The Renewable Evolution of Ruuki: The Start of a Trend?

Over the weekend a news release came in from a Finnish outfit called Ruuki, the kind that is common on this beat.

It described a photovoltaic system fully integrated into a curtain-wall facade, which would use solar radiation to generate as much as 18,000 kwH of electricity per year from the average building.

Most sites ran this release as is, because in a way it’s not very unusual.

But it is unusual, and for an unusual reason.

First, this is not some solar start-up, not a bunch of pie-in-the-sky, eyes-on-the-prize dreamers. Ruuki dates from the 1960s. And it’s not a high-tech outfit, either. It was created to assure a supply of finished steel for local shipbuilders.

Second, this is not some old-line company that got taken over by dreamers. It was corporate evolution in action.

It’s true that, in the months prior to this announcement, Ruuki did jettison its half of a Finnish sawmill, valued at $14.5 million, its last interest in the wood business, on May 25. It also sold a pallet maker.

This was part of an “ongoing strategy to sell off its non-core businesses, now that it is solely focused as a mining business.” This followed its December 2010 purchase of a British chromium miner, Chromex, whose South African mines will soon be matched by production in Zimbabwe.

The company also re-arranged its top management at the start of May. The new CEO, Thomas Hoyer, previously ran its woods business. The new COO, Theuns de Bruyn, was recruited from Lonmin Platinum, and has extensive experience in that chromium business.

So this is not a start-up, it has not bought a start-up. This is an old-line buildings material business, which is moving into the production of new materials and has a deep international footprint.

In fact, the new product itself is not revolutionary, but evolutionary, based on Liberta, a line of rain screen panels. Ruuki building panels are designed for quick and easy installation, based on corporate standards. When an architect specifies Ruuki, in other words, they know what they’re doing, they know where their stuff is coming from, there’s no revolution going on.

That’s the real story here. When we usually talk about sustainability, we’re talking about the sustainability of resources, or the sources of energy, or the planet itself. All very important. But for this industry to grow it must have sustainable business models, sustainable product providers, corporate sustainability.

All of which Ruuki has.

As companies like this evolve into the renewable space, growth is only going to accelerate, because what’s sustainable from a planetary perspective is becoming the norm among corporate building part providers, not the exception.


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Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog,, in 2007.

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