By Rob Judd – Group Director With a new year fast approaching it’s time to reflect on 2018, a year driven by innovation and technology, and look forward to an exciting future during 2019. Employee Wellbeing With an increased emphasis on the needs of employees and their wellbeing, the specific requirements of the working environment are becoming more prominent. Open interactive areas with a need for light are interspersed with quiet rooms for breakouts where acoustics become all important. Workspaces need to be flexibly designed to accommodate a variety of work styles where privacy and openness are both required. Glass partitions are playing an ever increasing role in designs where maximising light is as important as the acoustic requirement. Exposed Ceilings 2018 has seen a growth in exposed ceilings and “pod” environments within office interiors, which is set to continue. The trend is towards leaving the services and structure of the building on display. This has led to a requirement for freestanding offices or meeting spaces. We showcased our expertise in this area with the development of the “Scheduling Rooms” at the award-winning Bloomberg HQ in London. The rooms were not fixed to the ceiling but provided stability and acoustics for their standing only meeting spaces. We have further developed this design to move towards a standard offering which will be available to the market in 2019. Bespoke Solutions As a manufacturer, designer, and installer, we are in a great position to deliver fully bespoke innovative solutions which continue to be in demand. Our Bloomberg project with Foster + Partners demonstrated our control and management of the process. “The Optima team achieved the impossible, working tirelessly to realise our vision.” Simona Bencini, Partner at Foster + Partners Fire Technology Fire safety has been at the forefront of our efforts on testing this year and further investment in this will continue throughout 2019. We are looking carefully into not only certifying our fire products but how they are installed and the supervision of our workers on-site. We are developing specialist teams for the installation of fire-rated products on site. Workers will be specifically trained in order to provide the best and safest installation like on the MySpace project for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. National and International Growth Our products are being widely sold in the Middle East and the APAC regions. Specifically, we see a growth in markets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, India and Kuwait. Recently a mixed team of architects from India visited our facilities in the UK and Dubai to see how the quality and performance of our products could be blended with our willingness to be creative to suit their requirements. The number of projects in Dublin like LinkedIn, Twitter and Demonware, where Optima has been specified has grown significantly. We are happy to be working with our certified partner Walls to Workstations. Nationally our team has grown both in the Midlands and the North so we can now cover the whole of the UK. Technology Room booking systems are being installed in many more office environments with a move towards more battery operated products. Innovative locking devices for doors are growing in popularity with smart locks featuring. Self-closing hinges rather than floor springs on doors have been developed where laboratories and clean rooms need to reduce the issues with dust migration. These self-closing hinges will be launched during 2019. We see this trend continuing with bonded warehouses also requiring self-closing doors as floor springs are not possible due to the construction of the building. Less Minimalistic and More Framed Designers now are focusing more heavily on a framed partitioning approach. Although aesthetics are important there are also the challenges of acoustics to consider. Our Shoreditch Edition partitions and doors have the frames bonded onto the glass which maximises acoustic performance. We can even provide this look in a fire-rated scheme. Sector Growth Media and Technology The growth in this sector has led to the requirement for more colours and special finishes whilst retaining all the acoustic qualities of the space. Education The need for more high quality student accommodation is set to continue throughout 2019. We recently provided fire rated products for offices at Leeds University and on the Holloway Road in London. Residential We believe 2019 will continue to see the demand for residential designs. Sliding doors save space onto terraces and winter gardens whilst maintaining a high specification and meeting the aesthetics. As a manufacturer, we are excited about the developments and investments we are making for the future and how that will benefit our customers by making us more sustainable, agile, and innovative. We continue to be driven by our core value of innovation and we’re happy that our projects have consistently featured in industry awards such as the FIS and BCO.