Surface & Materials Advisory Panel calls for skills, education and transparency to keep pace with product innovation and new technologies

Key figures in construction, engineering, design, architecture, environmental management and trend forecasting came together recently for a round table discussion organised by the Surface & Materials Show at Grimshaw Architects in London.

Covering topics from incorporating the latest technology to sustainability and performance, the group of experts discussed the role that materials manufacturers and decision makers have to play in improving the built environment – and how events such as the Surface & Materials Show sharpen the focus by bringing both the products and the key issues under one roof.

“The advisory panel offered us fascinating exposure to a broad range of experience and opinion from key influencers.  An important point that we took away was about the need for greater synergy between manufacturers and the architecture community, especially when it comes to educating each other about the way products perform in practice, for example, with communications such as case studies, and by networking at events such as seminars and trade shows, ”said Nathan Garnett, event director, the Surface & Materials Show.

“Creative design collaborations, especially at trade shows, can be a great way for manufacturers to push the boundaries and learn more about the capabilities of their own materials in action,” pointed out Philip Hutfield, UK & Ireland technical manager, DuPont™ Corian®.

The surface and materials industry was also challenged to seek greater cross fertilisation across all the design and engineering sectors, taking inspiration from the automotive industry for example, and also to explore all the opportunities presented by digital technology and virtual reality. Yet it was also agreed that there’s no substitute for seeing materials in the flesh and that therefore exhibitors should do their best to help visitors visualise how, where and in what application their products perform best.

“As architects we are always looking at materials that let us say what we want to say with a project… and inevitably it has to talk about sustainability and about people and about comfort… and what that project is bringing positively into the world,” said Paolo Vimercati, associate principal, Grimshaw Architects, opening the hot topic about sustainability and “greenwashing”.

The group agreed that there are multiple and complex factors to be considered before freely labelling a product as sustainable, such as proper installation, for example, which is essential both for ‘as designed’ functionality and for product longevity.

“Our appreciation of this key issue is also why we have a strong focus at the show on training initiatives, such as the Flooring Workshop that we are hosting in conjunction with the Flooring Industry Training Association,” added Garnett.

“The key takeaways from today’s discussion are that there are like-minded people that are thinking deeply about material use and its impact on the built environment,” concluded Scott Campbell, director, Surface Matter.