Around the horn at the Builders’ Show

The International Builder’s Show celebrates style and many other things.

Orlando — Overhead, the 3M blimp promoted an “extreme” version of the company’s famous Post-it notes, the kind of sticky notes a builder might appreciate.

On the show floor, the American Standard booth displayed its Measure Fill faucet, which allows the homeowner the option of dialing in a desired amount of water.

And at the Azek/TimberTech booth, designers introduced new colors to boost deck sales, including a bold white — actually, it’s called “Whitewash Cedar”.

And on and on it went at the 1,500 or so booths here at the International Builders’ Show and another 700 exhibitors at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, co-located under the Design and Construction Week banner here at the Orange County Convention Center. (A “booth” fails to fairly describe many of the museum-quality displays throughout the South and West halls.) Everywhere, it seemed that progress was taking incremental steps to make building easier to achieve, and products easier to sell.

There were far too many building innovations, trends and concepts to organize neatly into bullet points, but, regardless, here are a few trends spotted:

  • Smart. It’s not only thermostats that are “learning” about their homeowners, smart products are all over the house. That trend includes what is called the “first smart home indoor air quality system,” at the Panasonic booth.
  • Speed. In a tight labor market, demand increases for products that save time or staff. Case in point: Quikrete’s “rapid setting” products, which promise to “save days, not hours.”
  • Style. A celebration of style seemed to be everywhere, not just the club-like atmosphere of the Kohler booth. At Masonite (pictured below), the 1970s style factored into door design, responding to customer demand for all things vintage.

Aisles were packed, and so was the parking lot, as estimates of attendance of industry professionals ranged from 70,000 (the NAHB’s figure) and 90,000 (the transportation company’s). It would be easy to interpret the activity as a positive economic indicator for the residential construction industry.

The NAHB’s economists piled on to the growth narrative. The NAHB predicts that remodeling spending for owner-occupied single-family homes will increase 4.9% in 2018 compared to 2017, and an additional 0.6% in 2019. 

Even better, single-family housing starts, the bread and butter of the lumberyard industry, are expected to rise 5% in 2018 to 893,000 units and increase an additional 5% to 940,000 in 2019. That’s still well below historical norms, but things are getting better.

Multifamily starts, meanwhile, are expected to dip about 2% in 2018, according to the NAHB forecast delivered at the show.

In addition to forecasts and products, the show centered on the people of the industry. Several were recognized for contributions large and small.

It was a memorable show for Laura Ellis, who was named Online Sales Counselor of the Year. She works for HHHunt Homes of Virginia and North Carolina. And receiving the Best Green Young Professional of the Year award was Ryan Miller, of North Carolina Building Performance Association.

[Other honorees at events surrounding the show include Behr Process Corp. and Owens Corning.]

Meanwhile, Randy Noel, a Louisiana-based custom home builder with more than 30 years of experience, was elected as the 2018 chairman of the NAHB.

“This year, we will work with policymakers to reduce burdensome regulations that are holding back a more robust housing recovery and urge Congress to make comprehensive housing finance reform a top priority,” Noel said. “We will also seek to build our membership and assure that NAHB remains the preeminent voice for housing on Capitol Hill.”

The Builders’ Show concludes Thursday. 

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