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Rountable: Bathroom design and products.

Meet the experts

Louise Pitt, marketing and CRM manager, Geberit Gulf

Louise Pitt serves as marketing and CRM manager for Geberit in the Gulf regional office. Based in Dubai, Louise ensures the desired Geberit brand image is maintained across the region by developing and coordinating the marketing strategy - a position she has held for more than five years.

Toni ElKadi, head of projects - Middle East, Duravit

Since 2006, Toni ElKadi, along with 5,800 other employees worldwide, is implementing the Duravit idea of "living bathrooms". During this time, he has taken over several responsibilities within the company, starting as business development manager. Since 2015, he has taken over as Duravit head of projects Middle East.

Jane Jacobsen, marketing executive, Aliaxis MEA

Jane Jacobsen is in charge of group's marketing for the Middle East and Africa region. Some of her key responsibilities are to increase brand presence and brand awareness in the GCC and Africa markets, and to reach out to industry professionals with group's wide range product portfolio.

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Karen Chung, marketing manager, Kohler EMEA

Karen Chung manages the marketing for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region for Kohler. Karen has previously worked as a product and brand manager in Whirlpool and Simmons. She graduated from the Oklahoma City University with an MBA in international business.

Sophay Young, senior project design consultant, Sanipex Group

Sophay Young has been with the group for more than seven years and is senior project design consultant for Bagnodesign/Sanipex Group.

Adnan Nalwala, executive director, Akar Technical Services and Natural Stone Company

Adnan Nalwala overlooks the operations of the Natural Stone company, one of the biggest in the GCC region in terms of size (spread over 25,000m2) and product offering.

Q. What are some of the latest products you have launched in the market?

Louise Pitt: New for 2016 is the Geberit Monolith sanitary modules for WCs that are alternatives to an exposed cistern. In addition, the company has launched several new actuator plates and redesigned quite a few of its existing range. We have also launched the Alpha 8CM cistern and flush actuator plates. These cisterns are equipped with a high-end flush valve and a top fill valve. The Alpha actuator plates come in five designs in four different finishes: white alpine, bright chrome-plated, matt chrome-plated and jet black and are made of high quality plastic.

Toni ElKadi: The new "c-bonded" version, as Duravit calls this technology, involves connecting the ceramic washbasin to the surface of the vanity unit - to create a perfect whole. The material thickness of the washbasin is hidden from view. Moreover, the "c-bonded" solution does not just look good, but DuraCeram, the patented special ceramic, is particularly wear-resistant. The large shelves at the sides are practical and the smooth, surfaces are also quick and easy to clean.

Jane Jacobsen: Due to a growing interest of acoustic and lighting standards, Aliaxis has launched a wide product portfolio offering hotel operators everything from plumbing to bathroom solutions. The dBlue acoustic drainage pipe systems diminishes flowing water sounds within guest rooms to the minimum while Sanit's light-sensor push plates within the bathroom facilitates interior designers with lighting effects.

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Karen Chung: Kohler has just launched the Veil Wall hung toilet, Beitou faucet, Composed faucet and Avid faucet in the Middle East market.

Sophay Young: At the luxury end of the spectrum, Bagnodesign has launched Mezzanine, which has basins with slim profiles and furniture available in five colour options, including aubergine, fungi, oceano, smoked satin and gloss white. The mixers and accessories are available in gold, brushed nickel, anthracite and chrome. From a design point of view, this new range from Bagnodesign allows for customisation of the bathroom to suit personal design preferences. Reflecting the semi-traditional trend currently being seen in bathroom design as a whole, Savoia is a new furniture range featuring an oak shaker door finish and is available in wall-mounted and floor standing versions to cater for all requirements.

Adnan Nalwala: We have launched a new line of products that are CNC-engraved, which include bathtubs, washbasin, shower tray and water jet cut washbasin among others. A classical product, marble has been used for some of the world's iconic structures - from the Pantheon in Rome and the Taj Mahal in Agra to more contemporary buildings, such as London's Marble Arch and the Peace Monument in Washington DC.

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Q. With walk-in bathrooms and elegant designs, what are some of the other trends you have noticed?

Louise: Metallic flush actuation plates have seen a huge surge in popularity and add a touch of glamour to the modern bathroom. They reflect light and exude style, and we offer the possibility of customising the actuator plate to an individual bathroom theme. Bathrooms that open out into the living areas of the hotel bedroom with the spa look and feel to them, all equipped with environmentally friendly toilets, sinks, and bathtubs. Products that that use less water without giving up any aesthetic charm.

Toni: For us a modern hotel bathroom combines comfortable additions like state-of-the-art technology with a memorable design that lasts for years. Due to this we recognised the general need for comfort, hygiene, and the strong trend towards more individuality as key bathroom trends. In response, Duravit developed new bathroom collections; the new bathroom series ME by Starck, for example, appeals to every bathroom style.

Jane: Hotel developers, interior designers and architects often prefer minimalistic and timeless design. Apart from creating an appealing design for as long as possible, interior designers are looking for designs that can be mixed and matched easily with creative tiling or bathroom accessories. Sanit's small and wall-even push plates offer timeless design while also give

hygienic advantages due to easier cleaning.

Karen: New finishes on the faucet and matt finishes have come back in fashion. Some other finishes that have also become very prominent are black, titanium and rosegold.

Sophay: Basins as statement pieces are a key trend in the hotel bathroom, particularly those that are crafted from unusual materials such as metal or stone. Echoing this, there is also a move away from chrome brassware, towards finishes such as matt white, matt black brushed nickel, copper and gold, with hoteliers now having more choice available to them, depending on the style of basin they have chosen. Colour in the hotel bathroom is a growing trend too, driven partly by this increase in options on brassware finishes.

Adnan: Engraving in marble and natural stone is an effective way for hoteliers to explore creative techniques to design their bathrooms, including three-dimensional, organic shapes. A lot of hoteliers today prefer designing with natural stones like granite and Italian marble, because it not only adds aesthetic depth and beautiful natural texture, but also brings cultural depth.

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Q. How often do hoteliers refurb their bathrooms?

Louise: Bathrooms need a brush up from time to time. Technical features and the taste in design are changing constantly.

TonI: Due to our experience we can admit that bathrooms in hotels should be updated within an average of 15 years. Modern details can be integrated on an ongoing base. For example, useful technology, which is always available, but ideally, hidden from view or new eye-catching items like the new Cape Cod basins by Philippe Starck.

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Jane: Usually hotels are refurbished every 7-10 years, which is a large investment in most cases, so the use of high quality and reliable products is essential. Aliaxis pipe systems and concealed cisterns last for the lifetime of most hotels which provides a greater ROI for the initial investment on top of having a quality product.

Karen: It needs refurbishment every five to eight years. The consumers are looking for a new look and new experiences while at the property. So a fresh experience is important for them.

Sophay: This all depends on occupancy rates but as a rule of thumb we recommend between five-seven years. Existing hotels must make sure they keep on top of traveller's high expectations and this is true for bathroom design. For the hotelier, there are concerns beyond aesthetics in the bathroom. They must balance style with ease of cleaning, performance with durability and ergonomics with water saving.

Adnan: Refurbishments are commonly required every five-seven years, which involves adding new elements to the bathrooms to ensure that the hotel remains competitive in its target market. This includes redecorating, replacing furniture, fittings, equipment and minor works that improve the ease of operation.

Q. What is the ideal time from construction of a bathroom to its first refurb?

Louise: Every hotel faces the challenge of renovation while it is fully occupied. The aim is to keep the RevPAR as high as possible throughout the year, but during renovation, hotel rooms need to be closed to execute the renovation. Take for instance the Geberit Monolith - perfect for renovation. It is quick and easy to install and enables you to renovate a bathroom within a couple of hours without touching the tiles or the floor.

Jane: In my opinion it depends on what you are looking to replace. Moving parts in hotels, such as flushing mechanisms or shower heads might have to be replaced on a more frequent basis than tiling, ceramics, or the flushing tank. However, correctly installed pipe systems should last for the design life of the building. This is why Aliaxis has the confidence to offer a long-lasting warranty on all of its product lines. Usually the contractor is not responsible for any issues after one year of construction, but Aliaxis has a worldwide presence that ensures backup well into the future.

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Q. How important is sustainability when it comes to new bathroom designs?

Louise: Bathrooms have become a major focus for hoteliers looking not only to reduce costs but also to minimise their environmental impact. This has thrown up several opportunities for designers, developers and builders to create a more eco-aware environment. During the Geberit product development process, all Geberit products are optimised with regard to their environmental friendliness, resource efficiency and durability.

Toni: One important feature of the Duravit brand is sustainable, original product design and the ongoing search for perfect aesthetics with absolute attention to detail. Product design is clearly rooted in basic archetypal forms. It is reduced, timeless, elementary and modern but not fashionable. [It's about] products you can appreciate for a long time.

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Jane: Sustainability has become of growing importance in the hotel industry. It is also at the forefront of Aliaxis' value proposition. Not only third-party international certificates (e.g. Singapore Green Building Certificate) prove Aliaxis engagement, but also the continuous research on how to provide hotel owners with an energy efficient product supply, such as decreasing water consumption.

Karen: Sustainability has been a key issue for Kohler over the past eight years. In the Middle East region where water is relatively scarce, it's even more important for Kohler. We have actively participated in the new water consumption policy in Saudi Arabia and developed specific products to accommodate this new regulation. We also engage with a certification process in Estimada in Abu Dhabi to demonstrate our determination to be part of the corporate social responsibility movement.

Sophay: In the Middle East we have most certainly seen an increase in sales of products focusing on sustainable and intelligent usage of water. This trend to move towards greener buildings has added to our strength in project supply in recent years. All our brassware can be supplied with flow reducers to meet standards set out by LEED and Estidama.

Adnan: Wood is typically considered a natural material that scores the highest points for sustainability, but natural stones like marble and granite have some impressive credentials of their own. Yes, stones can last a lifetime too, meaning a bathroom floor does not have to be replaced every few years, therefore not impacting on the Earth's resources (and ultimately, saving money), but two factors need foremost attention: good care and correct installation. As with most operations for sustainable projects, green fit-out work requires a large amount of planning before work can commence. We have, therefore, adopted the use of modern dust collectors to tackle dust pollution, LED lightings to save electrical consumption, recycling plant for the water used in the quarrying process and also the leftover stones to create pebbles, to provide sustainable solutions.

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Q. Are rooms that are undergoing renovation also stressing on adding low water and electricity consumption materials, and why?

Louise: Geberit products are exemplary when it comes to water and energy consumption and sound insulation. A broad range of Geberit products help with the implementation of green building concepts and standards such as Minergie, DGNB, BREEAM and LEED. Nine Geberit product groups - a total of over 500 sales products - carry the water efficiency label WELL. Eight of these nine product groups carry the top 'A' class label and account for more than 17% of group sales.

Toni: Sustainability and water saving products have an important impact on bathroom design. In general, the contemporary hotel bathroom has to meet sustainable design, green production and ecological usability. The upcoming challenge will be to develop innovative solutions and to optimise existing technologies that are already on a high level today. That includes water saving as well as energy saving and environmentally friendly production processes.

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Jane: Absolutely, water consumption is a hot topic in Dubai and everywhere else in the world. The UAE is known for having a high level of water consumption which it wishes to minimise. Introducing Aliaxis branded Sanit flushing mechanism offers a minimum flush of two litres. It can be individually adjustable for a small and big flush. Keeping in mind that a restroom water consumption makes up 30 % of the total water consumption, this is a big saving in water and has a direct impact on operating costs.

Karen: I believe some of them yes, because it is an important trend in the industry and also an important act to show that 'as a leading hotelier we need to think more about our resource allocation'.

Sophay: Yes, we find that some of the hotel projects undergoing refurbishment are interested in adding brassware with reduced flowrates. Not only will this minimise water consumption, it will also cut down on operational costs. Projects should be concerned about meeting sustainability demands and should incorporate green design.

Adnan: For a number of years, this was limited to a focus on reducing their properties' energy consumption in terms of heating and lighting, and now we are seeing measurable results in this space. Water consumption was a huge challenge for hotels, particularly for resorts in the warmer climates of the world. On average, an overnight guest staying in a luxury hotel consumes between 300 and 1,400 litres of water, significantly more than the typical local population in the same area.

Q. What's the sweet spot between price and quality, do hoteliers lean towards one particular side?

Louise: Spending wisely, taking into account that a cheaper material might initially cost less but could cost you more in the long run with its higher water and electricity usage.

Toni: Despite all claims to qualitative growth, many consumers are tempted into choosing the greatest possible quantity of goods and services. The consequence is that markets are inundated with low-budget products. However, these are not worth the price. For this reason, we pull out of the competition in places where price is the only decisive factor: We aim to create a genuine need by using a range of attractive, high-quality and varied products to furnish complete bathrooms - in hotels or in private bathrooms. Also simple features like colour or texture in the choice of furniture, good storage and wall-mounted sanitaryware to make the room feel larger and uncluttered and make a big difference without blowing the budget.

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Jane: It depends on who you are in contact with. While the hotel contractor might look for the best price, the consultant or hotel owner pays most attention on quality. It is important to offer reliable quality at competitive prices. There is a huge payoff if the hotel operators get involved at an early phase of the construction and design.

Karen: It is hard to say there is any sweet spot when it comes to hoteliers' decision making process. Kohler will not sacrifice its reputation of good quality just to fulfil the ideal price point.

Sophay: Above all hoteliers want quality products that are durable and create a comfortable experience for guests, while being cost-effective. It really is a case of manufacturers being able to offer them the best of both worlds.

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Adnan: As the market is competitive, most hoteliers, while choosing marble or natural stone products for their bathroom surfacing, tubs or washbasin, look into the price point. But then again it all depends on the choice of the marble as there are more than 600 varieties with different prices for each shade of stone which includes marble, granite, sandstones, and slates.

Q. What after sales service do you offer to hoteliers?

Louise: One of the many benefits of having Geberit installed in a hotel's bathroom is the availability of spare parts for all products, and the 25-year spare part availability for all working parts within Geberit concealed cisterns and flush plates. Geberit prides itself on its support network in the region. Our after sales service engineers work closely with hotel engineering teams for any after sales issues and are available for any technical queries.

Toni: Each bathroom design is individual and depends on specific needs and demands, which must be considered in a good planning, without sustainable solutions being ignored. Our design products require high-end consultation. To avoid an unjust increase in costs, Duravit is pursuing a professional, three-step sales strategy via retailers, installers and end-consumers. This combination is proving to be extremely effective - including in the project business.

Jane: Beside extensive market and segment research, Aliaxis has hired dedicated local staff to provide hoteliers with specification- and hotel-related support. This goes from technical support, to providing solutions to hoteliers' key problems while operating hotels. It is important to realise that majority of costs are related to operational costs, 80% to be precise. Working with a manufacturer that has vast experience in problem solving and offers local after-sales service is therefore essential.

Karen: It varies from categories; for instance, we offer lifetime warranty for cast iron bathtubs and one- to three-year warranty programmes for our other categories. We have dedicated distributors to offer front line aftersales services and Kohler's local team also makes sure it offers its support and aftersales service.

Sophay: As well as offering an unrivalled portfolio of quality bathroom solutions, hoteliers choosing to work with Sanipex also have peace of mind that their project is in safe hands, from ordering and delivery right through to installation and aftersales support. Sanipex customer services and our in-house technical team provide a dedicated point of contact at all times to deal with queries, process orders, help with any installation and training, and provide an on-site team to support any maintenance issues after project completion.

Adnan: We offer contract for maintenance and free training for operation and maintenance manual.

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Publication:Hotelier Middle East
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jul 29, 2016
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