NAHB reported a record breaking 105,000 housing professionals gathered in Orlando, Fla., for the 2006 International Builders' Show — the housing industry's largest new products and ideas showcase. The Orange County Convention Center was filled with more than 1,600 exhibitors spanning more than 1.5 million square feet of space and offering more than 300 categories of products and services for the residential and light commercial construction industries.
Professional Builder and its sister publication Professional Remodeler had a cadre of reporters on the exhibit floor and at education sessions, press conferences and other special events to find out what's new and useful for builders.Legacy of Katrina
Senior Contributing Editor Matt Powers says the "Katrina Cottage"— a model home offering transitional housing for the shattered Southeast — was "the show stealer." Architect Andrés Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk in Miami, one of the founders of New Urbanism, spoke about the need to get permanent structures on the ground in the devastated Southeast.
"There's such desperation that there's danger of building back as badly as it has been in the last 20 years," Duany says. "We can't build it back like it was. We need to build a place that is spiritually whole, so people won't be saying for 100 years, 'It used to be better.'"
Senior Editor Laura Butalla was briefed on one of several products used to hurricane proof homes — a new type of glass block system offered by Pittsburgh Corning that enhances the look of windows and provides a defense against hurricane impact.Economic Outlook for Housing
Has the housing bubble burst? Chief economists David Seiders of NAHB, David Berson of Fannie Mae, and Frank Nothaft of Freddie Mac addressed this question at both an educational session and press conference.
At the session attended by PB Managing Editor Erin Hallstrom-Erickson, the group reported that sales of new and existing homes have slowed. Seiders' 2006 forecast reveals 'home sales and conventional housing starts that come [down from] the 2005 highs, but that remain comparable to the excellent performances of 2004.'"
At the press conference attended by Professional Remodeler Editor Kimberly Sweet, Seiders predicted a decline in house price appreciation rates from 12 percent in 2005 to 6 percent in 2006 nationally, and specified a 6 to 7 percent decline for home sales and single-family housing starts. Berson, on the other hand, put the drop in housing activity at 8 percent, with home prices gaining by 3 percent.
Nothaft optimistically projected 7 percent home price growth in 2006 and said that he does not see 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rising above 6.5 percent.
But while some say bust, others say boom. Architects Walt Richardson, FAIA, and Quincy R. Johnson, AIA, along with planner/designer David Clinger and consultant Lewis M. Goodkin, predicted a housing boom — starting now and running through 2010 — at a session attended by PB Senior Editor Bob Sperber on "Building for the Next Boom."New Products
PB Senior Editor Bill Lurz says few products exhibited at IBS were really new and even fewer revolutionary in their impact, but the exceptions are worth noting. Joe Lstiburek, president of Building Science Corp., has castigated window manufacturers and the entire housing industry for not coming up with a simple piece of plastic to channel water away from the lower edge of a window opening. Dow is one manufacturer that listened and has introduced the Weathermate sill pan. Two pieces of molded polymer go together to fit virtually any opening (Marvin Windows has a new product, SillGuard, that differs in that it comes in three pieces and has a rigid pan sill). Dow also has a new insulating foam sealant — from the Great Stuff Pro series — with flexible curing that provides an airtight filling around windows and doors while allowing the installation to expand and contract without bowing. Combined, these two new products can solve many moisture penetration problems associated with window and door installation.
In other product news, ease of installation for builders and ease of use for homeowners were key features. Products Editor Rhonda Jackson spoke to company representatives about Crown Heritage's EasAlign magnetized installation system that makes seamlessly aligned staircase rails possible, and Delta Faucet's universal valve that allows the trouble-free change of bathroom fixtures at any point in the building process. Hallstrom-Erickson was briefed on SpaceLift's remote-controlled, floor to attic lift system, designed to save boomers and others the aches and pains normally associated with attic storage. Turn to page 119 for more products featured at the Builders' Show.
Though impossible to hit all the highlights, or visit more than a fraction of the exhibits, nothing compares to the Builders' Show as a source for new products and ideas, and a chance to learn best practices from experts and peers alike.