VELUX History

With materials in short supply in wartime Denmark, Villum Kann Rasmussen developed the first VELUX roof window that would transform dark attics into domestic spaces.

Inventive entrepreneur fills loft spaces with daylight and fresh air

In 1941, the young engineer Villum Kann Rasmussen established his company V. Kann Rasmussen & Co in Copenhagen. One of his first commissions was to supply roof windows to a number of school buildings, in which loft space was being converted into classrooms. The shortage of materials during the war led Villum to come up with an idea that would transform those dark empty attics into bright living spaces – full of daylight and fresh air.

A historic moment, the first delivery of type BB windows to Slagelse Vestre School.
A historic moment, the first delivery of type BB windows to Slagelse Vestre School.
Villum Kann Rasmussen (KR) at work in his own new company.

Vision and success

His vision was “to make a skylight - a roof window - that is just as good as the best vertical window”. Villum’s first roof window was patented in 1942. He called it VELUX – ‘VE’, from the word ‘ventilation’ and ‘LUX’, from the Latin word for ‘light’. VELUX roof windows proved to be an effective way of putting many square metres of wasted roof space to good use. Post-war demand for VELUX roof windows increased significantly, and the young company’s prospects looked bright. Villum’s belief in a fair deal, high quality standards and ongoing technical innovations and improvements were key to his success.

Villum Kann Rasmussen (KR) at work in his own new company.

Post-war Western Europe experienced an economic jump-start. None more so than West Germany, whose Wirtschaftswunder reflected positively on the VELUX Group.

Economic boost in Germany

The Second World War left war-torn Europe devastated and divided. With financial aid from the USA and increased productivity in the region, West Germany in particular, experienced a significant boost in its economy. Its ‘economic miracle’ (Wirtschaftswunder) was to play a key role in the VELUX Group’s earnings over the coming years.

1954: Bagsværd Bygningsindustri, Factory in Denmark.
1954: Bagsværd Bygningsindustri, Factory in Denmark.
Ersnt Günter Albers (left) and Villum Kann Rasmussen (right) visiting West Germany.

A German partnership

In 1952, with the help of an employee who was fluent in German, Villum Kann Rasmussen formed a partnership with Ernst Günter Albers, the owner of the joinery E. Albers & V. Drathen (ALDRA) in Meldorf, West Germany. Together, they established VELUX GmbH Bauzubehör.

Ersnt Günter Albers (left) and Villum Kann Rasmussen (right) visiting West Germany.

Expanding across borders

From 1956 West Germany became the VELUX Group’s largest market. From the beginning of the 1960s, sales in West Germany were ten times higher than in Denmark. Based on this success, the VELUX Group expanded its operations into France and Austria in 1964.

VELUX Volkswagen service van.
VELUX Volkswagen service van.

The 1960s were marked by cultural and political change across the globe. It was also a time when growth led to prosperity – and a time for setting new standards for responsible business conduct and innovation.

An increasing demand for roof windows

The 1960s were marked by revolution and change in the West as a new generation questioned the mainstream and traditional values of their parents. Western Europe also experienced a boom in housing construction during this decade as families took advantage of government subsidies and became first-time homeowners. This resulted in a steady increase in the demand for building materials including roof windows, which propelled the VELUX Group towards even greater success. The company developed a new generation of roof windows (called GGL), which set new standards in design and functionality.

1969: Early model demonstration of the VELUX GGL window.
1969: Early model demonstration of the VELUX GGL window.
1964: The company expanded further in Europe with the opening of a sales office in France.

The VELUX Group grows

By 1965, the VELUX Group had expanded into 12 markets and, by the early 1970s, had grown from around 300 to more than 1000 employees.

1964: The company expanded further in Europe with the opening of a sales office in France.

The Model Company Objective

The mid-1960s also saw the consolidation of what was to become the mainstay of the VELUX Group’s way of doing business. In 1965, Villum Kann Rasmussen formulated the Model Company Objective by which the VELUX Group committed itself to producing products ‘that were useful to society’ and to ‘treating its customers, suppliers, employees of all categories and shareholders better than most companies’.

1965: Villum Kann Rasmussen formulated the Model Company Objective. It still guides our way of doing business in the VELUX Group to this day.
1965: Villum Kann Rasmussen formulated the Model Company Objective. It still guides our way of doing business in the VELUX Group to this day.

By reorganising the business and focusing on new and innovative energy-efficient solutions, the crippling economic circumstances of the 1970s presented opportunities for growth and international expansion.

Challenging market conditions

The VELUX Group profited greatly from the building boom in Europe and in the USA in the years following World War II. However, all that changed in 1973 when oil prices sky-rocketed following conflict in the Middle East. This had an enormous impact on the building industry in the VELUX Group’s markets – especially in West Germany, where roof window sales fell by more than 24 percent. The management team responded quickly to these challenging market conditions by restructuring the organisation and increasing focus on good service, reliable products and innovation. This proved to be the winning formula that brought the VELUX Group through the crisis.

Photo from the production at Gelsted, Denmark.
Photo from the production at Gelsted, Denmark.
1975: Daylight crosses the Atlantic. The VELUX Group establishes a sales company and later their own production company in USA and Canada.

New markets and products

New markets were added, and sales companies and production facilities were established in Great Britain, France, the USA and Canada. The expansion continued throughout the 1980s, this time mainly in Central and Eastern Europe. These turbulent years also saw the product portfolio expand from a single product type to a full range of products, including top-hung roof windows for lower roof pitches, roller shutters, electric-powered windows and an extensive range of accessories and sunscreening products.

1975: Daylight crosses the Atlantic. The VELUX Group establishes a sales company and later their own production company in USA and Canada.

The fall of the iron curtain thawed political tensions and created new opportunities with more markets opening up in former Communist states and in the Far East.

Global availability of VELUX products

The fall of the Berlin Wall not only unified Germany; it also marked the end of the Cold War. Many of the former Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe gained their independence and the freedom to trade with Western Europe. This coincided with the recovery from the economic downturn that had plagued Europe since the oil crisis. The VELUX Group also experienced steady progress throughout the decade. The organisation’s global strategy of introducing improved logistics and establishing local sales and production companies in countries like China ensured the global availability of VELUX products.

Late 1980s VELUX sales office in Budapest, Hungary.
Late 1980s VELUX sales office in Budapest, Hungary.
Villum Kann-Rasmussen and his eldest son Lars Kann-Rasmussen.

The son takes over

In 1992, Villum Kann Rasmussen’s eldest son, Lars Kann-Rasmussen, became Chairman of the board of V. Kann Rasmussen Industri - the parent company of the VELUX Group. Villum died in 1993 at the age of 84, leaving behind a prosperous group of companies in rapid expansion, as well as two non-profit foundations. During the next decades, Lars Kann-Rasmussen developed, modernised and expanded the VELUX Group into an international enterprise, consolidating its position as a market leader in the building components industry.

Villum Kann-Rasmussen and his eldest son Lars Kann-Rasmussen.

Economic growth breathed life into the construction industry, allowing the VELUX Group to enter the millennium with solutions that addressed new requirements in energy efficiency.

Meeting the new global agenda

Just as the world changed, the VELUX Group transformed too. Now an international organisation of 10,000 people in more than 35 countries, the company geared itself to meet the new global agenda of green energy and sustainability in everyday living. The VELUX Group introduces three new products - the electrical window INTEGRA (2002), io-homecontrol® (2005), and the VELUX Sun Tunnel (2005).

2002: The VELUX Group Introduces INTEGRA.
2002: The VELUX Group Introduces INTEGRA.
2005: Soltag demo house – with carbon-neutral heating and optimum living conditions.

Increase in production capacity and new product launches

While local initiative remains one of the VELUX Group’s core values, globalisation and increased competition called for more transnational co-operation amongst our divisions and staff. Moreover, market expansion created a need for an increase in production capacity and the launch of new products. In 2000, the V21 product range was introduced, bringing improvements in installation, design and functionality.

2005: Soltag demo house – with carbon-neutral heating and optimum living conditions.

The new vision

In 2005, a new vision was launched: “To lead the development of better living environments with daylight and fresh air through the roof”. This vision was born from an understanding of the importance of natural daylight and ventilation, and the interconnection between these and the quality of people's lives.

2005: VELUX Daylight Symposium brings together some of the worlds leading daylight experts.

Sharing the passion of daylight and fresh air

Setting the agenda for better living environments is not something we do alone. We, for instance, invite design and architecture students to participate in our VELUX awards, and we bring together some of the world’s leading daylight experts at the Daylight Symposium. Since 2015, the VELUX Group has also held an annual Healthy Buildings Day, where industry experts, professional house builders, policymakers and housing association representatives come together to discuss solutions to make our buildings more healthy and sustainable. We share a passion for daylight, fresh air and better living environments, a passion that still drives the company to this day. The Daylight Symposium and Healthy Buildings Day have been merged into one event from 2021 known as the Build for Life Conference.

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2005: VELUX Daylight Symposium brings together some of the worlds leading daylight experts.

TV commercials

During this period of time, the VELUX Group developed a large number of TV commercials, associating our products with daylight and fresh air. In collaboration with an animation company, a series of emotional TV commercials called 'Toys' was produced in 2003. In the 'Portraits' series from 2005, we also used commercials to communicate our product functionalities and how easy it is to install blinds yourself.

2003: 'Toys' commercial
2003: 'Toys' commercial

A new generation of products defines the agenda for sustainable living. By engaging with people who are just as passionate about daylight and fresh air as we are, we have proven that it’s possible to balance energy and comfort for a healthier indoor environment.

Energy consumption in buildings

The global population is predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050, with seven billion expected to live in cities. Living sustainably is one of the greatest challenges facing city dwellers, authorities and politicians today. As buildings account for 40 percent of all energy consumption in Europe, they can play an important role in reducing the world’s energy consumption.

2012: Sulighthouse – Austria’s first carbon-neutral single-familiy house.
2012: Sulighthouse – Austria’s first carbon-neutral single-familiy house.
For a year, the Dorfstetter Family has been living in the Sunlighthouse in Austria testing the house under real-life conditions.

Building sustainably

In 2009, the VELUX Group initiated the ‘Model Home 2020’ project to show that it is possible to build sustainable buildings for the future. Six full-scale demonstration buildings were set up in Europe by 2011. By 2017, the VELUX Group had more than 20 demonstration buildings around the world, where people could live, work, and go to school – proving that energy efficiency and quality of life can go hand in hand.

For a year, the Dorfstetter Family has been living in the Sunlighthouse in Austria testing the house under real-life conditions.

Two new product ranges were launched in 2012

Our New Generation of roof windows with improved energy balance and VELUX Modular Skylights – a completely new business area that focuses on bringing daylight and fresh air into commercial buildings - represent our largest investment to date and reflect our commitment to solving global challenges.

VELUX Modular Skylights opened up to a new business area within commercial buildings.
VELUX Modular Skylights opened up to a new business area within commercial buildings.
2016: The VELUX Group celebrates its 75th anniversary

Our 75th Anniversary

In 2016, the VELUX Group celebrated 75 years of innovation and dedication to bringing daylight and fresh air into people's lives. Today, we are proud to offer a range of products and solutions that contribute to the quality of life for people in their homes and workplaces, as well as supporting better learning for kids in school.

2016: The VELUX Group celebrates its 75th anniversary

New CEO and focus on commercial division expansion kick-starts growth phase. With Briggs at the helm, top management changes and acquisitions, the VELUX Group accelerates its efforts to become a regional market leader within the commercial business area.

New CEO in 2018

Following the retirement of former CEO Jørgen Tang-Jensen, David Briggs took over as new CEO of the VELUX Group on January 1, 2018. David Briggs has been in the VELUX family for more than 25 years. Most recently, he worked as VELUX Group Senior Vice President for Sales and in this position, he was also a member of the VELUX Management Group. Previously, Briggs held a number of key management positions in the VELUX Group. Briggs was also responsible for the rise of Altaterra, a company originally set up as a VELUX sister company, which today is a part of the VELUX Group.

2018: New CEO, David Briggs.
2018: New CEO, David Briggs.
2019: A school in Hamburg, Germany, with multiple VELUX Modular Skylights.

The commercial business area

The VELUX Group has been the market leader in the residential market for roof windows for more than 80 years. Today, the strategy is to develop a leading position in the commercial business area through organic growth and acquisitions. The VELUX Group’s first step into the commercial (non-residential) market was in 2012 when it launched VELUX Modular Skylights (VMS).

2019: A school in Hamburg, Germany, with multiple VELUX Modular Skylights.

Acquisitions in 2018

As a fundamental part of the new growth strategy, VELUX made three acquisitions within the commercial division. The first acquisition was Wasco Products Inc., also known as Wasco Skylights, one of America’s oldest and largest skylight manufacturers. The second acquisition was JET-Group, a leading European supplier of daylight solutions, ventilation products and smoke and heat exhaust ventilation systems. The third acquisition was Vitral, which sells skylights and glass-roof systems in Denmark and England. With these three acquisitions and the continuous development of VELUX Modular Skylights, the VELUX Group significantly strengthens its position in the commercial division. For this purpose, the VELUX Group established a VELUX Commercial division to benefit customers in the commercial market.

2018: Commercial skylights in Belgium, Bibliotheek Utopia.
2018: Commercial skylights in Belgium, Bibliotheek Utopia.
2020: CEO, David Briggs, signs the commitment for the VELUX Group to become Lifetime Carbon Neutral by 2041.

Sustainability Strategy 2030

Launched in 2020, our Sustainability Strategy 2030 is a 10-year transformational journey in which we strive to pioneer climate and nature action, innovate sustainable products and secure a responsible business. Our pioneering commitment is to become Lifetime Carbon Neutral by 2041. This means taking responsibility for both our past and future carbon emissions.

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2020: CEO, David Briggs, signs the commitment for the VELUX Group to become Lifetime Carbon Neutral by 2041.

Celebrating a great idea

A passion for daylight, fresh air and better living environments. That is what started our company more than 80 years ago and it is still what drives us forward today. In 2021, the VELUX Group could celebrate 80 years of bringing daylight and fresh air to its customers.