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This article first appeared in the PB August 2012 issue of Pro Builder.

Each year, building product manufacturers develop hundreds upon hundreds of new products geared toward the residential construction industry. For builders who are strapped for time, it’s an impossible task to stay on top of the latest materials, finishes, and systems on the market. That’s why the editors of Professional Builder and Professional Remodeler dedicate several days each summer to sift through a myriad of new products released during the previous 12 months to select our 101 Best New Products.

Our goal each year is to present a collection of products that have the potential to impact your business in some way — whether by improving your team’s production, enhancing your designs, or simply saving you money.

One of the advantages of evaluating so many products at once is that we’re able to identify some overarching trends across the different product categories. This year, the editors identified four major themes while judging the 101 Best New Products competition:

Architectural authenticity. Home buyers today are looking for something special in a home, and curb appeal is at or near the top of their list. We continue to see new products — and entire collections — devoted to helping homeowners and design and construction professionals create truly authentic exteriors, from Craftsman to Georgian to Colonial, and every style in between. Earlier this year, Andersen launched the Andersen Architectural Collection, which, among other things, provides a detailed style library and guidance on how to create specific architectural styles using Andersen windows and doors.

Similarly, Ply Gem’s Designed Exterior program — which offers guides on how to create specific exterior styles using the company’s wide range of products — has been expanded to include business and design tools for remodelers, in addition to builders and architects.

Maximizing space. The trend toward higher-density living has spurred demand for products that allow homeowners to make the most of their square footage. Duravit, for example, developed a shower system for small bathrooms, called OpenSpace, that is completely collapsible and doubles as a full-length mirror when not in use. Also, Perlick recently launched a line of 18-inch-deep refrigerators designed specifically for shallow cabinetry and tight spaces.

Design for accessibility. As aging in place and universal design become more commonplace, we’re seeing more manufacturers step up their game and develop novel products for this market. At KBIS in April, Wellborn Cabinet previewed its Access Base Wastebasket, which is fitted with the company’s touch-open technology that allows users to open the drawer with the push of a finger; this function will soon become standard on all of the products in its universal design line. MasterBrand Cabinets is among a handful of manufacturers to develop a special pullout cabinet for those hard-to-reach corner areas.

Smart windows and doors. To meet the increased demand for safety and security, manufacturers are developing window and door systems with built-in intelligence. Case in point: Andersen’s VeriLock technology, which can detect when a door or window is locked or unlocked, as well as open or closed. In the same vein, Overhead Door Corporation’s Door Report alerts homeowners when their garage door does not close properly. So no more having to turnaround and drive back home just to make sure the garage door is closed.

Check out our 101 Best New Products report.