Muir Baxter is UK Account Manager for one of our WIN Awards 2015 sponsors, Gira – a leading international intelligent building technology and electronic switch manufacturer. The company was founded back in 1905 and today has more than 1,200 employees and representatives in 38 countries, with headquarters in Radevormwald, Germany.

Muir joined Gira in 2010. He is currently responsible for business development, specification assistance and sales for large, £1 million-plus luxury residential schemes and hotels in London and the overseas market.

Sales has always been in his blood and, while his friends were getting up late and hanging out as teenagers do, Muir’s career began with early morning starts in his father’s family business. A keen competitor, he’s also a qualified racing driver and likes to get muddy on obstacle courses! (More on that later.)

His work takes him to all the major international trade fairs, which keeps him at the cutting edge of all the latest technologies and trends. He shares some interesting insights with us about the evolving requirements of architects and designers and tells us about Gira’s latest switch range, Esprit, which features...lino. But first, Muir talks about Gira’s involvement in this year’s Awards.

We’d like to welcome Gira aboard as sponsor of the Residential Interiors Category for the World Interiors News Awards 2015. What was it that made Gira want to form the association?

We operate in the residential architecture and interior design world on a daily basis, and our products have been specified in some of the most desirable residences throughout the world. Sponsoring this award gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation of design and the built environment in return.

Gira unveiled a number of new products at Light+Building 2014 in Frankfurt last year, most notably the Esprit switch range which features the unusual marriage of linoleum and plywood. What was the response like?

The new Esprit range is the first of its kind so I was a little curious as to how this would be received. It has a very natural, almost organic, quality to it and the materials are sourced from renewable raw materials, so its use will be fantastic for those conscious of such subjects in their build. So far, it has met expectations and our sample packs have been requested by architects and interior designers all over the UK for projects all over the world.

Which other new products proved popular at Light+Building?

The new G1 was the highlight in the building technology section. This is a ground-breaking device that functions as a room controller, door entry solution, HomeServer interface, central controller for the KNX system, and much more. In the door communications section, the new ‘System 106’ stole the show.

What other major trade fairs will we find Gira at this year?

In the UK, we will exhibit at Essential Install in June, 100% Design in September, and at The Sleep Event for the hospitality sector in November.

In your experience at Gira so far, what are some of the key qualities interior designers and architects are looking for in electronic switches and controls?

Simplicity in its function and elegance in its design. For controls, the user interface has to be easy to use and intuitive for their client. All too often systems are designed by highly technical individuals that love to have layer upon layer of controls.

For a client, this is possibly the worst thing imaginable - especially in the hotel industry where the customer is an ever changing individual with different needs. Whenever presenting, I always discuss ‘best practice’ and how keeping a system simple at client-side ensures a great user experience. When looking at electrical accessories, beautiful design and the ability to specify one solution instead of mismatching power sockets, heating controllers, data points, room controllers, door intercom, and so on, is very desirable.

Are there any changes you’ve seen occurring in that?

I think the main change is with the type of building controls people now specify. Over the years, controls have been very biased towards audio-visual solutions. Now, people are more likely to specify a system that controls ‘mission critical’ aspects of a building. Heating/cooling, lighting, curtain/blinds, energy efficiency and consumption reporting, door intercom

and access control, all play a key role in the systems of today.

And where do you think we’re headed next?

I think we have only scratched the surface with the controls people will apply to their buildings, and by connecting more electrical articles through KNX, our buildings will become more efficient and deliver more comfortable lives to occupants.

Do you have a personal favourite from Gira’s products? And if so, what makes it a stand-out for you? (And do you have it at home?)

My favourite in controls is the Gira HomeServer. It really is an amazing piece of kit that takes your already intelligent KNX building and provides it with super-advanced logic, and true building automation.

Building automation is much more than control. It means the building literally thinks for itself and makes informed decisions based around your predefined settings. For example, if you wish a room to be 22 degrees but it is only at 19, HomeServer can make calculations as to the track and intensity of the sun to open curtains and utilise solar gain, rather than switching on the heating system to warm the room.

Sadly, I do not have one in my home... Yet!

Have you always worked in sales?

In short, yes. I’ve always had a passion for sales, even from a young age. I remember spending my weekends very differently to school friends, and while others were getting together, I was up at 4am with my father and going to work in the family business.

And has that always been in the interior design field, or other sectors too?

I started life in the very different field of retail newsagency and news distribution, but moved into home automation and building technology in 2007.

What came first for you – a liking for sales or a liking for interiors, or both?

My interest in business has always been sales. My personal interests have always included interiors and technology. The marriage of these interests was a great way to proceed in life!

On a completely different subject, we’re intrigued to hear more about your skills as a racing driver! Please tell us more...

I graduated from the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School at Donington Park, Nottinghamshire in 1996. I’ve always been a fan of motorsport, which probably comes from my father having performance cars as I grew up. For my 18th birthday, I was given the course and my National B racing licence. This enabled me to complete the course at Jim Russell and take part in a number of single-seater events.

What was the experience like?

It was fantastic, and something I would like to revisit later in life.

Where do you drive or compete nowadays?

These days, my exposure is limited to Go-Karting events. We recently entertained the Gira Partner Program members with some time on the track, and my racing experience proved beneficial to our team.

Do you think your obvious love of switches and electronic devices in racing cars translates into your current role at Gira at all?

Not directly. Possibly a correlation between performance driving, and sales can be drawn.

Do you have time for any other hobbies, and if so, what are they?

Other than the above, my hobbies are scuba diving, fitness, squash and the gym. And I completed a Tough Mudder event in 2014.

Tough Mudder?

Tough Mudder is a team-oriented outdoor obstacle course of about 10 to 12 miles long, which not only puts you through your paces physically, but is also very much about camaraderie.

And where are you based work-wise and home-wise at the moment?

I currently live in North London with my partner and generally work from home. Gira has a showroom and simulated home environment on Baker Street in Central London so I often organise meetings there.

Gail Taylor