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Fit-out Companies You Shoud Know

Tthe relationship between designers and fit-out companies is complex

NEWS, Design

As with many symbiotic relationships where one entity cannot survive without the other, the relationship between designers and fit-out companies is notoriously complex.

Tasked with transforming the weird and wonderful ideas of designers into a hard, concrete reality, fit-out companies often find themselves in the front lines of a battle between cost-conscious clients and designers determined to protect the integrity of their work.

Given the challenging economic climate, 2010 was a particularly difficult year for fit-out companies, according to Peter Bruce, managing partner of AMBB Interiors, although things are already looking up for 2011, he added. “Projects already awarded for 2011 indicate that the future of the industry is very encouraging,” he said.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that this is still a very cost-conscious market, said Victor Low Foon, business development manager of Highgate Interiors. As such, fit-out companies still face the challenge of educating clients on the dangers of buying cheap.

“We are very lean on our pricing, without compromising on quality. Unfortunately, there are others without the same sentiments that can always beat our offering. So, the challenge is making the client understand that our cost includes everything, without any hidden extras,” Low Foon said.

For many fit-out companies, geographical diversification has been an effective way of countering the economic climate. Italy-headquartered 2 Square is in the process of setting up a Dubai office, and has also recently launched operations in Poland.

March will see the company open an office in London, while plans to strengthen its presence in Africa are also underway.

Depa has also set its sights on geographical expansion, and has won a string of contracts in markets as diverse as Angola, Yemen and Syria. The company is also strengthening its presence in south-east Asia.

Moving forward, fit-out companies will be challenged with keeping abreast of developments in the sustainability sphere, said Marcos Bish, managing director, Summertown. “Government legislation is changing all the time in the construction industry, which in turn impacts the interiors sector.

With the introduction of Estidama, buildings in Abu Dhabi now have to be green, and in Dubai specific rules to ensure greener buildings are already in place.

“We feel that it is only a matter of time before this also becomes mandatory for interiors. We are in a position to face such changes whereas so many organisations are not yet up to speed.”

Over the next few pages, CID speaks to some of the leading interior fit-out companies in the region to find out more about recent trends and key challenges confronting the industry.

United Design International
By Gary Lawton, CEO of United Design International.

Tell us about your company.
United Design International (UDI) was established in Abu Dhabi in 2002 to cater for VIP clientele in the residential and commercial sectors. UDI has worked closely with the royal families of the UAE, ministries and property developers, and has rapidly proven to be a competitive interior design company that delivers exclusive and unique design solutions.

UDI’s focus as a company is not only design but also installation, allowing turnkey solutions for all aspects of the market. Being recently awarded ISO 9001:2008 by the British Standards Institute (BSI) is further proof of UDI’s commitment to customer service and quality.

What projects have you worked on?
UDI has been involved with projects as diverse as the Abu Dhabi Judiciary, Al Ain Airport, the ministry of presidential affairs and numerous private villas, private offices and establishments.

Have there been any recent developments at your company?
UDI is currently in the fourth year of a five-year plan and is looking to expand into the manufacturing sector in order to complement existing services.

What are the key challenges facing your industry?
In an ever-changing market, it is a challenge to produce original designs to meet and exceed client expectations; a challenge in which UDI is continually succeeding.

How do we contact you?
UDI can be contacted at its new corporate headquarters: No 328, Plot 11, 17th Street, Mussafah Industrial Area M-4, Abu Dhabi, UAE; PO Box 53162; Tel: +971 (0)2 555 0002; Fax: +971 (0)2 555 0003; Website: www.ud-i.net; Email: uniteddesign@ud-i.net and gary@ud-i.net.

Summertown
CID meets Marcos Bish, managing director, Summertown.

Tell us about your company.
Summertown offers superior-quality interior solutions as a fit-out contractor, or on a complete turnkey basis, and as the first fit-out contractor in the UAE to occupy LEED Gold certified interiors, has first-hand experience of executing green projects that deliver environmental benefits and operational cost savings.

What projects have you worked on?
The Dutch Consulate with architect Jorissen Simonetti, the new Middle East headquarters for Kongsberg, and the Abu Dhabi Women’s College.

Have there been any recent developments at your company?
Summertown has always been proactive when it comes to going green. More organisations are now taking an interest and we’ve been sharing our experiences with those who want to adopt greener policies themselves through our Green in Action workshops. We have also established our own green committee – a Summertown team that is responsible for spearheading our goal for 2020 – which is to become carbon neutral.

What are the key challenges facing your industry?
Government legislation is changing all the time in the construction industry, which in turn impacts the interiors sector.

With the introduction of Estidama, buildings in Abu Dhabi now have to be green, and in Dubai specific rules to ensure greener buildings are already in place.

We feel that it is only a matter of time before this also becomes mandatory for interiors. We are in a position to face such changes whereas so many organisations are not yet up to speed.

How do we contact you?
PO Box 262807, Dubai, UAE;
Tel: +971 (0)4 805 3300; Email: info@summertown.ae; Website: www.summertown.ae.

The Interiors Group
CID speaks to Jonathan Milner, General Manager, The Interiors Group.

Tell us about your company.
We are not a traditional fit-out company; in fact, we don’t have a design team in-house but instead partner with ‘best of breed’ design houses here in the UAE. This gives the client as much flexibility as they require.

For example, they can use their own preferred designer and we will work alongside them. The client can keep the designer contracted to them or can novate them to us at a later stage.

Alternatively, we can introduce designers to them and they can choose who they like and they can be contracted to us straight away. However, on most of our projects the client has requested us to engage a designer who we feel will fit.

What projects have you worked on?
The most recent was The Cleveland Clinic’s new turnkey offices in Abu Dhabi, which covered 95,000ft², over seven floors, and was delivered in five months. Here we partnered with Broadway Malyan as our architectural designers and Chapman Bathurst for our MEP.

We had to work very closely with John Buck International, the client’s representative, to keep within their budget and I am glad to say that we were not a fil over. Another recent project was for an international IT firm based in 24/54, which was very high end.

We took the UK designer’s concept and worked up the design here in the UAE. This was such a success that the client is now talking to our UK office about further works. We also recently completed Michael Page’s new headquarters in the Al Jazeera complex.

Here, we introduced BDP and Wallace Whittle as our design team. This was delivered before the client’s requested delivery date and, as always, on budget. It was great to see the owner of the building showing other contractors our site as the benchmark for site set up and Health and Safety!

Recent developments?
Well, from the above projects and others, our reputation is far above our competition and as such we are now negotiating with a number of international and local clients, rather than tendering. What could be a better accolade?

Key challenges facing your industry?
Integrity. There are too many companies in the UAE that promise the earth and yet continuously hide or ignore bad news from a client – particularly delivery dates. A client’s working space is critical and business disruption must be kept
to a minimum.

How do we contact you?
We are one of the only Abu Dhabi-based fit-out companies, and can be found at Level 4, Al Mamoura Building B, on 4th and 15th street. Tel: +971 (0)2 659 4002; Web: www.interiorsgroup.ae.

2 Square
By Giampiero Alessandrini, president and CEO, 2 Square.

Tell us about your company.
2 Square is an Italian company focused on the design, production and installation of turnkey interior fit-out projects. The company’s range of activities includes offices, hotels, wellness centres, luxury residential projects, retail facilities and museums.

What projects have you worked on?
In the retail sector, we have worked with Ermenegildo Zegna and other top Italian fashion brands, creating their flagship stores in various European countries.

We have worked on a four-star hotel in Poland, and a number of luxury villas fitted with classic furniture in the UK. In addition, we were recently awarded with the interior fit-out contract for the Islamic Museum in Libya.

Have there been any recent developments at your company?
The company recently started operations in Poland and entered into a joint venture with a local partner to enter the market in Eastern Europe. We are also in the process of opening an office in Dubai to support the Middle East.

In addition, the company has started developing the African market and signed a partnership with a local company interested in increasing its portfolio of activities with the addition of interior works. In March, 2 Square is going to open a new office in Pimlico, London in order to support architects and designers in the UK.

What are the key challenges facing your industry?
The main challenge with interior fit-out is to provide customers with a full service, from design until final installation, offering only one point of reference and responsibility, and making activities more efficient.

More and more, projects require a single interlocutor that can develop the entire project, from the architectural concept and building construction to the internal fit-out.

This is what 2 Square does. The company’s goal is to mix local tastes and culture with Italian handcrafted quality and know how.

To reach this target the company has chosen a strategy of being present in each country with a local partner to better understand the customer’s needs and provide a more efficient and reliable service, which is the key to success in this industry.

How do we contact you?

Until the opening of our local office in Dubai, which will support the Middle East region, please contact our headquarters in Italy, located at 2 Square, Via della Cartiera 2, Villorba (TV), Italy; Tel: +39 422 363 136; Fax: +39 422 247 426. Web: www.2square.it; Local Dubai number: +971 (0)50 270 0233.

AMBB Interiors
By Peter Bruce, managing partner, AMBB Interiors.

Tell us about your company.
AMBB Interiors is a well established interior fit-out company based in the UAE and Qatar. We are considered a market leader throughout the Middle East region and we specialise in all types of interior fit-out works, including hotels, restaurants, corporate offices, banks and retail outlets.

Since inception we have focused our efforts on delivering the highest level of service and quality workmanship through our team of project managers and site operatives.

We are of the belief that our success is due to the people we employ, who are passionate about implementing our projects and have an uncompromising attitude towards quality. It is our aim to maintain a manageable level of projects, with the focus being on quality rather than quantity.

Our work has been endorsed by the interiors industry, as we were named Interior Contractor of the Year 2009 and 2010 at the Commercial Interior Design Awards.

What projects have you worked on?
We have recently carried out a number of prestigious corporate office fit-outs for blue chip companies within the DIFC zone.

These include offices for Bloomberg, HSBC, Barclays Wealth, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Linklaters. In the same zone we also completed the fit-out of Zuma, Caramel and Le Petite Maison, all of which are now considered to be premier restaurants in the UAE.

Other projects that we have completed are restaurants at Dubai Airport Terminal 3, the Yas Island Cipriani Restaurant and Nightclub in Abu Dhabi, and we are pleased to announce that we have just been awarded the Grand Hyatt Dubai Health Club and Spa.

Recent developments?
We now have offices in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, and in a concerted effort to reduce our reliance on sub-contractors we have constructed new offices for our marble and stone division, joinery division, gypsum division, MEP division, and aluminium and glass division. Our latest addition is a furniture and upholstery-making division.

Key challenges?
2010 was a particularly challenging year due to the economic downturn. However, AMBB Interiors managed to maintain its turnover and profitability. Projects already awarded for 2011 indicate that the future of the industry is very encouraging.

How do we contact you?
AMBB Interiors, PO Box 51445, Dubai, UAE; Tel: +971 (0)4 339 2911; E-mail: ambbint@emirates.net.ae; Website: www@ambbinteriors.com.


Depa
By Nadim Akhrass, managing director, operations, DEPA.

Tell us about your company.
We are a leading global provider of interior contracting services. We operate principally in the luxury fit-out sector with a focus on hospitality, commercial and residential property developments, as well as airports, metro stations, healthcare, retail, yachting, theming and other specialist fit-out sectors.

In addition, we are a provider of manufactured products and procurement services with a specific focus on customised furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E), which we use in our in-house operations as well as provide to third parties.

What projects have you worked on?
We have successfully executed large and complex projects in over 20 countries, including the Burj Al Arab Hotel and Burj Khalifa in Dubai; Emirates Palace and The Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi; the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha; Four Seasons hotels in Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh and Alexandria; the Mazagan Resort in Morocco and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Recent developments?
We are continuously undergoing developments and developing the company into a global entity.

Two of the most recent being the acquisition of Design Studio Furniture Manufacturer based in Singapore, to increase Depa’s long-term diversification plan with greater exposure to the south-east Asian markets; and Depa’s first contract win in Syria, for the complete fit-out of the Yasmeen Rotana Hotel.

Key challenges?
The industry as a whole always faces certain key challenges, including project delays and seasonality of construction activities. Depa has used these challenges to its benefit.

It has diversified its geographical presence, winning contracts in countries like Angola, Yemen and Syria, and increasing its presence in south-east Asia, and we will continue our international expansion plans. Furthermore, we are progressing our vertical and horizontal integration strategy through key acquisitions. This has allowed us to concentrate and become a leader in catering for very large and high-end projects.

How do we contact you?
Depa Dubai: Tel: +971 (0)4 228 5850; Email: info.depa.dxb@depa.com.


Highgate
By Victor Low Foon, Highgate’s
business development manager.

Tell us about your company.
Highgate started in Dubai in 2007 and quickly excelled due to our high-quality interior fit-out services and cost-effective solutions. We therefore expanded our reach to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, becoming more confident as we took on board key professionals to improve our services further.

We approach each project intelligently by ensuring that we understand the client’s needs and aspirations. Our sole aim is to make sure we retain our client for life by delivering solutions that are beyond their expectations.

What projects have you worked on?
We are most proud of our association with the Dubai Chamber Of Commerce where in the last two years we have completed two thirds of their building. We have now been awarded the final phase.

Other notable names that we are very proud to have worked with include JP Morgan in DIFC, the Gulf Finance headquarters, which was very exciting, Al Hilal Banks in Dubai and Sharjah, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Le Classique Restaurant, Monte Carlo Restaurant, the Besix Office in Abu Dhabi, and Al Foah Retail in Mirdif City Centre.

Recent developments?
We were nominated for the Interior Contractor of the Year Award at the 2010 CID Awards and we have recently added maintenance to our list of services as there is constant demand from our clients.

Key challenges?
We are very lean on our pricing, without compromising on quality. Unfortunately there are others without the same sentiments that can always beat our offering. So, the challenge is making clients understand that our costing includes everything, without any hidden extras. We believe that if “you buy cheap, you buy twice”.

How do we contact you?
PO Box 119819, Dubai, UAE.
Tel: +971 (0)4 326 1114; Email: info@highgate.ae or victor@highgate.ae.

Ambrosius
By Yassin Nasri, general manager, Ambrosius Middle East.

Tell us about your company?
Ambrosius Middle East is the Middle East arm of the German fit-out contracting company, Ernst F. Ambrosius & Sohn, which has been in operation since 1872.

Ambrosius is an international leader in the fields of museums, airport lounges, large-scale and high-end exhibition and event constructions, and other high-end projects.

What projects have you worked on?
Some of our Middle East references are Etihad Airways’ first and business class lounges at Abu Dhabi Airport, which were last year named among the best five business lounges worldwide.

We are targeting, as a first point of reference, the Middle East’s museum projects. We would also like to highlight our ability to cater to international projects for Middle East clients, such as Middle East Airlines lounges at international airports, event and exhibition spaces for Middle East companies at international events and fairs, and private and summer residences in Europe for Middle Eastern individuals.

Recent developments?
As we are well established in our home market, Europe, as well as in China, our focus for now is to continue developing the Middle East market. In particular, we are studying the option of entering into joint venture partnerships with local fit-out contractors.

Key challenges?
Ambrosius is well-known for its engineering approach. Every detail within our innovative projects is still produced to the highest standards of craftsmanship. We develop individual solutions, combining the client’s vision and our creativity to achieve unique results. The challenge for us is to create awareness about our USPs in a mass production market such as the Middle East.

How do we contact you?
We are located on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Tel: +971 (0)4 330 6308; Email: me@ambrosius.de; Website: www.ambrosius1872.com.

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