ISH hall

ISH 2019 Report

Designers, buyers and trade professionals descended on Frankfurt in March for ISH 2019, the biennial international trade fair focusing on water and energy in buildings.

Photo: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH/Pietro Sutera


Laura Valic

Water and energy – two fundamentals for life as we know it, and two of the major themes explored at ISH 2019, one of Europe’s major trade shows for anyone connected to the business of buildings. 

While Milan may be famous for design, Germany is known for innovation and manufacturing, so the city of Frankfurt was a fitting host for the international event that saw nearly 200,000 people and more than 2500 exhibitors come together from 11–15 March. 

No other show is as sharply focused on the conservation of resources and the use of renewable energies. ISH is all about setting trends for modern bathroom design, sustainable heating and airconditioning technology, as well as intelligent home systems.

Water and energy were two of the major themes explored at ISH 2019,
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Pietro Sutera
ISH is all about setting trends for modern bathroom design, sustainable heating, airconditioning technology and intelligent home systems.
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Pietro Sutera

On the ground

Darren Genner from Minosa makes it a priority to attend an international trade fair at least every two years, stemming in part from an interest in travel, to assuage his natural curiosity, and to stay abreast of product and design possibilities. 2019 was the first time he attended ISH on the annual Australian International Design Tours (AIDT) experience, and found the trip to be thoroughly worthwhile.

‘They don’t do anything small in Europe for these shows, so it was very, very big!’ says the award-winning designer. ‘The experience was awesome, but it was different to what I was expecting in comparison to Milan. 

‘The sections were very outlet driven, such as a hall full of strip drains. A lot of products, given our labelling systems and certification schemes, will never get to Australia, so you skip that and look at what is relevant.’ 

The exhibition space measured 275,000 square metres so planning how to navigate the enormous halls and crowds was essential. Mela-nie Gardener, AIDT tour leader and founder of the kitchenandbathroomblog, had ISH on her bucket list for years, and once there she meant to make the most of it. 

‘We were super excited by the opportunity to visit,’ she says. ‘The show is larger than the Salone Bagno (bathroom) section of Salone del Mobile Milano (Milan Furniture Fair) and divided into pavilions. So it was really easy to work out the most relevant [areas] for us and to spend the most time there.’

Melanie adds that while a number of the leading manufacturers exhibit at both fairs, ISH also specifically caters to the Asian market, with whole pavilions set aside for non-European manufacturers.

‘ISH has a real bathroom focus. It’s also really interesting as it has a second stream that focuses on sustainable building practices, which you don’t get at Salone del Mobile.’

Melanie advises planning for organised stand tours with major brands, for example, Hansgrohe, Kaldewei, Victoria & Albert, Duravit, and Villeroy & Boch, which give visitors the opportunity to see, touch and hear about new products and innovations up close, as well as learn about which products can be expected to reach Australia.

Shower waterfall
‘The technology around the showering experience is always amazing to see'
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Pietro Sutera
ISH handles
Noticeably evident across the huge array of products on showcase was an emphasis on slender elegance in form and function.
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Jochen Gunther

Has fat gone flat, but thin is in?

Noticeably evident across the huge array of bathroom products on showcase was an emphasis on slender elegance in form and function. 

‘We’re definitely seeing a trend away from “chunky” bathroom fixtures towards a slimmer, more refined aesthetic,’ Melanie reveals. ‘And, as manufacturing technology improves, these edges are able to become much thinner – particularly in basins and baths.’

Circular outlines and curves dominated, as did daring colour treatments. 

‘I loved seeing new shapes and colours in baths – that was a nice surprise.’

Darren was equally impressed: ‘The products from Gessi and antoniolupi were absolutely outstanding,’ he says. ‘I was also amazed and surprised by Toto’s Japanese toilet seat system, as well as their range of baths.’ 

Blue bath

The transparent type

Reflex is the first transparent bathtube by antoniolupi made of Cristalmood – a coloured resin that’s transparent with a glossy finish, and composed of high quality polyester resin and colouring pigments.

The product is available in ten colours.

New-age bathrooms 

What will the bathroom of the future look like? How will it manage to meet the diverse needs of the people that use it? These were some of the questions manufacturers tried to address with their product offerings at ISH in the ‘Bathroom Experience’. 

The solutions on offer were as varied as people’s wishes. Baths and showers were unveiled with clever space- and water-saving designs as well as technology for wellness.

‘The technology around the showering experience is always pretty amazing to see and gave a good insight as to how we may approach the idea of a highly personalised experience in the future,’ Melanie says. 

She adds that the technology behind tapware always impresses – not only in saving water but also in the variety of different showering sprays. 

‘Almost every major shower manufacturer at ISH showcased shower heads with multiple options for types of spray, incredibly accurate temperature settings, the ability to add sound and colour to the showering experience, and apps that allow users to pre-set personalised choices.’ 

Darren says the automation that is now available for the bathroom is helping to make it the ‘emerging’ room of the home.

‘What I see as the parent’s retreat, this area that is away from the family or upstairs where you get a chance to just break away from all the stress and relax and disconnect, is the emerging room. So to have something like that where you can have a busy day at work, come home and press the play button and bang it’s all on – I love it, I think it’s amazing.’ 

Darren explains the concept further below.

Shower experience

Automation in the bathroom 

Darren Genner, Minosa: ’The home automation technology being developed for showers, with pulsating spray, rhythm and aerating, is ex-traordinary. Hansgrohe has created an app, with five different showering cycles. For example, let’s say in the morning you use the ‘wake up app’, you press the button as you walk into the bathroom and the shower turns on for you. It’s set for 14 minutes and [the flow] is rhythmic. The water will fluctuate between warm and cold to get you started, and the LED lights will turn to blue to brighten you up. The music [comes on] and will be at a higher intensity, while there’s a fragrance on the floor that [is set off] when the water hits it, creating a fresh smell. So, you’re having this experience of bathing that is waking you up. It’s really interesting technology, and as soon as it’s available here it will be something we’ll be using.’

Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Pietro Sutera

Red bath
Circular outlines and curves dominated, as did daring colour treatments. 
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Pietro Sutero
Textured basins
The technology behind tapware always impresses – not only in saving water but also in the variety of different showering sprays. 
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Pietro Sutera

Global meeting place

For many at ISH, the show is not simply an oversized product showcase but an opportunity to explore central economic and ecological issues. 

‘ISH is an innovation driver for whole sectors of the economy,’ says Wolfgang Marzin, president and chief executive officer of Messe Frankfurt. ‘Using pioneering building technology, it’s answering the urgent questions of our time – that means sustainability, but also efficiency and convenience.’

He adds that the industry is faced by numerous challenges, including digitalisation, the search for qualified staff and climate change: ‘If we are to continue reaching the goals we have defined, intensive exchange of information between the different trade sectors is an elementary need. It is here that ISH has a key role to play.’

One company answering this call to sustainability for our natural resources is polymer specialist REHAU. The company has tackled the issue of water wastage – be it a dripping tap, unseen leaks or burst pipes – with a control device called RE.GUARD. 

Installed directly in the water main, the product relies on precise ultrasonic technology that is optimised to minimise pressure losses, and monitors and alerts residents to any changes. If a leak is discovered, the water main is immediately shut off. The product communicates with a gateway, meaning it can be controlled via an app, while additional water detectors can be incorporated wirelessly and placed near a washing machine or dishwasher, in a further attempt to save water long-term.

Dr Roger Schonborn, building solutions division manager at REHAU says the company is also offering sustainability solutions in energy. ‘[A] big topic is climate change with its extreme summers, which are driving up demand for airconditioning systems. Our answer is energy-efficient underfloor temperature control, to cool work and living spaces without separate airconditioning devices.’

Smart tap
The mains-connected drinking water dispenser supplies drinking water – hot, cold or sparkling – via a touch screen display. RE.SOURCE by REHAU.
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Jochen Gunther
Fan exhaust
Heating with wood, exhaust technology
Photo: Messe Frankfurt GmbH/Petra Welze

Personalised experience

One of the advantages of attending an international trade show on an organised tour, such as AIDT, is the additional program on offer. For ISH 2019, Melanie Gardener took attendees to factory tours of manufacturers Duravit, Kaldewei and Hansgrohe. 

‘We actually went to the factories, met the people, went through the showrooms for a [complete experience],’ Darren says. ‘At Kaldewei they are mass producing steel baths and it’s almost like you want to put orchestral music to it because it’s so rhythmic. Seeing their plants, production processes and philosophies [in action] was awesome.’

ISH returns to Europe in March 2021 and Melanie says she ‘definitely’ has plans to go back in the future. 

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