TBG METROSTAV is one of the largest concrete producers in the Prague region and operates four concrete plants.
We were talking to Ing. Jakub Šimáček, the Director of TBG METROSTAV, about the current situation in Prague’s development and the future of concrete plants in the capital.
You are the company director of three plants: TBG METROSTAV, TBG Pražské malty and Pražské betonpumpy a doprava. Can you introduce them in more details?
TBG METROSTAV, which is one of the largest concrete producers in the Prague region, where it operates four concrete plants, has the longest history. TBG Pražské malty and Pražské betonpumpy a doprava are subsidiaries and are engaged in the production of mortars and cast floor mixtures, respectively the pumping of concrete. The division, into three companies, has proven practical over time – each company focuses on ensuring that the work results are of the highest level. At the same time, all three entities work closely together and as a group supply customer with professional services and quality products.
Last year was difficult. What was it like for your companies?
The beginning of last year was very similar to previous years. But then the first wave of the pandemic came out of nowhere and construction in Prague ceased. There were several reasons. Borders were closed, foreign workers were absent on construction sites, the operation of offices was reduced and some investors were thrown out of balance. Moreover, in recent years, there hasn’t been any large infrastructure contract under construction in Prague that would help overcome fluctuations in commercial investment. The construction of administrative buildings and hotels was almost halted within the market and the commencement of apartment buildings was postponed by several months.
How did you respond to the sudden drop off in demand? Did you have to lay staff off?
We didn’t have to lay staff off. Our goal was to retain jobs, because we knew that construction would start again and then we would be needing staff. Our people are highly qualified and hardworking and it would make no sense at all to lay off a third of them and then look for new people with difficulty and to have to train them as well. We managed to apply cost-saving measures and reduce wage and fixed costs accordingly. In this way, we kept the company in shape during the summer and were prepared for the autumn start of the postponed constructions.
So how did 2020 turn out for your companies?
In the end, well. Although we didn’t manage to compensate for the production outage from the summer months, even with higher production at the end of the year, our results remained only slightly behind the original plan. What I consider extremely positive is the fact that we managed to reaffirm the good name of our company and the high quality of our services, especially thanks to the retention of experienced employees with their diligence and commitment.
What do you think 2021 will be like?
I presume that it will continue to be dominated by apartments in Prague. The interest in buying one’s own apartment is, despite high prices, still extraordinary. It also seems that the construction of housing blocks for rental accommodation will begin. Investment in administrative buildings will probably stagnate a bit this year, but I assume that from next year, this segment will also start gradually going again. Based on my experience, I don’t think that home office is a permanent solution, because only a few employees are able to achieve full work commitment and high performance at home – without social ties, it just doesn’t work. The construction of administrative buildings will continue after the temporary decline. This can also be seen in the just launched Masaryk Centre project by Penta Investment, where we currently supply our colleagues from Zakládání staveb and Zakládání Group with concrete for the foundation of the building and will supply the concrete workers of Metrostav a.s. who are starting to build monolithic structures. We are waiting to see if the next stage of the Prague metro will be launched. In recent years, it is the only large transport contract in the capital – and Prague would certainly deserve such a major investment in its development.
What new innovations have you prepared for your clients?
We launch a new product basically every year. However, we do not want to just come thoughtlessly with some mixtures that have no application in the market, or that only promote a standard product under a flashy name. Each of our branded products bestow customers with certain benefits or is part of a systematized solution. For example, fresh MALMIX mortars – a proven solution where we supply fresh mortar to construction sites every day, ready for immediate processing. Without any further adjustments. When a client orders MALMIX, he knows that the mortar is top quality, a fine structure and will be on site in time and in the right quantity. The same goes for PERMACRETE concrete. With this product we responded to the non-systemic addition of crystallizing additives to fresh concrete under the pretext of improving the watertightness of white tubs, or even to improve protection against radon, erratic currents, etc. PERMACRETE is a special concrete for white tubs designed in accordance with German and Austrian standards. It develops a minimum of hydration heat and, thanks to its composition, significantly reduces the formation of cracks. This solution is cheaper than using crystallizations and has been tested successfully on dozens of buildings.
These are proven products. How about new ones?
We always put the client above everything we do. We constantly work on modernizing and developing new products. This year, we are planning to present an interesting
TERRAFLOW filling material, which is suitable for filling construction pits around pipelines or filling joints around the foundation of the building, etc. We are also constantly improving our branded products, especially our most durable and strongest product TOPCRETE, an ultra-high-quality concrete (UHPC), which has incredible potential for renovations, bridges, footbridges as well as architectural use. And we must not forget the protection of the environment and long-term sustainability. We also develop concretes from recycled aggregates, but no major use can be considered just yet. Current regulations, logistics and achieved parameters of concrete produced in this way do not allow for the fully-fledged replacement of ordinary aggregates, but certain types of structures can be made from recycled aggregates.
And what about your concrete plants? How do you deal with the increasingly stricter environmental regulations and restrictions?
As I have already mentioned, we have four concrete plants, which are conveniently located throughout Prague. In the north we have the Libeň concrete plant, in the west Radlice, in the south Písnice and in the central, slightly eastern area, the Rohanský ostrov concrete plant. These locations are advantageous for our efficient logistics, because we always choose the nearest establishment for the supply of material for a particular construction site, so that the concrete mixers do not unnecessarily burden the already complicated traffic in Prague. What comes as a matter of course is wastewater management, the recycling of residual concrete, waste management, dust filters, landfill sprinkling, etc. However, the fact that two of our facilities have a dock for cargo ships is also related to ecology. We use ecological shipping to the maximum extent possible. As a result, the Libeň and Rohanský ostrov concrete plants fundamentally help reduce the amount of lorry traffic in the metropolis. Thanks to their direct connection to the river, all underground stages, road tunnels and railway corridors were built with a minimal impact on Prague’s traffic. The ship’s supply has already saved Prague over 250,000 lorry loads.
You are promoters of shipping in Prague. From where do you get your inspiration?
The shipment of aggregates and sand for our establishments has been operating for a very long time, but few people realize how many positive effects it has on the city. There are several inspirations: Paris, Brussels, Vienna and other cities that are similar to Prague and where the river flows through them. For example, there are nine concrete plants and 11 loading bins for ship waste and debris situated directly on the banks of the Seine in Paris. There are also several compact mini-transhipments in operation, where river boats bring containers loaded with consumer goods. Or Brussels with the Charleroi Canal, which transports up to 3 million tonnes of material a year. After all, in Vienna, one cargo ship after another goes on the Danube River, transporting soil, rubble, wood and aggregates.
So, do you see a future in supplying buildings with raw materials along the river?
Shipping cannot be the only supply route in itself. A large part of raw materials and goods will always be transported by road. It is just a matter of making the most of the possibility of river transport and not only using it marginally. After all, in Prague we are actually the only ones using freight shipping.
So, when someone buys concrete from TBG, it means that they have helped reduce the number of lorries, is that right?
Actually, yes, even though I wouldn’t put it that way. Our goal is to supply concrete of the highest quality parameters and to be a reliable business partner to our customers. And the fact that we produce concrete economically and with respect to the surroundings, thanks to shipping we also save roads and relieve citizens from harmful emissions, I see this as our contribution to global efforts to improve the quality of the environment.