ISH 2023 – Review
Two worlds

It has been four years since the world's leading trade fair for HVAC + Water opened its doors in Frankfurt am Main. From 13 to 17 March 2023, visitors were able to experience an ISH whose exhibitors increasingly offered self-sufficient, sustainable alternatives and conducted research into more efficient use of water and energy.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 3/20/2023

How urgent the search for new approaches has become in view of war, pandemic and economic crisis, also in the SHK sector, could be seen just by looking at the completely overcrowded exhibition halls in the ISH Energy section. "When can you supply?" was one of the questions most frequently heard on the exhibition stands with a view to the new products and systems. ISH brought together 2,025 exhibitors from 54 countries in Frankfurt am Main and thus offered ideal conditions for exchange within the industry in favour of marketable, sustainable solutions. "In Europe alone, the building sector accounts for around 40 percent of the total energy consumed. This shows the sector's great leverage in achieving climate targets and the socio-political relevance of the issues involved. They are the focus of ISH and make the world's leading trade fair the meeting place to find out about innovative solutions and set the course for a sustainable future", says Wolfgang Marzin, Chairman and CEO of Messe Frankfurt.

The presented solutions thus included current hybrid heat pump technologies as well as intelligent automation systems; the admixture of hydrogen was discussed as well as the optimisation of solar technology. Saving energy, cutting costs and reducing CO2 were the guiding themes of ISH Energy. Heating expert Stiebel Eltron grouped these into three zones: "Heat pump and ventilation in new buildings", "Decarbonisation in the real estate industry" and "Heating modernisation with heat pump". Siemens presented IoT and cloud-based solutions for smart buildings, as well as its hydrogen portfolio for boilers in residential buildings to meet future energy needs sustainably and safely. Abora Solar offered a solar module with an efficiency of 89 percent, achieving a certified world record: the hybrid solar module with aHTech technology generates the same energy as four photovoltaic modules. With the "Compress 6800i AW" air-water heat pump, Bosch showed an energy-saving, all-electric and quiet heat pump that is operated with the natural refrigerant R290 and is suitable for both renovations and new buildings. Also of interest is the manufacturer's energy manager, which intelligently distributes self-produced solar power in the smart home, thus saving electricity costs. Viessmann's programme at the ISH included both technical and aesthetic solutions: No fuel such as oil or gas needs to be used for the "Vitocal" heat pumps; instead, environmental energy from the ambient air, groundwater or the ground is taken advantage of. This saves resources and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, Viessmann has rethought the plant room and presented "Viessmann Invisible", a compact system with the appearance of a wall cabinet and three different installation options that can be fitted into any angled floor plan.

Optimising existing systems for the benefit of user-friendliness and sustainability was also clearly evident in the ISH Water section: Burgbad, the world's first climate-neutral bathroom furniture manufacturer, showed the prototype of a new siphon that attaches directly underneath the washbasin and drastically reduces the formation and release of potentially harmful germs. The classic space-consuming and cleaning-unfriendly U-pipe is no longer needed, and clogging through normal use can be practically ruled out. Aerosols can hardly occur, as the stagnant water is not whirled up, but merely displaced. Roca presented the "In-Wash Insignia", a premium shower toilet that can be controlled via a remote control as via the matching app and, as part of the Roca Connect IoT service, provides information about the use of the toilet and water consumption. The status and warning messages thus facilitate the seamless management of the sanitary facilities. The model is available with Roca's In-Tank technology, which integrates the flush tank into the WC ceramic, enabling a space-saving design without additional installations. The model also has a lot to offer in terms of hygiene: Rimless ceramic, dirt-repellent glaze, self-cleaning shower nozzle with UV light function, a carbon filter to neutralise odours and a descaling function.

Optimised performance that creates more hygiene with less water, offers more comfort for users and simpler installation was also demonstrated by the Geberit WC system "Acanto" – in this model, both concealed cistern and WC ceramics are from a single source. The "Geberit Connect" concept also enables digital networking of the various sanitary products to ensure holistic and economical management of the installations. Toto presented a new smart toilet with integrated washlet: The prototype "Neorest WX" with a reduced water consumption of 4.5 litres and the hygiene technology Ewater+ developed by Toto, which causes the rod nozzle to clean itself automatically with electrolytically treated water for intimate cleaning. Furthermore, the WC ceramics are sprayed with EWater+ after each use to ensure maximum hygiene. VitrA showed "QuantumFlush", a flushing system that achieves maximum performance thanks to laminar flow. And at Woodio Block, visitors could discover the first toilet made of waterproof wood composite – manufactured in Finland from wood chips and a resin mixture.

Burgbad trade fair stand

The Hansgrohe Group came up with an extra highlight for the ISH: The "Green Vision Beyond Water: Rethinking Bathroom Culture" concept study, developed in collaboration with Phoenix Design, showed a bathroom with 90 percent less water and energy consumption and thus also 90 percent less CO2 emissions caused by heating the water. "Our vision, the "Green Vision Beyond Water: Rethinking Bathroom Culture" becomes concrete with the concept bathroom. Individual elements of the study are already being used in our innovations, others we will develop further and incorporate into our technologies and series products. The important thing for us is to create greater awareness of our approach to water throughout the bathroom," says Hans Jürgen Kalmbach, Chief Executive Officer of the Hansgrohe Group.

Thinking holistically – this claim mainly guided the design of the new bathroom collections: Kaschkasch developed the "Antao" bathroom collection in cooperation with Villeroy & Boch and were inspired by dewdrops for the organic, slightly asymmetrical design language. With "Antao", the designer duo also picks up on two other current themes in contemporary bathroom design: Natural colours, contrasted to the maximum by a deep, matt black, and furniture that, with perfectly coordinated elements, plenty of storage space and numerous customisation options, also fits into any other room in the home. The designers explained the idea for "Antao" to the public during the ISH in a live talk by Stylepark in cooperation with Villeroy & Boch. A sensitivity for the details in design, which Besau Marguerre also know how to master: Their "b:me" collection for Burgbad is inspired by the play of light and shadow in the sand dunes and offers a soft language of form and a pleasant feel. In addition, the elements can be completely customised and, with clever solutions, provide plenty of storage space and sufficient room for use even in very small bathrooms - such as a corner guest bathroom solution where the tap is placed on the side of the washbasin. The harmonious solution for a compact bathroom by Besau Marguerre could be explored in parallel on the industry platform "Pop up my Bathroom" in the "Tiny Bathroom" section. Other current trends presented were the "Sustainable Bathroom", the "Wellbeing Bathroom" with health-promoting effects, and the "Emotional Bathroom" – an emotional bathroom design through colour, light, sensuality, which is achieved by means of smart sanitary equipment, while the technology itself remains invisible.

In addition to "b:me", Eva Marguerre and Marcel Besau also came up with the pleasantly fresh colour concept and styling of the Burgbad stand, which, with its airy textile panels, was in perfect harmony with the stand architecture by Henning Erhardt of bottega + erhardt architekten. The latter developed a linear shelf framework made of birch plywood that can be reused several times and was realised in cooperation with Burgbad's tree-planting initiative WaldLokal. In terms of sustainable stand design, the Hansgrohe Group was also convincing under the motto "reduce – re-use – recycle": 2000 square metres of space were occupied by the Axor and Hansgrohe brands in the Festhalle, and for the first time Hansgrohe also presented sanitary ceramics and bathroom furniture. Thanks to recyclable materials, the rental of furniture, plants, lighting and structures, the Hansgrohe Group was able to significantly reduce the building mass and thus also the amount of waste after the end of the trade fair. Two shining examples of sustainable stand architecture at ISH 2023, which unfortunately were still among the exceptions. In contrast, many other presentations with classic sceneries and the generous use of carpeting looked like status symbols that had fallen out of time.

Meanwhile, light shapes with gentle curves were also to be discovered in the freestanding bathtubs: With "OYO DUO", Kaldewei presented a design by Stefan Diez with Egg Shape shaping, made of steel enamel. Despite the robust material, the lines appear pleasantly flowing. In addition to the high level of comfort for users, the free space under the bathtub allows plumbers to work without a screed cut-out, as the drain set can be recessed into the bathtub body. For the first time at an ISH, it was also possible to experience the "Zencha" bathroom series by Sebastian Herkner for Duravit, whose soft gradients culminate in a rim that curves outwards. Peter Wirz designed "Meda" for Laufen, a modular bathroom series that finds the universal middle ground with rectangular profiles and wide curves on the inside. The storage surfaces on the washbasins and fittings of "Meda" are also very practical. "Creating something that pleases a majority is the highest art of good design," says Wirz.

While the signals in bathroom design on many stands pointed in the direction of natural inspiration and the search for inner and outer harmony in the pleasant glow of dimmed mirror lighting, Philipp Starck, as usual, went in the stylish opposite direction: with the bathtub and washbasin in the "AXOR Suite" collection, he came up with luxurious fittings with gleaming metal surrounds and shelves. Alongside this, with the "ShowerComposition", he has created a shower ensemble whose body and head translate architectural structures into design with ultra-slim profiles, wide vertical panels and precise angles. Maximum reduction – a trend that could otherwise be seen above all in the fittings when walking through the halls: be it the slim "Genesi" washbasin fitting by DSB Design Studio for Bruma, the characterful "Cento" by Alessandro Zambelli for Guglielmi, or the extremely straight-lined "Opus" series of fittings by Bruno Erpicum for Cea Design. For the new "F5 Hybrid" kitchen faucet, KWC Group combined a high, elegant spout with the advantages of an electronic faucet: Integrated into the "AQUA 3000 open" water management system, regular, automatic hygiene flushing is possible throughout the building's drinking water network. The statistical data can be read out via a bidirectional remote control. The slim silhouette made of recyclable, hygienic stainless steel of the KWC "Bevo E", which was also presented, protects against burns thanks to its double-shell design, as the shower remains cool on the outside. As it works without ambient air, operation is also extremely quiet.

Hansgrohe's Green Vision Beyond Water

In the shower sector, meanwhile, Bette and Dallmer underlined their leading position: Bette presented "BetteLevel", an installation foot that can be used to align any shower tray or surface from 700 x 700 millimetres to 1800 × 1000 millimetres without tools during installation. Dallmer presented the first black stainless steel shower channel "CeraFloor Select Duo", which can be manufactured in lengths of up to two metres, as well as the joint drainage solution from Dallmer and Jung Pumpen, which solves the slope problem in bathroom renovations: the Plancofix Connect floor drain pump is exceptionally flat and automatically directs the shower water into the wastewater pipe, which is often higher up. Ideas for barrier-free bathrooms were also to be discovered at the ISH that went beyond the classic handrails – such as at Kermi, which presented a pendulum-folding solution for the "Mena" fittings shower enclosure that ensures freedom of access and is space-saving. With its "Medcare" washbasins, KWC presented an accessible solution with handles integrated into the resin-bonded solid surface material. In addition, a special show by the Central Association of Sanitary, Heating and Air Conditioning (Zentralverband Sanitär Heizung Klima) provided an opportunity to experience numerous care-oriented bathroom concepts in virtual and augmented reality.

ISH 2023 offered as many exciting prototypes and products that were developed with climate protection in mind as bathroom designs that emphasise the bathroom as a living space and offer users holistic relaxation. It was noticeable that the often conservative structures of the sanitation, heating and air-conditioning industry have relaxed in the last four years - in benefit of a sustainable cooperation that has a future.