Nearly 70,000 attendees filled the Orlando Convention Center Feb. 8-10 for the International Builders’ Show and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show as part of Design and Construction Week.
Although some notable window and door manufacturers didn’t have a presence this year, the show floor held no shortage of new products and ideas for residential fenestration professionals. Energy ran high among attendees and exhibitors, and from what I saw and learned, the residential construction industry is on track to sprint through this year.
Here are my top five takeaways from the show:
1. Attendees were serious about business.
As with GlassBuild America last September, attendees at IBS were there to do business. After two years away, they were eager to connect with each other and companies, learn about new products and see what they can introduce to their business to appeal to their customers and streamline business operations. Not only was booth traffic strong and the aisles full of the "people jams" I've come to expect out of IBS, exhibitors told me about how solid their leads are and how serious attendees were to do business.
2. Supply chain and labor still hurt.
It’s no surprise that supply chain disruptions and labor still hold the top spots for business pain points. Today’s projects take one to two months longer because additional time is needed to account for lack of labor and materials. Supply chain is today’s biggest pain point, but Robert Dietz, chief economist for NAHB, speaking at a press conference anticipates labor will re-emerge as the No. 1 challenge. He said the industry needs to add an estimated 740,000 jobs per year to account for industry expansion and retirement.
3. Housing is harder to afford.
Scarcity in existing homes for sale, lot scarcity for new builds, rising home prices and rising mortgage rates are merging to create a difficult environment for housing. Dietz noted during a press conference at the show that one-third of available homes right now are new construction, which he describes as a “strikingly high” share. “Lack of resale inventory is the most fundamental challenge of the housing market,” he said. Dietz also anticipates 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will hit 4 percent by the end of this year, which may price out demand, especially amid rising home prices. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic, documented 18.5 percent growth year-over-year in housing, which was the largest 12-month growth in the 45-year history of CoreLogic’s index. Economists, however, still expect housing to continue its forward momentum, though at a more sustainable pace because of supply and demand and eroding home buyer affordability.
4. Product aesthetics and customization are necessary.
Of note was how colorful booths were this year. When I attended my first IBS a decade ago, I remember a lot of neutral shades that could fit anywhere. Although that neutrality is still popular, companies are showcasing all they can do with customization, whether it be color, digital printing or decorative glass. Customers have specific design wishes, and companies in every sector of the building industry are rising to meet that need.
5. Technology is omnipresent.
As homes continue to become more connected, more companies introduce smart and connected products. Nowhere did this appear to be more pervasive than in door hardware. I saw numerous locksets that could be operated via a touch or keypad, through an app on a phone or even with the simple wave of a hand, giving a truly hands-free experience. There are even automated systems to power large multi-panel doors. As technology continues to improve and expand its reach, I anticipate seeing more and more smart products in the window and door space in the coming years.
Check out Window + Door’s Twitter feed for photos from the show floor.