For an industry driven by innovation, CW lists ongoing trends in the building arena.
‘Brand new’, ‘neverseen before’, ‘world’s first’….Innovation now takes centre stage in the world of architects and interior designers.And it generally encompasses cutting-edge products, AI technology or advances in science.
“The recent decade has witnessed a rapid evolution of technology, global communications and networking,” says Nirmala Banaji, Proprietress, Banaji & Associates. “These technological manifestations paved the way for smart interior design solutions and stimulated the environment for designers studying the effect of integrating smart solutions into aspects of sustainable interior design.”
“Technology is necessary to adapt to the growing ‘trend’ and to design for it instead of isolating from it,” says Architect Vivek Singh Rathore, Salient.“There is always a sensible participation of technology in design.”
Architects today need to reinterpret the fundamentals of design through involvement of technology to create more efficient solutions and, hence, innovate in terms of design, materials and building techniques. Let’s take a look at design trends in the building arena.
The advent of VRV technology in the 1990s was a gamechanger not just in terms of economic efficiency but aesthetics. Also, there have been advancements in chiller technology with magnetic levitation chillers – the most economical of all chillers – being the latest addition.
Further, Jamshed Banaji, Director, Banaji & Associates, shares, “There has been a steady rise in the advent and usage of non-conventional AC systems like radiant cooling and heating systems, chilled water beams and geothermal systems, which act as a good hybrid system when clubbed with conventional AC systems giving a whole NES dimension to the economic sustainability of the entire HVAC system as a whole.”
“A centralised cooling system is preferred as it encourages exposed ceilings and gives designers more room to experiment,” says Sapana Jain, Principal Designer, I Heart Homez. The exposed ceiling and ducting trend has surfaced recently not only for commercial spaces but residences as well.
Different segments demand different types of design requirements. Senthil Thangam, Senior General Manager, Commercial Air-Conditioning Division, Blue Star, says,
“In general, customers look for energy-efficient system design, inverter technology, advanced controllers with building automation and web-based controls, and ease of installation and maintenance.” In the current market dynamics, he adds that customers need to go for fresh interiors once in three to five years. Hence, they look for machines in a horizon of only five years compared to 15 years in the past. “Customers are also looking for designs that take care of indoor air quality.
This has led to the evolution of machines capable of inbuilt air filtration. This may become bare minimum specification in a couple of years considering the rise of pollution levels. Large residential complexes are moving towards more energy-efficient VRF systems from conventional split ACs.”
Special demands from architects and interior designers include low-noise systems, compact and sleek units suited for green building requirements, lower manual intervention and sustainable and eco-friendly systems.
“Customisation depends on the nature of the segments and projects,” says Thangam.
“In general, VRF is suited for smaller applications. For projects with large areas, we have to customise the VRF with AHU kits.” He also shares the instance of large commercial applications with multiple users, where the major challenge is to tabulate individual power consumption. “To overcome this challenge, customised advanced tenant billing controllers are developed.”
In the recent past, smaller capacity VRFs have been customised for water-cooled applications to overcome the challenge. In India, Thangam says, “We can customise the right solution for any specific project to the maximum benefit of the customer only if we combine multiple types of products for various applications.” This will not only optimise the Capex but also the Opex of the project.
Building and home automation controls and regulates services responsible for energy management, including HVAC and lighting, access control, safety and security. It has evolved from switches and touch panels and screens to mobile applications and voice controls.“The automation system helps control the common appliances of an office, home or a commercial setting,” says Nirmala Banaji. “Office automation software extends beyond technical systems to people management, building access and other internal systems.”
Meanwhile, Rathore says,“Building automation aims to automate tasks in technologically enabled environments and coordinate with a number of interconnected electrical and mechanical devices. ”Its potential to reduce energy consumption, facilitate building operation and maintenance and improve occupant satisfaction has led to its popularity. “In architecture, buildings have limitations,” he adds. “Automation helps bridge the gap and provide more responsible and relevant design solutions.”
“The customer is looking for a common backbone for data transmission and collection like TCP/IP networks,” says Shrikant Bapat, General Manager, India, Johnson Controls. “Hence, BMS controllers and sensors need a TCP/IP interface to connect directly to the common IT backbone. Also, there is demand for the BMS platform to be IOT-ready.” Going forward, apart from using industry-specific protocols like BACnet and Modbus, API-enabled systems with management software will be required, he believes.
Architects and interior designers also look for aesthetics and how a space facilitates the people and activities in it. “For ease of visualisation, operations and maintenance, you need scalability of different field devices, including wireless connectivity on a common IP platform,” says Bapat. “Also, one needs to establish a space and equipment relationship for mapping BMS in the BIM environment.”
Productivity is now an imperative and is as important as efficiency says Bapat. “Thus, digital solutions that crunch data to identify gaps in equipment and human productivity, physical and cyber security, as well as space and asset utilisation, have become valuable.”
Every project is unique in terms of application and operation. For mission-critical facilities like databases, skyscrapers and mixed-use and complex buildings in particular, a lot of customisation is needed. Thus, the building would need specific GUI (graphic user interface), alarm interface and an advisory system. Large multi-use campuses and buildings need situation awareness and central command-and-control platforms, which can accommodate building management data with a safety and security system to make a seamless physical and logical data integration platform.
Doors and windows
With the advent of moulded doors from Masonite door skins in 1996, the door industry went through a sea change. These doors were widely accepted and manufacturers created different designs from veneers and laminates. Speaking of new technologies, Jamshed Banaji says, “Honeycomb doors and doors with particle board are lightweight and more affordable,making them quite popular in Europe, the Americas and Southeast Asia.”
As availability of wood is becoming scarce, he lists other options, including fibre-reinforced plastic, steel doors made of MS steel with honeycomb inside or hollow, and fire-retardant wooden doors.
“Seamless/frameless doors and windows are the new trend these days,” says Jain. Several international brands, especially from Germany, have introduced a great variety of designs to the industry. “With respect to the facade,” she adds, “we no longer need to create window niches of specific sizes as any and every size is available or customisable today.”
For his part, Mario Schmidt, Managing Director, Lingel Windows and Doors Technologies, says, “Some homeowners are opting to merge outdoor and indoor spaces with huge glass sliding windows. This maximises space and extends the outside view.” Arched windows are also becoming popular now as they add a glam factor to the space. “We have recently introduced our oakwood (timber) window, made in Germany, and this is becoming a favourite for its texture and classic look. Also, the roller shutter and Venetian blinds, which can be operated both manually and automatically,have just been introduced to customers.”
In terms of material, many architects and interior designers list uPVC as their favourite option. Besides being available in various colours, it is a long-lasting material and easy to maintain in
the long run. “Keeping in mind weather conditions in India, uPVC is energy-efficient,” says Schmidt. “So whether it is fixed, sliding, casement or even coupling windows, all are in demand with different kinds of designs as per architect and customer requirements.”
Flooring and false ceilings
Good flooring is vital to any project and in this segment, too,we are witnessing a lot of innovation. “Those who can’t afford marble can now use tiles made from different materials with a marble finish,” says Jain. “Cork flooring has also been around for a while but is yet to really be explored and experimented within Indian markets.” For false ceilings, she adds that the preference has shifted from bulky, loud ceilings to more subtle and sleek-looking ceilings with accent lighting.
“For flooring, the Terrazzo collection and Kalesinterflex in matt finish are the most preferred options,” says Amit Shah, Managing Director, Classic Marble Company (CMC). Redefined for modern architecture, the Terrazzo collection is a unique offering and one of the most popular marble designs today with mosaics making a comeback.
The Terrazzo slabs can be re-polished to maintain their natural beauty for a long time. “Additionally,” Shah says, “the products are less porous, more flexible and harder than natural marble making them ideal for different types of interior and decor applications like flooring in commercial and residential areas.” Terrazzo slabs are available in a size of 304 x 125 cm, and thickness of 18 mm and 20 mm.
CMC has exclusively tied up with Kalesinterflex, one of Turkey’s oldest large-size porcelain ceramic tile manufacturers, which offers flexibility, low weight and excellent manoeuvrability, making it well suited for modern architecture. Also, the company’s KalingaStone marble products have been used for design mural walls (2D and 3D), flooring patterns, wall elevation panels, designer wall panels, designer tabletops, backlit facades and even laminates for furniture. “We also receive special requests for customised finishes on the natural stone, such as acid wash, leather, honed, etc,” says Shah.Exclusivity is in high demand – it could be a product or even a custom finish for a chosen product.CMC’s KalingaStone products can be customised in thickness, colour and design to suit the client’s requirements. “Commercial establishments and large-scale residential projects require products in standard colours and sizes and in large quantity whereas premium customers look for uniqueness and impeccability in products to suit the needs of a particular space,” Shah concludes.
Jain’s personal preference is mid-century furniture, which is also trending globally. “Such furniture pieces add a vintage touch to modern-looking spaces, bringing them to life,” she says. “And adding some vibrant colours makes the whole space really stand out.”
In India’s growing economy, a large part of the high-spending population has a predisposition for renovation of their dwellings. As Eleonore Cavalli, Art Director, Visionnaire, says, “We have observed a growing attention to the outdoor area, a space that is both private and extremely devoted to sharing with friends and guests.” To meet this new need, Visionnaire has proposed some
new outdoor products as well in its 2020 collection.
“We also found a growing inclination by the Indian customer to choose sustainable products,” she adds. “In terms of style, the Indian customer is still tied to a more classic taste and does not prefer an ‘eccentric’ design.” Visionnaire's capability lies exactly in observing this subtle border, in proposing a contemporary design that respects Indian tradition and culture, bringing together the tastes of two different generations.
Cavalli also mentions that architects and end-users are attentive to quality. “That’s the reason why we are always specific in giving information on the item’s production and materials.”
Earlier, 30 per cent of lighting used for illumination was used for a specific purpose while 70 per cent leaked and was wasted.
We’ve come a long way since!
“Lighting is now controlled and managed through sensors and regulators,” says Rathore. “LED lighting is provided with controlled dimmers. The same light can be used for various activities at different times of the day.” There is less wastage with more environment-friendly solutions. Also, LED lighting is used to enhance aesthetics by creating different moods. “Our world is increasingly virtual and technology-driven,” says Rathore. “Smart lighting, developed with the help of cameras and sensors, senses motion and adapts to the environment accordingly.”
Rajesh Uttamchandani, Director, Syska Group, agrees. “In a smart control lighting system, arrays of lights are controlled by a remote control and smart control apps. Control connectivity is obtained through Bluetooth, mesh and Wi-Fi protocols. Mood-based colour changing, ambience settings, dimming, light pattern creation, glare and flicker-free light, optimisation of energy through occupancy sensor and automation are new trend sets.”
Architects and interior designers seek theme-based and modern aspects, such as human-centric and vision compatibility of lighting. In other aspects, design and aesthetics in simulation with architecture provides significance in the selection of luminaires. “Creation of theme-based ambience and mood-based changing lighting patterns and object orientation designed with specific beam angles are the emphasis of designers,” says Uttamchandani.“Human-centric lighting, glare-free, indirect lighting, smart control and automation are the most proposed features by architects.”
LED lighting is flexible and customisable in application and orientation. “Decorative, landscaping and façade lighting applies to the customisation of design while digital control and multiple patterns provide complete feasibility with compatibility,” says Uttamchandani.
Elevators and escalators
Elevators have turned into mini entertainment spaces with LED screens and light music, says Jain. They are also made more appealing using expensive carpets and exotic scents.
“We are seeing a shift in the way customers evaluate elevator aesthetics,” says Sebi Joseph, President, OTIS India. “Previously, customers designed their elevator interiors using a menu of colours, materials and finishes made available to them. Today, they are turning towards theme-based interiors with a package of fixtures designed to be complementary.”
Theme-based interiors provide a more contemporary look and save the hassle of customers trying to match finishes themselves.
“In 2017, Otis introduced its Atmos and Aura themes – two distinct aesthetic packages with unique colours and material finishes,” he informs. The Atmos range reflects the look of a modern India where technology meets nature. Aura offers an opulent look using mirrors and soft lighting.
“The future of aesthetics will probably develop to accommodate a desire to have refreshed interiors regularly,” believes Joseph.
“This can be done with digital walls for elevator interiors where colours, patterns and themes can change at the touch of a button.”
He concludes that the future of aesthetics lies in creating a signature feature or look that forms part of the overall elevator design, enhances the passenger experience and complements the building’s design, no matter where in the world or which building it is placed in.
As many companies have now introduced modular kitchens in plywood, people have started outsourcing the complete modular kitchen solution.
“More kitchens are now made in open concepts to integrate kitchen, dining and living spaces,” says Ridhvika Chawla, Director, Hacker Kitchen (India). “Real materials like stone veneer, real ceramic fronts, concrete and glass fronts are trending for front finishes in the Indian market. We get demands for taking wall units up to ceiling height, making more provision for open spaces and decoration area with metal shelves and glass units. Having a herb garden and a small sitting space inside the kitchen is also a concept that is much in demand.”
Häcker Kitchens has a huge variety and options of cabinets, drawers and interior organisation along with over 160 colour and front finish options to customise kitchens as per the
layout and specific requirements of clients.
Paints and wallpaper
This segment has grown exponentially in the recent past.
“Instead of using wallpaper,” says Jain, “I personally prefer bringing the artists on site and creating actual murals and art using eco-friendly paint. This brings a certain kind of authenticity to a project that wallpaper may not be able to achieve.”
Asian Paints recently launched the 17th edition of ColourNext, featuring the trends for 2020 and the ‘Colour of the Year’.
“We collaborate with the finest experts from a wide range of disciplines – architecture, interiors, fashion and more – and map consumer behaviour, consumption patterns, sociocultural sentiments and lifestyle shifts to put together a comprehensive forecast of colours, materials, textures and finishes,” says SK Srikanth, General Manager-Innovation, Design and Customer Experience, Asian Paints. The four trends identified for 2020 that will lead design this year are Potent (amplified experiences in mini packages), Blend (blending the disparate to create a new whole), Mystique (inspired by symbols and stories of the past) and Sonic (expanding the human potential through sound).
Every year, ColourNext also identifies one colour that captures the essence of the time as Colour of the Year. This year, it is ‘Curiosity’, a modern, clear shade of blue brimming with energy and inspired by azurite, the copper mineral ore. “We work closely with architects and interior designers across India through our ColourPro team, which works exclusively with this set of influencers,” says Srikanth. “As a result, we are able to respond fast to demands from the field, whether it is products, site-level support, colour and material palettes or special deliveries. We also have exclusive ranges of products presented only to architects and interior designers, such as Nilaya Naturals, our range of organic paints and the Royale Play Materials, which are wall finishes inspired by stone, clay, rust and marble.”
Cladding and facades
With rise in accountability owing to RERA, the demand for standardised systems and fixtures with strict adherence to quality has increased. There is also a growing need for use of green cladding solutions in buildings to address the ongoing energy crisis.
A rear-ventilated façade system provides functional value, apart from the contemporary aesthetics and design elements. “The high degree of design freedom offered by FunderMax rear-ventilated façade systems, the original, can give your buildings character by harmonising with their fundamental structure,” says Ashwani Khanna, AVP Marketing, FunderMax India. “This system can also be easily implemented in combination with various other cladding materials. The panels are extremely robust, have a long, useful life, require less maintenance and, in economic terms, are an extremely advantageous solution for increasing the value of a building.”
Most architects and designers demand maintenance-free and sustainable façade materials that are easy to install yet artistic and unique in nature. “Façade materials and systems are also expected to perform a variety of functions such as structural integrity, durability, weather-tightness, and acoustic and thermal insulation,” informs Khanna.“This should be based on safety and security norms specified.” Architects do a thorough assessment of the durability of proposed materials to ensure that the performance requirements of the building are not compromised.
FunderMax panels, which are easy to install and reliable, are ideal for creative people, thanks to the 121 different types of decor on offer. The anti-graffiti, dust-repellent, colour fastness and fire properties of the panels help them retain a new and fresh look for a longer duration without any routine maintenance.
While architects seek uniqueness, the project still has to fulfil functional specifications. “Genuine Compact Laminates can be customised for each building for different wind load, dead load, thermal load and other requirements and protect the building from the extremes of the weather,” says Khanna.
“FunderMax panels can be customised via CNC cutting into any motifs the architect wants, without losing out on the sustainability of the complete system.”
Among all varieties, trending products include large-size tiles and slabs of vitrified (porcelain) nature, both unglazed and glazed, says Dinesh Vyas, Senior Vice President-Marketing, H&R Johnson (India).
“The latter is more versatile in terms of creation of new designs at short intervals.” However, design of tiles should not be seen as limited to visual appeal alone. “Once installed, tiles are expected to perform for years to come, without any loss of functional and aesthetic features,” Vyas points out. The most trending portfolios H&R Johnson has include Johnson Endura for heavy-duty tiling solutions and Johnson Porselano for feature-laden, glazed vitrified tiles in 10 different formats.
“Architects and designers who are aware of the intricacies of material, have a good understanding of tiles or have worked with us seek our expertise and want us to consider their unique project and usage environment to design or suggest most suitable tiles,” says Vyas.“However, as we have taken a new initiative called ‘Co-Creation’, awareness among architects is increasing and they seek our involvement in tiling decisions from the planning stage itself rather than at the procurement stage, which was the usual practice.”
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