By Sarah Bousquet
NeoCon East 2016 boasted another successful showing on November 9 and 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC). The region’s top commercial interiors conference and exposition was held for the second year in a row in Philadelphia, and welcomed approximately 7,000 influential design professionals from the Northeast corridor.
The two-day show touted the latest products, services and solutions from nearly 200 exhibitors, as well as a comprehensive educational component and two keynotes led by Marc Kushner, co-founder of Architizer, and Ayse Birsel, co-founder of Birsel + Seck. Kushner kicked off day one with a look at how technology and new forms of communication have the power to revolutionize the specification process. Birsel continued the forward-thinking trajectory on day two with a discussion on taking a humanistic approach to architecture and design — a trending topic among the A&D community and end users at large.
“NeoCon East delivered on many fronts but most importantly it connected the key players in our industry interested in expanding their knowledge and business opportunities,” said Julie Kohl, vice president – exhibitor sales for NeoCon Shows. “With thousands of new products on display, it is in these connections that business happens and market share is won. These relationships are vital to our industry dynamic and for this reason NeoCon East will continue to gain momentum.”
Exhibitors and attendees alike agreed that relationship building and knowledge-share continue to be the linchpins of the regional show.
Ralph Grogan, president and CEO of Bentley Mills, explained that the company’s booth goals this year were two-fold: Highlight new product and network with an entirely new demographic of attendees. “Yes, we are showcasing Lost Angeles as we did at NeoCon earlier this year, but most people here were not in Chicago,” he said. “Philadelphia has a lot going on, and the people here are excited about business and education. I don’t think we lost anyone from Baltimore — NeoCon East’s previous home — and we’ve definitely increased conversations with people from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”
Karen Ostromecki, interior designer, IIDA, LEED GA, from Rochester, N.Y., said, “I enjoy attending NeoCon East because it’s a hub for collaboration and learning, and a great place to network for future project opportunities. Viewing the latest products, trend identification and inspiring conversations are key.”
New solutions expand opportunities
In line with the collaborative theme of this year’s NeoCon East, it was apparent that manufacturers were looking to answer attendees’ requests for new and different solutions. For instance, Procedo Floorings’ Loom+ — produced by infusing a durable fabric top layer with an LVT bottom layer — received most of the attention from booth visitors for its versatility. “Everybody is interested in our loom-woven vinyl flooring because it’s a different product,” said Brent Fike, sales manager. “It looks like and has the unlimited design capabilities of a soft surface, but provides the durability of an LVT, which has gained interest from the hospitality, corporate and retail segments.”
Patcraft’s Mixed Materials collection drew similar notoriety for its ability to seamlessly use hard and soft surface flooring side-by-side, alone or in multiple combinations. Tara Currier, communications manager, noted the new product is part of a bigger conversation. “We’ve been meeting with the team to talk about ‘well building,’” she said. “Designers are asking how the products they specify effect the way people work, live and interact. As a manufacturer, we want to be in pace with designers and even ahead of the curve to help them answer these questions with new solutions.”
Another noteworthy innovation responding to technology’s impact on how business and society exist was LSI Floor’s WayFind app. WayFind allows end-users to scan a custom printed floor using their mobile device to pull up a full directory or in-depth story about a client’s hospital, office, retail location or museum. “Flooring has always been a useful tool to help guide visitors through a space,” said Rick Moffat, owner. “We’re taking that ability to the next level and integrating it into a technology-driven solution with more potential for clients and a better experience for end users.”
Several manufacturers also utilized booth space to have broader green building conversations and highlight sustainable design options. Shaw Contract was looking to promote big-picture ideas around diversity in design, sustainable processes and healthy living, while Resawn Timber highlighted the green attributes — and varying aesthetics — of sustainably sourced new and reclaimed wood.
“Wood is naturally green,” said Drew Diehl, communications for Resawn Timber. “And we are proud to work a lot with reclaimed and refinished woods to extend the life and beauty of those products.”
One of the company’s stand-out offerings was its Charred collection, which pays homage to the traditional Japanese technique of “shou-sugi-ban” and includes charred wood products for flooring, exterior siding and interior cladding.
For more information on NeoCon East, which will return to Philadelphia for a third time in 2017, visit neoconeast.com.