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Things are looking up

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The uk-market leader in gypsum plaster and plasterboard systems, British Gypsum is a subsidiary of the bpb Group, one of the world's largest producers of gypsum-based building materials, with a presence in more than 45 countries. With four manufacturing sites in the North, South and Midlands, including its major mining and plaster mill facility at Barrow- on-Soar; and research, development and testing facilities at the head office site in East Leake, near Loughborough, British Gypsum commands a major presence in the drylining and gypsum plaster industry.

Sustaining market position for British Gypsum requires constantly exploring improvements in technology and processes to deliver enhanced products to the marketplace. Strategically, the company believes in vertical integration rather than diversification - working on building value into the product ranges they already possess. At the same time, it also focuses on delivering bespoke solutions and responding to the increasing interest in total internal finishing packages. In the words of Mike Jones, marketing director for British Gypsum: 'We see an opportunity in the interiors sector to deliver more options to the specification process. The launch of our new suspended- ceilings range typifies this kind of approach by addressing the need for more-integrated solutions.'

This 'total solutions' approach also enables the company to offer system warranties to support their product ranges. All products and systems give a guaranteed level of performance related to their specified capabilities eg sound, fire, moisture, impact.

The company has already proved itself as a leading manufacturer of quality ceiling systems, with its long-established GyprexMG boards and Gyptone board, launched in 1993. However, with effect from September/October this year, the company has dramatically expanded its interests in suspended ceilings with the launch of three comprehensive new ranges of tiles, plus a new grid system. Together, they comprise the most important development for British Gypsum in more than a decade.

At the vanguard of this new development is Casoprano, a new gypsum-based tile range which the company's parent group, bpb, is in the process of launching world-wide, and which is expected to challenge the dominant market position currently enjoyed by mineral fibre tiles. Already available in Europe, Casoprano has proved to be hugely popular. Original plans to supply Casoprano from France have been superseded by strength of demand, with a substantial uk manufacturing facility commissioned to meet climbing orders for the range. The new production line has been sited at East Leake, home of the company's head office and main plasterboard production unit. Now that commissioning is complete, full-scale production to service the uk and Irish markets is to begin this month.

The launch means that British Gypsum now offers a complete internal finishing package for architects. So what are the implications for specifiers? Suspended ceilings have traditionally been viewed as functional, and a necessary evil to cover up services, and have had very little architectural significance. The main focus of the new products is to offer architects a new way of looking at decorative ceilings which can add to the overall aesthetic appearance of an internal finish, together with a step change in durability and tolerance to moisture.

Because the launch is so significant for British Gypsum, a new strategic business unit has been created, headed by John Nelson, who was previously product manager for plasterboards and systems. Using its extensive knowledge in the ceilings area, the new team will work with architects throughout the uk to ensure suspended ceilings are an integral part of the overall building design. With support from its training centres and technical service department, British Gypsum will be in a strong position to help with all specifiers' questions related to suspended ceilings.

In order to research the potential for the new ranges, the company has been talking to architects for the past 18 months to decide which styles and designs would be most appropriate for the uk. The result of this research is a range of products that the company believes will provide specifiers with a new dimension in design and product performance.

One of the most important issues which has played a role in the development of these new products is the ease of availability of raw materials and the challenge of introducing environmentally sound components into the process. British Gypsum uses desulphogypsum (dsg) as a supplement to the use of natural gypsum. A waste product of power stations, such as Drax and Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the company has created a market for what would otherwise be a landfill product. dsg not only makes a harder, crisper product, but it is also lighter, which is of great benefit for ceiling systems.

A comprehensive binder of literature has been produced for the expanded ceilings range, which is not only inspirational in design but also covers all the technical areas associated with the specification of suspended- ceiling systems.

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