition grew to start and manage his own company.
Olivier sensed that there must be alternatives between massive construction and lightweight buildings – between concrete and timber frame, in other words. “How heavy do you really have to build to live comfortably? That was my first question,” Olivier starts.
After product and market research, he developed his own technique for prefab steel frame construction. One year ago, he founded IBS (Innovative Building Systems) in his home town, Wervik. “The ideal indoor climate is ultimately determined by a building’s airtightness and thermal inertia. After researching construction methods and selecting materials for wall and floor systems, I came up with a steel frame as a viable alternative between timber frame and brick.”
Which developed into IBS’s own product. Profiles are cold rolled from coils in the workshop and screwed together to create frames. The walls and floors, with space for pipes, are filled with insulation and finished with inner and outer cladding.
As a newcomer to the field, with its own product and method of prefab building, IBS has to create its market by itself. The company’s brand awareness is still almost non-existent, although they do receive customer queries via their website and their order book is already full. “The quality of our projects will have to convince,” Olivier explains. “We certainly feel interest, although it’s very regional – and our West Flemish neighbours, with their time-honoured preference for brick, are still conservative.”
Nevertheless, IBS's steel frame construction has strong advantages: the best price, high quality and finishing level, unlimited expandability and adaptability, speed of execution, and a wide range of applications such as housing, offices in industrial complexes, extensions, and DIY kits for individuals.
One year after its founding, IBS is optimizing the efficiency of its off-site production system. In this initial phase, the company still carries out complete projects (as coordinator from foundation to finishing) to convincingly demonstrate the quality of its product and construction method. However, their ultimate ambition is to partner with contracting companies as a producer and supplier of walls and floors based on prefab steel frames under the IBS brand name.
“We are determined to move forward,” Olivier asserts. “We’re putting the Covid time to good use with a number of side projects, such as an extremely competitive prototype for a swimming pool. We’ve got loads of ideas in the pipeline, which we will implement over time.”