After several years of avoiding crowds and few live conferences even happening, I attended the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Orlando February 8-9. The event was, understandably, smaller than in the past, but reasonably well attended. The exhibit halls, while still enormous, were occupied by fewer companies. The most notable absences were the major window manufacturers: Pella, Andersen, Marvin, and many others. There were large empty spaces in the exhibit hall, likely because vendors pulled out late. (I think the most common booth was for massage chairs. I have neither the space nor the inclination to spend $10,000 for one, but they are nice for a break after walking around for hours.) My award for fun products goes to SMEG, the Italian appliance manufacturer that uses great colors and patterns. They have a Delft-tile inspired kitchen appliance line that is over-the-top.
Internet technology was another big player at the show. Companies including Houzz Pro, Builder Trend, CoConstruct, Zillow New Construction, Hyphen Solutions, Constellation, and others were offering all sorts of online solutions to sales and management issues. I counted over 20 staff members at the Houzz booth before the floor opened. Obviously venture capital still has a lot of money to spend building these businesses.
Green building report
Green and high-performance building has taken a step back overall. The former High-Performance Building Zone has been renamed the IBS Building Zone. There were fewer sessions on green building, and although many vendors touted their green benefits, the industry seems to have tired of green.
In general, the education sessions seemed sparser than in past years with several sessions being cancelled. In one session that I attended, a speaker made the point that construction is the only industry where products get more expensive, are slow to be delivered, and are of lower quality; every other industry does the opposite. The proposed answer to this was factory construction, either volumetric or panelized, and standardization of sub-assemblies to improve speed and quality and manage costs. While this is practically impossible to apply to custom building, it can and should be applied to production and multifamily building, in my opinion.
Foil-faced insulation is still making a stand, and probably still selling a lot of their snake oil to unsuspecting builders who don’t understand that it doesn’t perform as advertised.
Several vendors were showcasing pre-formed internal insulation and reinforcing steel for poured-in-place concrete walls. The idea is to take advantage of the concrete’s thermal mass, something that Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) do not.
It was nice to see many companies offering thermally treated wood for exterior finishes. This is a particularly good option for tongue-and-groove porch floors, as the treated wood does not move or rot. I hope that increased availability will bring prices down and increase use of this product.
Huber has introduced several new products recently and they were featured prominently. Their Ice and Water membrane provides protection from ice dams and will compete with several other similar products on the market.
I have been interested learning more about Huber’s Exacore magnesium oxide underlayment, particularly as a substitute for poured concrete in multifamily projects. The 3/4-in. tongue-and-groove material can be a substitute for both structural subflooring and Gypcrete underlayment. Two potential hitches are that it requires galvanized fasteners both to install the material and for wall sole plates, and it is limited to 16-in. joist spans. Since most multifamily buildings use floor trusses on 19.2-in. or 24-in. centers, this may be a hurdle to its adoption.
The BS* + Beer live recording
I had the pleasure of being on BS* + Beer Show, which was recorded live at the show. I was joined by Michael Anschel and hosts Travis Brungardt, Emily Mottram, Ben Bogie, (and Michael Maines, in spirit) to talk about The Four Building Control Layers. You can listen to the recording now and see the video here:
Attending a trade show, giving live presentations, and being around large groups of people felt almost normal after two years of near-isolation. Here is to hoping we won’t have another major pandemic setback and will return to a packed show next year.
Carl Seville is founder of SK Collaborative and a green builder, educator, and consultant on sustainability to the residential construction industry.
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