Projects with an order volume of up to € 4,5 million cannot be managed by the around 85 employees at the headquarters in Gardelegen alone. That’s why Niebuhr works with three permanently employed subcontractors, each of whom employs about ten people, and these assemble everything that is manufactured in Gardelegen. Recently, an engineering office has been opened in Magdeburg. The decision to establish an engineering office there was purely strategic: a state capital with a catchment area of about 300,000 inhabitants makes it easier to find suitable employees. „Keeping good people is not only a question of pay,“ the junior director is convinced, „but also a question of how you treat and appreciate each other.“
Tricky orders require smart employees. When reconstructing the almost floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor of the IHK Munich, for example, the architects had the idea of picking up the alternating red sandstone and light limestone in the window soffit in the course of the horizontal window profile. What nobody had suspected, however, was that the white limestone was uneven! „When measuring, we found differences of up to five centimetres. So it was a matter of averaging and interpolating. We solved the problem with glass panes of different heights. This is not noticeable to the casual observer – but it would have been very noticeable if the outer window’s black glazing bar had been positioned at different heights. It‘s only a few centimetres ... that kind of design idea is perfect in theory, but it can turn out differently in practice, especially in renovation projects.
Niebuhr survey conditions catalogue
Only for the public sector
In general, ‘performance owed’ has become a tiresome topic with a lot of potential for dispute. „It is in our own interest to seek consensus with the architects and site managers from the outset in the event of differences between the content of the tender and the actual construction request as it emerges. But if the service specifications were not precise enough, or do not reflect the desired equipment in terms of content, or if there are fundamental changes during the execution, there is only one option: the building owner bears the additional costs resulting from the planned equipment and the actual contract target according to the utilisation concept.
Fire protection specialist
As a master locksmith, he initially built railings, stairs and driveway gates – and quickly built a reputation for masterly quality among his customers and suppliers. But then a sales partner’s friendly representative persuaded Niebuhr to look into the area of fire protection. This was after the fire at Düsseldorf Airport, which caused a rethinking of fire protection throughout Germany: from now on the existing rules would have to be applied consistently and compliance with them monitored regularly.
This has not only meant that building owners have since had to submit a more detailed fire protection concept with their planning application, but it has also meant that many buildings, including all public buildings, have had their fire protection checked and upgraded if necessary. In short, the ideal basis for a promising business model was in place. Initially, the company worked with various systems, but over time specialised exclusively in profiles from Schüco Jansen steel systems.
Apart from the fact that the high melting point of steel ensures that steel profile systems meet the F30/T30, F90/T90 specification, i.e. they can be used for increased fire and smoke protection requirements, the collaboration with a well-known system provider offers many advantages to the metal worker. „The streamlined appearance of the material in conjunction with the comprehensive fire protection testing give us design freedom in the system,“ says Michael Niebuhr. He joined his father‘s company six years ago and since then they have been jointly responsible for its management.
Niebuhr Stahlglastechnik handles around one hundred projects every year. The production of the fire barriers and doors as well as the reconstruction of the historical windows with steel profiles for the renovation of the IHK Munich and Upper Bavaria ranks among the top three projects of recent years in terms of size. The other two are the Deutsche Rentenversicherung in Berlin, a 25-storey building on Hohenzollerndamm, and the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment (BSU) in Hamburg, which, with an order volume of €4.5 million, is the largest construction project in Niebuhr Stahlglastechnik’s history. „Doors, gates, stairs: everything that can be built with steel, we manufactured and assembled for the project,“ enthuses Niebuhr Junior. „From steel shelving in outdoor areas to the usual fire protection issues – 700 sheet steel doors alone! The door lists ran over several A0 sheets. At the final invoice meeting, we went through the building with the sheets laid out in a shopping trolley in order to check the equipment.“