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An updated future for the UK's best building show by Paul Finch

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'Interbuild', then known as the 'Building Exhibition', was launched in 1895 - the same year as The Architects' Journal, then known as The Builders' Journal, an Architectural Review. Quite apart from the coincidence of their birth, the history of the magazine and the exhibition have been intertwined ever since. The connection became formal last year when Emap Business Communications, aj's owner, signed a joint venture agreement with the Montgomery Group to own and operate the show. The Montgomery family founded the show, and developed a major international exhibition company over the course of the next century; bringing the parties together, from an exhibition management perspective, combines exhibition, publishing and marketing skills in an unprecedented way.

One of the first decisions the joint venture took was to move the date of the show, which was due to take place at the National Exhibition Centre this November. Some quick market research, among both exhibitors and visitors, suggested that almost all preferred a spring date, and following negotiations with the nec, that was achieved. The exhibition will take place, using the entire nec complex, from 21 to 25 May 2000.

Another decision by the joint venture was to include the 'Civils' exhibition, launched by Emap in 1998, as part of the 'Interbuild' supershow, increasing the critical mass of an event which, with seven months still to go, is already bigger than the last 'Interbuild', held in 1997. The idea of 'shows within a show', of which 'Civils 2000' is a prominent example, has informed the joint venture's thinking about 'Interbuild''s future, so that individual halls will be heavily themed, with appropriate magazine and trade-association support, but drawing strength from the overall Interbuild brand. Other newcomers to 'Interbuild' include: 'Building Services'; 'it for Construction'; 'Pipelines 2000'; and 'Total Lighting'. More familiar features, some with new branding, comprise 'Building Interiors'; 'Ceramic Tiles'; 'Doors Windows & Facades'; 'Fireplaces and Surrounds'; 'Flooring'; 'Kitchens'; 'The Bathroom Show'; 'Domestic Heating & Plumbing'; and 'The Electrical Show'. For architects Hall 5, with 'Structural Building', is almost certainly a port of call, but there is plenty more on offer.

One of our intentions at aj is to facilitate intelligent use of the show to bring specifiers in touch with exactly the people they wish to meet at the show: we will shortly be announcing ways in which we can plan visitor trips, ranging from free provision of transport to organising meetings with technical advisers from product groups and particular exhibiting manufacturers; the intention is to take some of the randomness from the visit, and make it a more need-to-visit than nice-to-visit occasion. This will extend to the nature of various seminar programmes, which will be about the business of procuring, designing and creating buildings using the latest and best techniques, rather than replicas of the riba Tuesday- night lecture programme. In all cases, the intention will be to leave visitors with significantly more knowledge and understanding of products and process than they had when they arrived.

So far, the added firepower brought by the joint venture is having a welcome effect on exhibitor numbers. More than 80 per cent of space in the 'Doors, Windows and Facades' hall is already committed, for instance.

In Hall 5, familiar names to specifiers already booked include: aco Technologies, Artur Fischer, British Steel, Cavity Trays, Deceuninck, Dow Construction, Eternit, Floplast, Hoogovens and Geberit Terrain. We intend to reinforce the link between specifiers and manufacturing industry, not least through the Interbuild Awards (watch for details later in the year). We will be running an 'Interbuild' update each week between now and the show. All in all, this Millennium show presents a chance not only to inform visitors, but also to celebrate some of the achievements of the uk manufacturing and construction industries - exemplified by the Millennium products chosen by the Design Council, which include a variety of products and entire buildings. We hope to be able to present these at the show, which will of course feature the usual range of social events. One other key difference, for those who find themselves happy but foot-weary at the end of an 'Interbuild' day: the show will be carpeted!

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