THE X FACTOR

Offering office design, fit-out and full turnkey interior solutions, Xworks Interiors is making its mark on the region’s design industry. On September 9, 2009 the Dubai metro flagged off and so did Xworks Interiors. The innovative full-turnkey services firm has been operating in Dubai ever since, and expanded into Abu Dhabi in 2016 where the firm launched a second office to cater to growing demand. As operations continued to expand, Xworks Interiors opened a brand new, state-of-the-art office in the heart of Reem Island in 2022. Today, the firm is intent on working towards on primary goal: being the best in the business. Adopting an ethos that champions quality first, building and maintaining strong relationships and clear communication, Xworks Interiors is well on the way. “One of the keys to our success is communication, discussing things, bringing the expertise to the table that we have gathered over the years – this is where the good results lie,” says Soren Kraen, executive director and owner.  Champions for sustainable design Sustainability is an essential consideration for Xworks Interiors, and the firms commitment to a better future was recently recognized with LEED Gold Certification at the new Abu Dhabi office, constructed in 2022. ISO certification is high on the priority list along with detailed research on adopting a zero-carbon policy, hiring new talents, and rolling out educational programs for staff such as LEED AP, PMP certifications and new market expansion in store.  Industry recognition With an impressive and ever-growing portfolio, Xworks Interiors has completed more than 400 projects for a wide range of clients. The firm was recently awarded the Highly Commended Interior Fit-Out Firm of the Year (Small Scale) trophy at te CID Awards: MENA 2023. An expanding portfolio Notable past projects of Xworks Interiors include 3M, Alstom Transport, Canon Middle East, Cracknell Landscape Design LLC, Interface Europe Ltd, SAP House Dubai at Expo 2020, Maersk Line, Worley, Wizz Air, Zaha Hadid Architects, and AECOM to name a few, though the best is yet to come.  In 2023, Xworks Interiors has secured new work across a range of diverse industries, including energy, oil & gas, real estate, shipping, health, banking and finance, IT, and creative agencies. Click here for more details about The X Factor

CID Power 50 List 2023: Soren Kraen

UAE-based Xworks Interiors has gone from strength to strength in the past twelve months, led by founder and executive director Soren Kraen. The firm was recognized for its growth and industry impact as a recipient of the Highly Commended award for Interior Fit-Out Firm of the Year – Small Scale in the CID Awards 2023: MENA, and Kraen’s team credits his ability to push the boundaries of design to deliver innovative and creative solutions to commercial spaces. Kraen’s professional journey began in the logistics sector, where he honed his skills before venturing into entrepreneurship and design. Leveraging his expertise acquired from a renowned interior design firm, he established his own highly successful enterprise. His success and dedication to championing more sustainable design, has earned his place on the CID Power 50 List for 2023. Championing sustainability This year, the firm obtained LEED Gold Certification for its newly constructed Abu Dhabi office. The company is now working towards achieving ISO certification and Zero Carbon policy implementation, an initiative led by Kraen. Leading the way Kraen is the key leadership figure responsible for the overall management, direction, and success of Xworks Interiors. He combines creative vision with strategic acumen, driving the company’s growth and enhancing its reputation in the competitive interior design industry. As the owner, he also bears the responsibility for the company’s profitability and long-term sustainability, and for making crucial decisions regarding the company’s goals, strategies, and finances. He serves as a mentor and coach for all team members at Xworks, guiding with personalized advice, fostering professional development, and empowering staff to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. His coaching style emphasizes empathy, constructive feedback, and creating inclusive team dynamics. Xworks Interiors, under Kraen’s leadership, has built a reputation for delivering projects that exceed client expectations and creating spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Looking Ahead In 2024, Kraen has high hopes to continue incorporating eco-friendly furniture, recycled materials, and energy-efficient lighting solutions into his design projects, and to continue educating clients on the benefits of sustainable designs. He’s also aiming to further leverage the power of 3D walkthroughs allowing clients to visualize designs in a virtual environment before implementation, and to explore emerging technologies such as AI for the client’s benefit. Click here for more details about The X Factor

Expediting Design: Xworks Interiors

Xworks Interiors Soren Kraen, Executive Director & Owner with Michelle Lozano Palomera, Associate Partner & Design Manager “Michelle and I have worked together since the conceptualization of Xworks Interiors 14 years ago”, says Soren, smiling away through the conversation. “Over the years, we have developed a strong business relationship based on trust and healthy communication. The highlights of this rare association, as two experts in the industry, are the shared compatibility, the practice of fluent idea sharing, effective communication, all of which results in the enhancement of formulating new design strategies for the company.” Why would you recommend Design & Build to clients over design-bid-build? Particularly, what do you think makes your establishment the go-to for projects? Soren: The choice between Design & Build and Design-Bid-Build approaches varies with regards to the project’s scale and the client’s preferences. Generally, Design & Build is considered more suitable for small and medium projects, while Design-Bid-Build is often favoured for mega-sized projects. I believe clients must assess their requirements and projects, and make the choice keeping in mind factors such as Return of Investment, scale and priorities. The advantages of working with a Design & Build firm over a traditional Design-Bid-Build include direct and easy communication that shorten time consumed through the approval processes. Projects can be delivered quicker to meet tight deadlines or accommodate schedule constraints more efficiently. Cost efficiency is a major advantage as well. The design-build team coalesces to find innovative solutions to optimise the project’s design and identify cost-saving opportunities. The disadvantage could be that a D&B firm might offer limited design solutions. When it comes to our USP, we pride ourselves on acknowledging the importance of providing a safe and healthy workplace for employees. Thus, our designs are built mainly on the LEED and WELL Standards. Our team’s ability to incorporate these standards to develop a creative vision, conceptualise innovative and visually appealing designs is one factor that makes Xworks Interiors the go-to for projects. In addition to this, are Xworks Interiors’ fundamental values which are collaboration and trustworthiness that shape the culture and behaviour of the company. These values help us in establishing strong internal and external relationships, fostering teamwork, and creating lasting relationships with clients. There is no project that we are not proud about. The vision at Xworks Interiors is not to be the biggest but to be the best in the industry. Therefore, we ensure that our core values are strategically incorporated into every project we undertake. Our focus lies in harmonising design aesthetics with the ability to create spaces that align with clients’ brand identity and target audience. Our commitment extends beyond delivering projects promptly and within budget; we strive to exceed our clients’ expectations amidst inevitable challenges and constraints. In your opinion, how is the role of the Head of Design in a D&B firm different from the role of the Principal Designer in a Design firm? Are there added responsibilities or challenges? Michelle: The Principal Designer within a Design firm excels at delivering functional and… Continue reading Expediting Design: Xworks Interiors

The Top 5 Design & Build Firms in the Middle East

The use of the popular axiom, “A jack of all trades is a master of none”, is rampant to advocate excelling at only one skill. If specialisation were key, we wouldn’t witness dynamic, multi-faceted professionals climbing corporate ladders swiftly over their peers. Design & Build firms, too, are a pertinent case in point in the saying’s rebuttal. However, it’s not the proverb that is incorrect; it’s its misuse. The original, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”, aptly delineates the Design and Build world, particularly when it comes to small to medium-sized interior projects. Reportedly, all is not glamorous on this side of the construction industry. They have their unique trysts as well. These entities juggle multiple roles and are expected to be more agile, cost-effective and organised than multiple companies involved in a traditional design-bid-build process. In hiring these one-stop service providers, clients find themselves in ideal situations. After all, a central touch point is better than many. Yet, it is this very predicament that makes the Design and Build enterprise challenging. We spoke to the key players to assess how the top five firms in the Middle East balance managing timelines, quality control, on-site hurdles and more.  In the process, an insight struck. Perhaps, the secret behind an infallible Design and Build model is the camaraderie between the Head of Operations and the Design Mastermind.

Fit-Out Powerlist 2023 – Xworks Interiors, Ranks 9th

Xworks Interiors is a leading provider of collaborative commercial fit-out, design, and furniture solutions in the UAE. The company was founded in 2009, with its doors formally opening on September 9, 2009, the same historic day that the Dubai Metro began operations. It is the objective of Xworks Interiors to serve the market with worldwide quality products and services. They specialises in designing offices with a particular emphasis on ergonomics and the entire work environment. Driven by its commitment to excellence, Xworks Interiors expanded its operations to Abu Dhabi within just six years of its founding. This expansion showcases the company’s dedication to delivering exceptional service and meeting the evolving needs of its clients in the region. “Our golden rule is communication. With our clients, with our suppliers and with each other. We pride ourselves on not only delivering the highest quality office spaces, but in how we deliver them.” Xworks has successfully completed over 300 remarkable and highly functional offices throughout the years. The first quarter of 2023 has been particularly exciting as we have secured new projects from a range of diverse industries, including energy, oil & gas, real estate, shipping, health, banking, and finance. Some of the firm’s significant projects include IBM Middle East, Cathay Pacific, Bridgestone Middle East & Africa, Visa Middle East, Siemens, Wizz Air, and others. Worley, Grenke, Emirates Shipping Lines, Al Plus Global DMCC, Maarah Holdings, Terma, and Aldar Investment Properties are among Xworks’ current exciting commissions.     Xworks successfully converted a shell and core space of 13,455sqft into a stunning and efficient office. Despite being a fast-track project, it was completed on time without any QHSE incidents. Xworks’ Dubai office was proudly recognised as a recipient of “Highly Commended” award for our Sustainable Interior Design Initiative in 2017. This recognition serves as a testament to their unwavering commitment to sustainable practices and innovative design, setting a new standard for interior design excellence. In 2017 and 2019, the Dubai Office achieved the LEED and WELL Gold Certifications, marking a significant accomplishment for Xworks Interiors. The company remains dedicated to advancing the standards of workplace well-being and sustainability in the region. They were also honoured to receive the esteemed “Happiness @Work Award” for SME’s in 2019 and 2020. This recognition shows the firm’s commitment to fostering a positive work environment that focusses on the well-being and happiness of the employees. Our company is working towards several key goals, including ISO certification, Zero Carbon policy implementation, hiring new talents, and educational programs for staff such as LEED AP, PMP certifications. By achieving these objectives, we can enhance our company’s credibility, reduce our carbon footprint, build a diverse and highly skilled workforce, and invest in our staff’s professional development. These goals are critical to our long-term growth and success and will position our company as one of the top leaders in our industry. The firm is also committed to maintaining a positive workplace culture that values open communication, attracts, and retains young talent, and encourages… Continue reading Fit-Out Powerlist 2023 – Xworks Interiors, Ranks 9th

Focus Group: The Increasing Popularity of Design & Build

Love That Design’s last focus group of 2021 was aimed at the Design & Build industry, to learn more about this ever growing sphere of the A&D world. We gathered eight key firms with project portfolios ranging from mass commercial to boutique, in order to get a fair understanding of the processes. Amidst coffees, snacks and a delightful atmosphere in the a2z Showroom in d3, the following issues came to light… Location courtesy a2z Showroom in d3 Design & Build has come into its own this last decade as more and more projects head towards this inclusive method of construction. In a recent study in the US, Design & Build (D&B) projects superseded in number as compared to the traditional method, design, bid, build. Regionally, it appears D&B is also gaining traction, particularly in smaller scale projects with a tighter budget and timeline. So Love That Design aimed their last focus group of 2021 at the major players in this field in the region to learn all about the processes involved in the completion of a design and build project vs the traditional method – the design, benefits and headaches, product sourcing, value engineering, tight timelines, and any challenges involved in following sustainability goals and certifications. An honest and open conversation ensued where we learned about what actually happens from the moment the client sits at the table. In this research led piece, we get to highlight the details, the differences and intricacies, and bring it to the masses. Participating Designers

Diversity, Sustainability & the Spirit of Collaboration Drive Interface’s New Showroom Design

Interface’s commitment to sustainability is beyond commendable. Their endeavour to preserve our planet and improve it for generations to come is a testament to what organisations can do when they focus their efforts on a good cause. The brand has proven time and again that great products can be made without sacrificing both the quality of the product or the quality of our environment. Since Interface embarked on the path to Mission Zero® in 1994, the company has been changing the way we view business models from the lens of sustainability. A Spear in the Chest Moment The Interface sustainability story starts in 1994 when founder Ray Anderson, having gone through a challenging period one year, woke up to the fact that industrial companies were consuming the Earth’s resources at a dangerous rate. “Our founder Ray pushed through with that personal realisation, calling it a spear in the chest moment,” says Patrick Riley, Vice President & General Manager – UK, Ireland, Middle East & Africa at Interface. “Over the course of the next 20 years, we have moved to reducing our carbon impact dramatically.” A recent step in this journey came in the form of their carbon negative products – the first of which was launched in 2021 as part of the Embodied Beauty™ collection. Being a truly innovative company, Interface sees carbon as a resource as opposed to a waste product. The revolutionary CQuest™BioX backing used in the negative tiles stores more carbon than ever before, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. Put simply, there is less carbon in the atmosphere than if tiles had never been created. “We have done so much work to reduce the underlying carbon impact of the product, it has been a 25-year evolving story,” says Patrick “In the 1990s, we were one of the first industrial companies to strive to take the negative impact of the business away. So it has been a long journey and continues to be a journey for us, but we’ve proven products don’t have to be ugly to be sustainable! I think that has been a real element of our success – the ability to turn that responsibility into something that’s beautiful and competitively available.” Interface in the Middle East Interface has operated in the Middle East for over 30 years now, with Dubai being one of the first markets they approached. Over the past three decades, their presence has grown in size and impact, with regional leadership recognising the need for a space to host customers, partners, architects, and designers. This has led to the birth of their new space in Dubai Design District. “We wanted to be able to invite people to not only come and visualise our flooring, but also to collaborate with them to create an environment where they can understand how our products enhance the wellbeing and design of a space, and how they can incorporate a product into their design,” says Zubair Ahmad, Regional Director Middle East & Africa at Interface. “So it was really important… Continue reading Diversity, Sustainability & the Spirit of Collaboration Drive Interface’s New Showroom Design

WELL Building Standards – in Practice

“We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.” – Winston Churchill He may not have been an architect; but more than half a century later, the British Prime Minister and, eventual, World War I hero’s words still hold weight in the domain of architecture. At Haworth’s d3-based showroom, the same words were cited again! This time by Kate Rube, Vice President of the International WELL Building Institute, during her talk on WELL and the Building Standards in practice in the UAE. This enlightening talk involved a discussion on the state of well-being within the UAE’s general workplace culture, the current standards of our built-environments, the challenges they pose and how the WELL Building Standard plays into this scenario. For those who missed it, we’ve covered key details from the talk. Not so WELL Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to our general state of health, genetics contributes a smaller percentage than we think. According to Kate, our contemporary lifestyles, generally, fall into an “Eat/Sleep/Work/Repeat” cycle; and one that happens indoors 90% of the time. The only differences would be how our free time is spent. In the UAE, this percentage is probably higher, owing to the extreme weather conditions that force citizens to seek airconditioned settings at every possible activity. In the trade-off for comfort, these urban lifestyles tend to create several health-related problems. According to a World Health Organization report, on the UAE, high rates of obesity and other related diseases should act as a wake-up call for everyone living in the country. The report states that “Due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles, some of the highest incidences of noncommunicable diseases in the world are found in the country.” The statistics speak for themselves: 66% of men and 60% of women are obese in the UAE, and 15% of the population in the UAE has diabetes. These high rates, in Middle Eastern countries, are contributing to a host of chronic diseases that are life-threatening and costly. In response to alarming issues such as these, WELL aims to protect people by improving building standards in terms of health, well-being and productivity. WELL at Work In 2013, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched a movement to address issues such as health and well-being within the built environment (issues which are somewhat overlooked by existing standards). Thus, the internationally-recognized and emerging WELL Building Standards was born. It aims to provide architects and designers with guidelines on how to make a real and measurable difference on how we function within our urban spaces. WELL is the first building standard to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people, in buildings. Working spaces are assessed by means of on-site performance verification; including tests of air quality, water quality, lighting, acoustics and visual inspections of other features. WELL marries the best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research, harnessing the built-environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being. Being a holistic system that blends a human-centred approach at its… Continue reading WELL Building Standards – in Practice

LTD Talk With Interstuhl: Merging Workspaces, Merging Products

In this roundtable collaboration with Interstuhl, we organized a chat with experts from the A&D and build sector on the new meaning of workspace, and how designers and manufacturers are rising to the challenge of the changing status quo. Experts from the industry gave us a look into what the future may hold in merging workspaces and merging products. Location: Interstuhl Showroom   With the corporate shift to WFH (Work From Home) or even WFE (Work From Everywhere), it didn’t take long for manufacturers and product designers to follow suit, beginning a new wave of furniture trends that are flexible in use, flexible in functionality, practical, and resilient to changing trends. It also sparked a conversation on the multidimensional nature of the workplace – it could be your laptop, bag, car, or a completely autonomous unit that can travel with you anywhere, even when you are on a holiday. So what is this new workspace? In this roundtable, in collaboration with Interstuhl, we chat with experts from the A&D and build sector on the new meaning of workspace, and how designers and manufacturers are rising to the challenge of the changing status quo. Changing Mindsets ‘So what is a workspace, today?’, we ask our experts. “I was working from my car today through my laptop, and got a decent amount of work done before even entering the office,” says Adriana Graur, Design Director at dwp. Which makes us wonder, do we need to revisit the traditional definition of a workspace? Adriana tells us that we have to first change our mindsets and start thinking differently. “What traditional workspaces did really well helped is help with boundaries. We’re all well aware that you can work from anywhere from now, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. We’ve had to get used to it. We don’t have the products and spaces that fully embrace or support this today. Yes, we love the flexibility, but what’s ended up happening is that we don’t know when to stop, and we just go on working because our homes and offices have fused. So we have to start thinking about how we can incorporate the flexibility of work from home with the benefits an office would provide. To be able to give ourselves that work life balance, but also make our boundaries flexible and not be married to the 9 to 5 thinking. That requires a change in mindset.” Patrick Loechle, Vice President Marketing & Product Management at Interstuhl, gives us his perspective. “We’re at an interesting point in time where we have realised the true value of a workspace. It’s not just a place to have people work 9 to 5. It has to facilitate productive work, collaboration, social interaction, and as of the current situation, health and safety as well. It has to be multidimensional. For my team, it’s very important that they can work from home, but equally important for me is to bring back that spontaneous interaction. Something as simple as having a… Continue reading LTD Talk With Interstuhl: Merging Workspaces, Merging Products