IBS this year was refreshingly downsized from the behemoth that it had become over the past several years. With attendance in the range of 100,000 a few years ago and enough demand for exhibit space to outstrip the capacity of all but the largest convention centers in the country, this annual conference became a test of endurance for anyone attempting to see everything on display. Even though attendance of about 55,000 this year (roughly the same as last year) was disappointing, vendors and attendees seemed more optimistic than in 2009. This may be due to a certain amount of resignation as well as adjusted expectations. The rapid industry meltdown took most people by surprise last year, leading to sparse attendance and a sense of hopelessness. While we have no indication of what the future has in store, it seems that the industry is hopeful for modest improvement in the coming year.
On the green building front, I sensed some maturing in the building industry. Previous years have seen vendors climbing over one another to convince everyone that they were the greenest thing on earth. This year, while there were plenty of green claims, to me they seemed slightly toned down. I attribute this to an overall increased understanding of green building and a general maturity on the subject in the industry. While we still have a long way to go, every year builders learn more about green and are able to distinguish the wheat from the chaff in manufacturers’ claims.
Education sessions continued to stress green building. Sessions on prefab green, green remodeling, and green certification were just a few of many. Even seminars that didn’t address anything green in their title or subject matter strayed in that direction, since it is one of the few bright spots in the industry right now. Sarah Susanka, in a press conference, shared one of her typically astute observations that the industry had recently hit the pause button, and was waiting to get started again. After pondering this comment, I believe that we actually have been running on fast-forward for a couple of decades, and while “paused” is a good way to describe our current situation, we shouldn’t plan on getting back to the speed we have become used to.
Until next year
It will be interesting to see how the industry, and this flagship trade show, changes over the next few years. Personally, I like the current size and hope that it doesn’t morph back into the juggernaut it used to be any time soon. Maybe the IBS will even reconsider visiting cities other than Las Vegas and Orlando. It would be nice to visit a real city that is designed for humans to walk around rather than taxi cab nirvana.