An entrepreneur of exceptionel caliber

The Building Component Award is given to architect and designer Claus Dyre, who has invented an innovative solution to something as simple as a floor drain in a shower cabinet. 

The Committee:

Bjarne G. Thomsen, former Director, Chairman of the Committee

Professor Anne Beim, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation

Program Manager, Mikkel Kragh, Danish Architecture Center

Program Manager, lecturer Ellen Kathrine Hansen, Aalborg University, Project Manager for the Building Component Award

The Building Component Award is given to individuals who have made a noteworthy contribution to furthering the understanding of the value and significance of building components, including their practical use in daily living. The award is DKK 100,000.

In 1999, Claus Dyre had a good idea. He would change the classic, square grate in a shower to a drain (drain line), which could run along a wall. Four years later, the idea was realised and marketed with the product name unidrain®. Today, Unidrain is installed in more than 600,000 bathrooms and wet rooms worldwide. It sounds simple but it was not made in an instant.

A long way from idea to market success

Introducing a new building component in wet areas is not an easy task. It is an area, where there is risk of leaks and all materials must be tested thoroughly. The obvious simple idea would have to take many tortuous paths to be realised.

The process

Along the way, Claus Dyre collaborated with a wide range of specialists. Initially with the Danish Technological Institute, who helped speed up the process through its innovation company; Southern Technological Innovation A/S.

Furthermore, Claus Dyre was in close dialogue for several years with the Danish Building Research Institute (SBI), that test new building components. They formed a partnership on how the drain could be included in various situations, and how to ensure that all legal requirements were met.

“We saw that the idea was good and innovative”, says Senior Researcher Erik Brandt from the Danish Building Research Institute. “We have seen many examples of new drains, but this was a very different approach. Claus Dyre would put the drain close to the wall, which was unthinkable in relation to the recommendations of the law, but the solution was obvious”.

Specifically, Claus Dyre would change the classic square grate decreases in a shower unit in which a grate in the center collects all the water to an oblong floor drain to a gradient in one direction that could be elegantly fitted away from the shower’s  tread space. The next step was to develop prototypes and to test the capacity of the new drains to obtain approval of the product.

The Danish Building Research Institute (SBI) often act as a midwife to new ideas and inventions, and many enthusiasts have been sent home with instructions to continue working or to retry their ideas.

Claus Dyre’s idea, however, was so well thought out that the concept - without any major changes - could move forward in the process of the comprehensive and necessary 1: 1 test in various building structures.

Erik Brandt continues; "It is important to test and prove your products extensively, taking all the conditions into consideration. The thoroughness pays off if you get rid of the problems before the product is applied in practice. This process requires persistence and perseverance. Claus Dyre has pursued his idea persistently from start to finish, where others would probably have given up.The next phase was maturity of the design and production with the aim of mass production, and Claus Dyre initiated a close collaboration with a number of talented and innovative Danish suppliers specializing in steel and plastic production. They were super innovative and experimented with many different materials. We had a very good process.”

In May 2003, Unidrain was launched and were quickly stocked and sold through all the major plumbing wholesalers in Denmark. From 2003-2008 the company grew by approximately 50 % per year. With 34 employees and a turnover of a large two-digit million amount, the success was a reality.

Building components contribute to the overall experience of quality

With the award, VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN wish to honor examples of building components that can make a difference.

Professor Anne Beim, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation,

"The Building Component Award focuses on materials, details and good and beautiful solutions in architecture.

With the award, we wish to honor enthusiasts who think in new and innovative ways of construction. It may be a product or a new constructional solution that can affect many people's lives and make the craftsman’s job easier.

I believe that the Building Component Award can help to increase the quality of construction. When the focus is on the detail of the individual components, when they are well thought out and executed, building components contribute to the overall experience of quality and will of course be an inspiration to others".

Unidrain Today

In 2009, Unidrain was sold to the Swedish manufacturer of plumbing products; Purus AB. Unidrain is currently developed under this brand.