DESIGN EXPERTISE: CHELSOM
We operate in a truly shrinking world. Very often a single project could be put together from three different continents; the designer may be in LA, the procurement company or main contractors may be based in London and the hotel itself may be in Dubai. When it comes to working on international projects there are many elements to consider but the shared goal should always be understood and working collectively with all parties involved helps foster a mutual sense of ownership and ultimately a cohesive global project.
From inception to delivery the only thing that separates us from any international project is water. When there is a sense of collectivism and recognition of the role we have to play as part of the wider project team, our responsibilities are clear from the outset. We understand the importance of creating lighting designs that meet the project brief, budget and time constraints and above all else we have the expertise to create lighting schemes that adhere to local regulations and can be interpreted by local contractors. In times of accelerated change, it’s good to go back to basics and recognise some fundamental considerations that make for a successful international project.
Local design taste differences
There was a time when the major hotel brands wanted to roll out generic schemes worldwide. That design intent has almost completely disappeared and there is much more of a drive towards vernacular taste. International travellers want to arrive at a hotel and immediately feel immersed in the local culture. That feeling has to include the lighting and so local design taste is paramount when putting together a lighting design or product for different parts of the world. The varieties in local taste between a New York hotel, an entrance lobby in Dubai or a spa in Bali is what gives us the greatest challenges and is therefore most rewarding when we get it right.
International specification (not always in same country as project)
Our experience in completing projects in over 70 countries enables us to sometimes help designers in putting together specifications. We may have experience of local harsh climates, room proportions, switch locations, certain religious implications and general ideas of taste within that country. We are always willing to offer our experience and work closely with designers and specifiers to ensure a successful overseas project.
Electrical regs are indeed complex across the world. Even within the EU where there is supposed to be regulatory harmony, there can be three different plug type requirements within Germany and specific bathroom regs in France. The USA has it’s own very stringent electrical product certification process (UL) as does Saudi Arabia (SASO) and Australia (RCM). Perhaps the most complex of the international electrical regulations is dimming technology because there are so many different types of dimming with all the associated components that go with it, ensuring total compatibility in any country between the dimming gear, the switching and the light source requires serious expertise.
Obviously ensuring light fittings which are sometimes huge, sometimes heavy and sometimes fragile reach their destination safely and quickly is part of successful exporting. International customs paperwork can vary from country to country as can import duties and taxes. You need to be well versed in sea freight and air freight procedures taking particular note of any local restrictions, national holidays and of course language difficulties.
Language in every stage from quote to carton labels.
The British are generally linguistically lazy because most of the world speaks our language. However to complete overseas projects successfully it is far better to have knowledge of the local language and that language should cover all parts of the process from website to enquiry to quotation to carton labels and delivery documentation.
Site visits and the distances involved
To become a serious international player we have built a large and varied export team managed by our Sales Director and Export Manager. We have a network of agents and national representatives. They allow us to deal directly with the client whilst providing the comfort of having someone on the ground locally. A site visit to Adelaide requires a little more planning and cost than going down the road to SW3.
Local rip offs
It can sometimes be disappointing when interior designers put so much effort in to schemes and manufacturers put so much effort in to mock up rooms only to have the product copied locally. All that depends on how much control the ultimate client has over the procurement process and the original design integrity. Different parts of the world have vastly different quality standards and so what is acceptable or not acceptable varies greatly. We have lost count of the number of times rollouts have complained to us about the product when in fact our own items have been replaced by those with inferior quality. Having said that we are fully aware of the different budget levels required in different parts of the world and are consequently highly skilled at value engineering to give the look and original design intent at a lower price bracket.