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Big plans afoot

by Selina Denman on Jun 1, 2010

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Sustainability is still the key trend when it comes to flooring, according to Angela Schaschen, managing director of the Dubai branch of Deutsche Messe, organiser of Domotex Middle East, the trade fair for carpets and floor coverings, which took place in Dubai from May 10 to 12.

“The ‘environmentally-friendly’ part of the show is becoming more and more important,” she said.

Looking forward, the flooring industry is all set to be revolutionised by nanotechnology, according to John Alexander Smith, professor and Emeritus chairman of the department of interior design at the American University in Dubai, who gave a presentation entitled ‘Flooring – Old Problems, New Materials’, as part of the APID seminar session at Domotex.

“If we apply nanotechnology to flooring finishes, there are unlimited potential benefits. Floors could be self cleaning. They could have thermo-insulation, UV and solar protection, fire proofing, anti-grafitti, anti bacterial, scratch proof, and even anti-fingerprint properties,” Smith said.

“We are at the outset of a new era. Nanotechnology means that you will no longer have to specify a product or material that you know will be in the builder’s yard.

“As an architect or a designer, what you will basically do is write the specification of the material that you want. So let’s say you wanted it to absorb solar radiation during the day and, at night, emit energy as light. Instead of working with what already exists, you are starting with a clean, blank piece of paper.”

When it comes to current buying trends in this part of the world, it is no secret that wooden flooring has become more and more prevalent over recent years, but there is still high demand for wall-to-wall carpeting, particularly amongst the expat community, Schaschen pointed out.

“They don’t like marble flooring. It’s too cold for them. So, wall to wall is a trend and, within this, there is a trend towards high-volume flooring,” she said.

While regional buying trends continue to evolve, there are some obvious constants, Schaschen continued. “Luxury is still a major factor. You have to give them something to play with! The Middle East likes luxury and it likes intelligent toys!”

The current economic climate is also having a clear – and not entirely negative – impact on the flooring industry. For property owners looking to add value to their investment in a highly competitive marketplace, flooring is an obvious place to start.

“There are so many empty properties around right now. Owners trying to add value to these properties will start with flooring; it’s the most obvious thing you can do,” said Schaschen.
In a hospitality context, the tendency right now is to keep flooring longer than might traditionally be the case. Renovation and replacement cycles have been extended, Schaschen noted, with surprising implications for Domotex.

“As a result of the current financial situation, some of the hotels are keeping their flooring or carpet longer so, this year, cleaning and maintenance has become a more important part of the show, which we didn’t expect.”

This is in keeping with Deutsche Messe’s efforts to make Domotex a show that covers every single aspect of the flooring industry. “Domotex Middle East is a show that covers everything on the floor, from sports stadium flooring to hospital flooring, to supermarkets and hotels, to handmade carpets – everything is here. It starts from the production of the floor, the machinery that you need to cut it and lay it down, all the way through to how you clean it; there is nothing related to flooring that is not here,” said Schaschen.

Further broadening the appeal of the show, Domotex this year partnered with R+T Middle East, a trade show organised by Messe Stuttgart dedicated to roller shutters, doors, gates and sun protection systems. “We have been trying to enter this market for many years but it is difficult to get a slot at the World Trade Centre, so we joined forces with Domotex,” explained Bernhard Muller, division direction of Messe Stuttgart International.

“It is obviously very difficult to launch a new show in Dubai right now, but many of the industry’s key players already do business in the region and many of them approached us saying we need a more focused show,” he added.