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 creative designs within the designated time frame, ensuring the best possible solutions for client requirements. Similarly, the Design and Build designer fulfils the same role but expands their involvement to encompass all aspects of the project, ranging from budgeting and site execution to final handover. The relationship between the D&B Designer and the Client is significant and evolves concurrently throughout the project, navigating stages that involve identifying risks, offering solutions, and maintaining quality together. The challenge lies in meeting client expectations within their specified timeline and budget while delivering work of the utmost quality and performance.

What does the future of Design & Build in the Middle East look like? Are the firms ready to take on bigger and more ambitious projects?

Soren: With a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental consciousness, the future of Design & Build in the Middle East is likely to incorporate more eco-friendly practices and there will also be a significant use of advanced/trending technologies. In my opinion, Design & Build firms can certainly take on bigger and more ambitious projects. However, it will largely depend on their experience, learning curve, skilled workforce, and the technology it uses to manage and meet market trends of the future.

The Middle East is often called a melting pot of cultures. Have you made use of your cultural background in projects for muses or in any other way or form?

Michelle: Yes, on occasion, if the clients’ requirements demand so. Xworks Interiors is driven by Scandinavian design ideologies that combine simplicity, functionality, and natural elements to create an environment that promotes productivity, collaboration, and well-being. However, we are very mindful of the culture in GCC and therefore comply with its traditional values by designing thoughtfully that aligns with the ethos of the Middle East. It gives us immense joy to share that we were chosen for the prestigious Happiest Workplace Award for two consecutive years – 2019 and 2020. This reflects our unity in diversity amongst the staff at Xworks who hail from different demographic backgrounds.

How does the firm make use of the latest technology in construction and management? What techniques and tools do you use to stay on top of your game?

Soren: We utilise a wide range of tools including Lumion, walkthrough software, SketchUp, 3D Max, and Primavera. We understand that learning and development is crucial and is a never-ending process. Therefore, we prioritise providing our team members with opportunities to learn about the latest advancements in technology and market trends. This approach allows them to continuously enhance their skills and remain competitive in the industry. As part of our pursuit for utmost excellence, we are currently in the process of obtaining ISO 9001, 14001, 14006, and 45001 respectively.

Have you tried your hands-on AI tools such as MidJourney to generate concepts or ChatGPT for presentations, research, or anything else? 

Michelle: Yes, we have been exploring and experimenting with the opportunity to work with different state-of-the-art technologies. At Xworks, we comprehend and encourage the use of the latest technologies. Although AI-assisted design is in its nascent stage, we leverage its application for inspiration.

In the future, what can we hope to see from your firm? What does your vision board for the future look like?

Soren: With our vast experience and tremendous growth over the years, we foresee taking on larger projects in the commercial sector. We are researching the possibility of extending our expertise to the Retail, Hospitality, and Medical sectors. We are also planning to expand to new geographical territories.

Quick fact about Xworks Interiors:

Teams that make it possible: Sales, Design, Operations and Project Management, Administration, Accounts and Top Management.

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