Kn-Owen the Trade
The H+H Thin-Joint system is a modern method of construction that offers a whole range of benefits including simplicity of installation and design flexibility. As Owen Ongley puts it: "Thin-joint can really increase the quality of the build, especially for airtightness, if you have the right guys on it who know what they’re doing."
This is where Owen comes in. As the Block-work Demonstrator and Technician for H+H, Owen has almost eleven years experience demonstrating the Thin-Joint system to various groups within the industry; helping people to get, "the best out of the system."
"I go anywhere I'm asked to," says Owen and, naturally, demonstrating can take him all over the country with a couple of stints in Ireland and Scotland. His particular skill-set has even seen him travel as far as Sri Lanka.
Following the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami H+H deployed a team, with materials, to the island country. Owen was particularly vital for this project as the objective was, "training local people to build their own houses."
Owen says the project was not without its challenges: "Getting the blocks out there was hard work; a lot of the roads are more like dirt tracks. It was really worthwhile though. I wouldn't have got the same experience if I had just gone on holiday there."
While the technician element of his title means that Owen is sometimes in the lab testing aircrete blocks in various ways, much of what he does is physical demonstrations for people wanting to know more about thin-joint construction.
"Small and large companies come to the factory at Borough Green for training days where I demonstrate the product. I also go on site with current bricklayers and go to colleges to do demonstrations for up and coming bricklayers. Reactions are very good. Lots of people have said it’s really informative."
These demonstrations also extend to architects who often book Owen for seminars in order to delve deeper into the quality of the thin-joint build. Some of his more daunting demonstrations have been to this clientèle "Probably the most prestigious one I demonstrated for was the Architects Association in London. Its offices are opposite the Houses of Parliament and it’s a really plush building. I was on a stage doing my demonstration which was being filmed and projected onto big screens."
Before joining H+H, Owen spent twenty-seven years running his own business. "My dad was a bricklayer and more or less the whole family was involved in the construction industry. I became a bricklayers apprentice right out of school. Running my own business was really hard work lots of evenings and weekends. I was getting really tired of it when I happened to see an advert in the paper for a block work demonstrator and technician.
After an interview and "half a day of practical work" Owen was offered the job. Just shy of eleven years later he says, "I've got on fantastically. They’re a great bunch of people at H+H; you couldn't ask for better people, or products, to work with."