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NeoCon turns 50: Design, innovation take center stage at milestone event

By Lindsay Baillie

Chicago—NeoCon, one of the largest commercial interior design shows in North America, concluded its 50th edition last month, drawing in more than 50,000 attendees—a 5% increase from 2017. The Mart in Chicago was bursting with 140 showrooms, where roughly 350 exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest in corporate, hospitality, healthcare, education and retail design.

According to show management, the show floor was completely occupied, which was in keeping with NeoCon trends seen over the past 10 years. What’s more, flooring was the second highest represented commercial industry. “The fact that this was our 50th edition added a lot of buzz and energy,” said Byron Morton, vice president of leasing, NeoCon.

The scores of A&D professionals in attendance echoed those sentiments. “We could tell from the energetic crowds at The Mart that the excitement of NeoCon was at an all-time high this year,” said John Hopkins, principal and design director, IA Interiors Architects’ Chicago office. “We loved that there was such a focus on acoustic solutions—it’s an undervalued component when it comes to privacy, workplaces and open environments. We also noticed there were a lot of natural materials and finishes, a welcome return after the influx of the cold, industrial materials of the past few years.”

Angie Lee, AIA, IIDA, principal, design director-interiors, FXCollaborative Architects LLP, New York, agreed. “I have attended NeoCon for the last three years and continue to be impressed by the immense energy and creativity of the manufacturers, designers and associations. I saw a range of products implementing unexpected, thought-provoking uses of color, pattern and texture.”

Vendors attributed much of that enthusiasm to three primary factors—the strength of key end-use market sectors, the bevy of new products that provide both aesthetic and performance solutions, and positive trends in non-residential construction spending.

“Traditional hard surface markets like retail and healthcare still are very strong, and non-traditional markets such as offices and hospitality are shifting toward hard surfaces in many areas they did not consider before,” Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring, told FCNews.

LVT in particular is driving commercial flooring consumption across several end-use markets as it continues to exceed the growth of the once-dominant broadloom sector. This is especially the case in hotels. “Most hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” noted Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

But it’s not just hospitality that’s driving LVT specifications. Observers say healthcare holds the biggest growth potential for LVT, especially in areas such as hotel lobbies, hospital corridors and senior living spaces. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor.

Product trends
The vast array of innovative new products on display at the show reflected diverse requirements of architects, specifiers and designers. To keep up with demand, flooring manufacturers are developing new products across both hard and soft surface arenas that appeal to multiple commercial sectors at a time. In addition to developing products that fulfill “resi-mercial” demands, manufacturers are incorporating more pops of color to assist designers in creating unique, productive spaces.

In terms of hard surfaces, manufacturers continue to incorporate sustainable, biophilic design, with resilient flooring mimicking stone, cement, wood and other natural looks. Armstrong Flooring, for example, rolled out a heterogeneous sheet product called Mixers, which was inspired by the vibrant colors of different cocktails. Focused on its heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet lines, Armstrong presented attendees with new products that boast equal performance. “The update there is two fold,” Brockman stated, adding that designers can specify both sheet lines together without performance issues. “It’s not only new designs and patterns, but Diamond 10 technology has been added to the heterogeneous line.”

New to NeoCon, Cleo Contract—a Congoleum brand—highlighted its non-vinyl, non-PVC product. Made up of 85% limestone, Cleo has an ultra-low VOC, high-performance clear coating for durability and performance. What’s more, its visuals are digitally printed, which allows the company to produce custom looks. To help designers show what the product looks like after a complete install, Cleo Contract developed digitally printed papers that can be updated in real time with the current SKUs, according to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, sales, Congoleum.

Also riding the non-vinyl train is Mannington Commercial with its latest non-vinyl alternative resilient tile, Cirro. Offered in 20 visuals and four different sizes in tile and plank formats, Cirro can be installed using traditional resilient adhesives.

Also new from Mannington is Northern Wonders, which was inspired by a designer’s visit to see the Northern Lights. “Its colors and design are a culmination of ideas developed during the trip,” said Whitney LeGate, business manager, commercial LVT, Mannington. The product is available in nine colorways.

Over at the Karndean Designflooring space, the emphasis was on designer education as well as the seemingly endless options available through its Korlok, glue-down and loose-lay products. The company’s grout strips, available in 16 colors, were installed in the booth to show how to incorporate fake grout lines as well as pops of color to a SKU. “We’ve expanded our solid color offering to allow for both bold, saturated pops of colors and pastels to align with 2019 color forecasts, great for projects that require an elevated brand identity or to add a bit of whimsy,” said Jenne Ross, director of marketing. “We’re excited that these custom colors will be available on-demand and custom cut at our Pittsburgh facility.”

One of the products Raskin Industries showcased was Ceramix, a resilient tile with built-in grout lines that’s available in a variety of visuals, including stone, marble and concrete. “We have 36 x 36 tiles that give you a really clean smooth concrete look,” said Ted Rocha, vice president of sales. “It would be something that you’d see in an Apple store, for instance.”

Aspecta released its Aspecta 10 line, a premium multi-layer flooring with Isocore technology. The new offering features a 28mil wear layer and can be installed floating corner to corner—thanks in part to its innovative vertical locking system. “This is the Rolls Royce of multi-layer flooring,” said Marcel Kies, global CEO, Aspecta. “What we’ve tried to create is a good, better, best product.”

Shannon Specialty Floors displayed its new Naturescapes line, which was designed with the help of Jason McLennan, author, founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge. Naturescapes, he explained, is a resilient flooring product made with organic polymers. “It’s not vinyl, it’s free of all Red List chemicals and it’s the first Living Product Certified resilient flooring in the industry. This product class is highly sought after.”

Roppe highlighted multiple products at the show, including its Northern Parallels Chevron LVT planks available in a 9¼ x 59¼ format in three color ranges. According to Dee Dee Brickner, marketing manager, the line reflects strong demand for one of the most popular patterns—a directional pattern that’s often seen in real hardwood installations. “By offering a left and right design, these floors can also be laid in the same direction to create another unique look by using only one side.”

Looking beyond LVT, manufacturers in the rubber segment also looked to generate some buzz by showcasing products in on-trend, vibrant colors. Suitable for multiple applications, these manufacturers have developed customer cut and base profile programs to provide designers with greater options.

Then there was American Biltrite’s AB Pure, which features its signature Nfuse technology (Here, the coating that is applied directly into the flooring.) “Normally you would take [a rubber floor] out of the box, glue it down and then you’d scrub and clean it to release the mold agent,” Mark Tickle, director of marketing, explained. “With AB Pure, once you lay it down you use a damp mop on the surface. Then as soon as the adhesive has cured you can have people on it.”

Flexco is incorporating different wood-look visuals as well as new rubber plank sizes to its portfolio. “We’re also going to be launching some of our new base profiles, which is catching a lot of people’s interest,” said Haley Plank, marketing manager. “We’re also working on sustainability for our products. We have two new HPDs coming out for our rubber tile and treads.”

Procedo Flooring’s new Maxime rubber flooring line—available in eight colors in a 24 x 24 tile format—was designed to be installed across multiple settings, including educational facilities, sports facilities and retail areas. “We also started doing water jet cuts on the product for greater design options,” said Pierre Lefort, national sales manager.

All shapes and sizes
“Some of the coolest things in floor covering,” noted NeoCon’s Morton, “has to be the different shapes and textures” on display at the show. To that end, Tarkett showcased several products ranging from Pentagonals, which won a Best of NeoCon Gold, and Woven Fringe, a Best of NeoCon Platinum winner.

According to Terry Mowers, vice president chief creative officer, Pentagonals features rubber in a way that highlights a wide range of design possibilities. “You can get whatever color palettes you want within the system and a variety of shapes.”

Woven Fringe complements Tarkett’s rubber offering by providing a resi-mercial solution that is part of the company’s area rug program. According to Mowers, the product’s neutral color palette fits right in with current trends. “We’re seeing grays moving to healthcare in combination with other colorings. We’re also seeing grays getting warmer but we’re not seeing them move that far away.”

As hard surfaces continue to gain more share across various commercial markets, end users are incorporating more area rugs in their designs. At the same time, carpet tile is also gaining steam. New soft surfaces continue to follow sustainable, biophilic design while brightening up spaces with hints of color.

Case in point: Aquafil’s booth displayed clothing and carpet featuring Econyl fiber. According to Kathy Long, brand communications manager, the booth was designed to show how fashion and carpet flow together. “We’re trying to show the endless possibilities of Econyl,” Long said. “We have 28 new colors to the Econyl collection—new neutrals and pops.”

Patcraft highlighted Dichroic, a PET carpet tile made from recycled plastic bottles. “We’ve worked on two products to pull plastic waste out of the environment,” said Kieren Corcoran, director of performance markets. “We’ve taken the bottle chip that can’t be recycled and turned it into fibers. We can then recycle it again at the end of its life back into pellets.”

EF Contract, which made its NeoCon debut, highlighted several carpet collections, including Rust Dye. “What we did was take metals and went through the process of rust dying them and capturing what they leave behind as they decay,” Susan Curtis, vice president, design and marketing, explained. “We’re all about tile, skinny planks and giving the designer flexible to design their own patterns.”

New to Mannington’s broadloom products is Moire, a carpet tile offering developed in conjunction with installation artist Gabriel Dawe. Moire mimics an installation Dawe completed in The Mart, which featured 30 miles of colorful fiber organized in prism format. Interestingly, the installation changed its colors as attendees passed by.

Mohawk put the spotlight on several new soft surface offerings, including Sunweave, a collection of woven broadloom and rug products featuring Heathered Hues Duracolor premium nylon, and Crafted Convergence, which draws on influence from Native American pottery and baskets to everyday Japanese and African garments. “With Crafted Convergence, we’re starting to transfer more hospitality looks into the workplace,” said Mark Oliver, vice president, workplace and retail. “The other beauty is it’s broadloom, but we’re also offering it as a rug.”

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Contract: State of the industry—Key end-use sectors drive specifications

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By K.J. Quinn

 

In many ways the commercial contractor flooring market is like an onion—as you delve into each sector, one layer at a time, you start uncovering macro issues impacting flooring choices that go beyond traditional metrics. Sustainability, wellness principles and environmental impacts are among the major factors affecting facility design across the board, experts say.

“Manufacturers have increased focus on the impacts of their products on occupant well-being and productivity, offering a wider range of aesthetic and functional solutions to deliver against the requests of designers’ clients,” said Matthew Miller, president, Interface Americas.

Industry projections indicate the commercial market is on pace to experience similar growth as last year, with some segments faring much better than others. To put it in perspective, soft surfaces generated an estimated $3.6 to $4 billion in sales and upwards of 300 million square yards last year, according to industry estimates. Carpet tile claimed approximately 50% of volume and 60% of the value over broadloom—increases of 9% and 10%, respectively, over 2016.

Many trends that impacted commercial segments last year are carrying over into 2018. “I think the market for carpet will continue to lose share to hard surfaces,” said Brenda Knowles, vice president of marketing for Shaw Industries’ commercial business. “We’ll continue to see an emphasis on product design across all segments and more offerings that combine soft and hard surfaces.”

Nonetheless, there is still a good amount of broadloom being sold into commercial spaces, especially in sectors that demand a luxurious look and feel underfoot. “We still see some higher-end broadloom sold to the hospitality, legal and financial services sectors,” observed Richard French, vice president of sales, Bentley Mills. “At the high end of the spectrum, carpet tile is still not able to meet aesthetic needs.”

Hard surface seizes share

The market size for hard surfaces is nearly as much as carpet, estimated at $3.7 billion in sales. But that’s where the similarities end. Sales and volume grew by double digits, led by ceramic tile and stone ($1.45 million in 2017 sales), rubber ($650 million) and luxury vinyl tile ($600 million), according to industry estimates.

LVT is the fastest growing sector, with sales rising by double digits and usage expanding across all segments. “Hard surface growth in the commercial segment is being driven by LVT and ceramic,” Jeff Fenwick, president and COO, Tarkett North America, told FCNews. “LVT is showing up in more commercial spaces and design features of ceramic are taking it out of the ‘back of the house’ and letting it be utilized in other spaces.”

VCT, estimated at $250 million in 2017 sales, and sheet goods, which generated about $300 million, remain viable options. Healthcare and education, long strongholds of the sector, are reportedly losing market share. Hardwood, laminate flooring and linoleum are being specified for certain niches, although each category accounts for only a small percentage (less than 5% apiece) of the overall commercial market, statistics show. “For people who want that visual a little different and want to make more of a statement than a neutral gray floor, then linoleum is your answer,” said Denis Darragh, vice president, North America, Forbo Flooring.

While LVT dominates the headlines, one category maintaining steady growth is ceramic. While it’s difficult to determine sales and volume due to fragmented distribution channels, anecdotal research indicates tile commands approximately 15% of total commercial flooring sales and volume, with specified contract accounting for about 70% of the business. Growth rates are projected to mirror last year, when the category grew an estimated 6% in sales and 5% in square footage.

End-use activity

There are diverse applications for flooring within the five major sectors of the commercial business, the majority of which (an estimated 70% to 75%) is specified contract and the remainder Main Street commercial applications. Each has its own set of issues, trends and requirements which, in some cases, are unique to specific areas. As such, flooring choices and volume are expected to vary this year in some segments while remaining constant in others, industry watchers say.

“Traditional hard surface markets like retail and healthcare still are very strong, and non-traditional markets such as offices and hospitality are shifting toward hard surfaces in many areas they did not consider before,” said Robert Brockman, segment marketing manager, commercial, Armstrong Flooring.

The largest sector remains corporate/offices, representing roughly 40% of commercial flooring sales. Design strategies have traditionally centered on integrating natural elements into work spaces that help energize employees, encourage collaboration and make them feel more at home. “The goal is to leave work at the end of the day feeling recharged,” said Sharon Steinberg, AIA, LEEP AP, a principal architect at Stantec’s Houston office. “The design of the space, including flooring materials, can contribute to these feelings.”

Carpet tile has emerged as the top flooring choice, representing an estimated 55% to 60% share of the segment. “Carpet tile reduces sound transmission and provides underfoot comfort,” Interface’s Miller stated. “Carpet tile is also easy to upkeep and maintain—and since it is modular, it can easily be replaced or redesigned, providing the flexibility to update or refresh flooring as needed.”

Industry observers report the use of hard surfaces such as LVT, hardwood, porcelain tile and polished concrete is expanding beyond coffee and bar/break areas and into more diverse office environments. “While tile usage is typically limited to areas such as lobbies, bathrooms and kitchenettes, we predict there will be more tile being used in traditionally unexpected spaces,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. He cited advancements in the tile printing technology space as one of the primary reasons.

Another sector to watch is healthcare, which some believe represent the greatest growth potential for LVT. “Slip/fall issues help LVT vs. other hard surface options as well as infection control,” said Paul Eanes, vice president of new business development, Metroflor. “The segment is now more receptive to LVT in most places except operating rooms.”

Ceramic, porcelain and terrazzo tile are commonly found in hallways, making it easier to maneuver rolling equipment and mobile aids. “The health benefits and low maintenance of tile makes it ideal for this space, and our advancements in manufacturing have allowed us to make tile slip resistant through our proprietary StepWise technology, catering to residents’ safety needs,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

Fashion and function are paramount in hospitality, an industry reportedly investing millions of dollars to remodel their properties. It is expected to remain a bedrock segment for broadloom in particular as high-end products are the norm for guest rooms and public areas. “People still want to feel a soft surface when they hit the floor,” Shaw’s Knowles pointed out. “So even though the trend is towards hard surface, we’re seeing a combination of the two—and we’re providing solutions for that.”

LVT is reportedly growing at a faster rate than broadloom as the product gains wider acceptance, especially in guest rooms. “Most of these hospitality end users are also looking to make a change to something more timeless in terms of pattern and color,” observed Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business, Mannington Commercial. “That, coupled with the easier maintenance requirements, make it an ideal product for these environments.”

Further fueling usage is hotel owners’ interest in switching to interior decorating products that blend with the latest design styles and last longer—a big reason why ceramic is making inroads. “Designers in the hospitality space demand unique designs, and we are taking style and design to the next level through our latest introductions,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said.

One segment at the forefront of design is retail as end users not only seek products that are trendy, but also address performance/functional issues.

“You can create a pattern in a hardwood or stone look that leads you into different departments of the retail store,” noted Milton Goodwin, vice president of commercial sales, Karndean Designflooring. “There’s a lot of mixing and matching of SKUs.”

Even the education sector is getting a little more sophisticated in terms of the design aesthetic, observers report. “It’s copying what we’ve seen in other public segments by trying to become a little more trendy with their looks,” Mannington’s Boulogne stated. “So that pushes more and more business to the LVT category, where there are more design opportunities.”

R&D efforts center on beefing up performance levels to ensure flooring meets the varying needs of each space. “Designers can take LVT into places that maybe they hadn’t considered before,” added Melissa Quick, product and marketing manager, AVA by Novalis Innovative Flooring. “All of this has contributed to more confidence in the use of LVT in Main Street and specified spaces.”

 

 

 

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Metroflor Corp. appoints West Coast commercial sales specialist

metroflor-newNorwalk, Conn.—Metroflor Corp. appointed Pam Meehan as the company’s commercial sales specialist. Meehan will service Metroflor’s western distribution partners The Cronin Co., and Tri-West, Ltd., and assume responsibility for growing Aspecta and Metroflor commercial sales.

Based in the Seattle, Wash., area, Meehan’s flooring industry experience includes positions with Amorim, Ecotimber and most recently as A&D account executive with Porcelanosa. “With Pam’s deep experience in serving the architect and design community on behalf of the flooring industry, the many major commercial contacts she has gained will be of great benefit in her new role representing our Aspecta and Metroflor brands commercially,” Paul Eanes, vice president of sales, Metroflor Corp., said.

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Metroflor names commercial sales specialist team for Aspecta

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.30.26 AMNorwalk, Conn. — Metroflor Corp. announced that it has established a network of seasoned specification representatives to support the launch of its global contract LVT brand, Aspecta Plank & Tile, which debuted at NeoCon in June.

Paul Eanes, vice president of sales, said, “Our commercial sales specialist team has seasoned and broad experience serving the A&D community in the sectors that show the greatest growth potential for luxury vinyl tile. We’re proud they now represent Aspecta, which promises to be a powerful brand in the contract LVT arena.”

All the spec reps are certified Green Globes Professionals (GGP) trained in the Green Globes building assessment and certification process. GGP has been approved by the American Institute of Architects with a training program that covers all of the Green Globes modules, including New Construction, Continual Improvement of Existing Buildings, and CIEB for Healthcare Buildings.

Metroflor’s new network of specification representatives to support Aspecta include:

Sharon King

Sharon King’s experience includes distributor positions such branch manager for Mid-America Tile Inc. and then as an outside sales territory manager for Florstar Sales Inc. The manufacturer’s representative positions she has held include Midwest regional sales manager for Marley Flexco and XL Adhesives. Prior to assuming her position as commercial sales specialist with Metroflor for Aspecta, she was Chicago commercial sales representative for Amtico. King will support Metroflor’s distributor partner Herregan.

Philip J. “P.J.” Hughes

A second generation professional in the field, for over 20 years, P.J. Hughes has been involved with the A&D/A&E community in the creation of Division 9 Flooring Specifications, with extensive experience in best installation practices especially for sub-floor preparation issues as well as renovation of existing space projects. Actively involved with the Construction Specifiers Institute (CSI) throughout his career, Hughes has specialized in the National, Federal Government, and Military Account sector for the last eight years. He will work with Ohio Valley and other Metroflor distributors as necessary to develop their national account program in all key market segments.

Kendra Sauer Mahen

Kendra Mahen began her career in the industry a decade ago in Chicago at a major carpet mill. Moving to Dallas/Fort Worth, she worked for a flooring contractor in business development and specifications. She made the move back to the mill side when she joined the Metroflor organization with Aspecta, supporting the Adleta and Herregan teams in the North Texas, Oklahoma, North Louisiana, Arkansas and Memphis markets and based in Dallas. Experienced with healthcare, retail, corporate/tenant improvement, education and government projects, her focus for Aspecta will be with the architect and design community, end-users and flooring contractor specification.

Becky Davin  

Becky Davin’s diverse 25-year career spans commercial design, project management and building product specifications. Beginning in real estate development for ski in/out hotels, she continued to pursue business development in San Francisco, working for Fortune 500 furniture and flooring manufacturing companies covering the West/Northwestern states. On the Aspecta team she will continue her focus on healthcare, education, high tech and government sectors based in San Francisco for Tri-West Ltd. and Cronin Co. Davin has been involved with CSI, IFMA, and USGBC and served on the board for IIDA, Northern Calif.

Kelly Hensley

An interior design graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., Hensley became account manager for an established flooring contractor and then territory manager with a major carpet mill. After relocating to Atlanta, she was owner/designer of a residential and commercial design business before joining Metroflor on the Aspecta team as the company’s liaison with Metroflor distributor William M. Bird. She is an active member of the Georgia and Alabama Chapters of IIDA.