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Housing : September 2008
HOUSING SEPTEMBER 2008 31 In fact, the Caroma Profile Toilet Suite was the first toilet in Australia to achieve a five-star water efficiency rating. It comes with an integrated hand basin that reuses the water you use to wash your hands, for flushing. Other new products include the Caroma H2Zero Cube urinal, a waterless urinal which recently won the inaugural Award for Excellence in Sustainable Design at the Australian Design Awards, and a number of other awards. There's also the Dux Airoheat, a water heater that uses the latest technology available to pump water efficiently. But unlike other heat pumps, it operates quietly, and reduces electricity consumption by about 65 per cent. 'These products are certainly going well in the marketplace,' Peter says. 'Our commitment to energy saving remains and we are continuing to invest heavily to meet that.' Tens of millions of dollars are spent on R&D each year. 'It's a serious commitment. But it's all part of the way we differentiate ourselves. We're seen as a leading brand of useful technologies.' GWA is also working closely with HIA and governments to promote and install its products nationally. In Victoria, the company devised a fully installed retrofit program with Green plumbers, and was able to retrofit more than 2000 suites to Smartflush. In NSW Caroma Dorf managed a toilet retrofit program for Sydney Water. And Queanbeyan Council recently used Caroma dual- flush toilet suites to retrofit more than 6000 suites and save water. Peter says GWA's relationship with HIA has also helped his business grow, in particular the use of HIA showrooms in Canberra and the Hunter region. 'HIA gives us the connection to industry and trades. It also helps showcase products builders and users are interested in,' he says. 'For us, it's about providing high quality contemporary design products and being a good supplier to our customers.' A key area that Peter suggests is a big challenge for his company, and for HIA, is the downturn in the housing market. He says governments need to be doing more to address record low housing affordability rates. 'The dwellings market has been weak for some time and housing affordability is very low. But people have to have somewhere to live.' GWA snapshot H Photo: Shaun Murray Photography GWA started up in Toowoomba, Qld, in the early 1930s with the formation of Western Transport. Over the next 30 years this business expanded to become the largest road transport organisation in Australia. In parallel with this the company also became involved in truck and motor car distribution, becoming one of Australia's largest importers of passenger cars and commercial vehicles. In 1981 the acquisition of the UPL group added manufacturing to GWA's accomplishments, including Caroma/Doulton and Rover Scott-Bonnar. GWA acquired ArmitageShanks in 1986, giving it an even stronger position in the bathroom products industry. In the late 1990s the company rapidly grew through further acquisitions, with Gainsborough Hardware, James Hardie bathroom products (Fowler, Irwell Taps and Dux) and Email kitchen and bathroom products (Dorf and Clark); all acquired between 1995 and 2000.