By Phil Crone
Executive Officer, Dallas Builders Association
Heading into this year’s International Builders’ Show, I felt that the show had two things working against it: making the move from Las Vegas to Orlando, and holding the show earlier in January than usual.
Most of the people I spoke with shared my opinion that Vegas is a bit more fun than Orlando. The vibe definitely changes when the show moves to Orlando. Hotels in close proximity are hard to come by, and Pointe Orlando (essentially a mini version of the Shops at Legacy) is a less than adequate substitute for the Vegas strip. Moving the show up in the calendar a couple of weeks meant that it was right on our doorstep as soon as everyone emerged from the holiday hiatus. I think that also contributed to NAHB’s concerns about pre-registrations being down about 10 percent. When the show opened Tuesday morning, none of that mattered.
The quiet and cavernous Orange County Convention Center that housed the NAHB meetings I attended the two days prior to the opening of IBS was suddenly overrun with more than 80,000 residential construction professionals from around the world. Exhibit space was expanded this year to more than 560,000 square feet, nearly 20 percent larger than last year, housing more than 1,500 exhibitors. Each year, I resolve to walk the entire floor, but I can never quite make it despite hitting step numbers rarely seen on my smart watch.
The scale of the show is nearly as remarkable as the individual products on display, many for the first time ever to the public. One such product was a tankless hot water heater that was as smart as it is efficient. Along with a thermal efficiency rating of 100 percent, it had a variable operating range that allowed it to save energy when water demand was low and connected via WIFI to an app that gave real time control and diagnostics to the homeowner. Indeed, the “internet of things” has encompassed nearly every aspect of homeownership. Toilet bowls, showers, interior doors, kitchen appliances, locks, and even pet doors now have an app for that. One of the neatest things I saw was a door lock that can read a person’s thumb print (take my money, please).
Marrying the Builders’ Show and the Kitchen and Bath Show allowed companies that traditionally had a big presence in both shows to go all out for this one. The first booths encountered in the West Hall were monuments to humankind’s mastery of the water droplet. I saw water drop nearly 10 feet with barely a splash, a water filtration system made from coconut shells, showers that greet you by name (seemed a bit creepy to me) and paused until the water warmed to your exact temperature preferences. Toilets were hung from walls, raised and lowered their seats automatically, incorporated LED nightlights and cleaned themselves!
Taking a long walk to the South Hall, I came across an indoor golf simulator with amazing realism no matter if you putt, chipped or drove the ball. My slice was as bad on the simulator as it is in real life. Better yet, no cars, windows or wildlife were harmed during my demo. After all of that, I needed an afternoon pick-me-up. Luckily I found one at a nearby booth with a built-in, fully automatic coffee machine. It is like having your own in-home barista with personalized settings for up to eight distinct drinks.
Building materials have also upped their game. Ceramic tile that has the look of wood can be found in many model homes around town. Now that trend is headed outside. Durable siding products are now made to look exactly like reclaimed barn wood or wood shingles without the upkeep or the splinters. These products will surely lead to innovative new designs and befuddle homeowners associations in the years to come.
While there was plenty more going on at the Show, these were just a few of the innovations that really stood out this year. The International Builders’ Show is a must-see spectacle for anyone in the residential construction industry. Next year’s show is Jan. 9-11, so plan on joining 80,000 of your colleagues again in Orlando.