2020 International Builders’ Show in Review

“Best of IBS” winners honor clever products


About a decade ago, the International Builders’ Show was smaller, somewhat glum, and more about career survival than the latest and greatest in new home trends. Fast-forward to 2020, however, and this year’s show in Las Vegas was one of the largest (and most optimistic) in its 76-year history, with many name-brand suppliers constructing giant, sophisticated booths to show off their product lines.

Certainly part of this optimism was due to what has become the country’s longest economic expansion and continued pent-up demand for housing, but I was also struck by clever inventions and innovations by participants in the show’s annual “Best of IBS” awards. I was invited to act as a judge, and what follows is a summary of category winners.

Sweeping three categories, including “Best of Show,” “Best Energy-Efficient Product,” and “Best Home Technology Product,” is a device that replaces a traditional gas-fueled hot water heater to provide hot water, heat the home itself, and generate electricity. The Micro- Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system by Enginuity Power Systems is scalable for different uses, quiet (about the noise level of a dishwasher), and certainly more fuel-efficient than pulling electricity from the grid because it’s located on site.

Priced at about the same level as a premium backyard generator, the CHP has to only run a few hours per day for the typical American home, and can work as a supplement to renewable energy sources including solar and wind. Also ideal for homes located in more rural areas or disaster zones, the company is expanding its product line for more portable uses (such as temporary military bases or even to be carried by an individual), and which can run on multiple fuels.

Winning the “Best Kitchen and Bath Product” is a new ‘smart countertop’ that eliminates the need for another computing device in the kitchen while still allowing the surface to be used as a typical space. Created by Atlas Granite, MASST (“Making Any Solid Surface Touchscreen”) uses projection lasers and motion sensors to transform any light-colored, solid surface into a touchscreen that measures 24 by 18 inches.

Marvin Windows won in two different categories, including “Best Indoor Product” for their Skycove and “Best Window and Door Product” for their Awaken Skylight. The Skycove replaces a traditional picture window with a cantilevered, pop-out glass alcove with a bench half the width of a queen-sized bed, is 8.5 feet in length, and is reported to support even more weight than a traditional outdoor deck. The effect is to have the natural light benefits of an outdoor space at a competitive price.

Meanwhile, Marvin’s Awaken Skylight adds technology to a home design classic that can control light, airflow, and views in sizes up to 48 inches wide and 90 inches tall. While LED lighting can mimic daylight well into evening, environmental sensors and automated preferences know when to allow airflow, while a hidden perimeter screen can block both bugs and sunlight with a wall switch, dedicated app, or smart home system.

In order to help control more devices in our homes, Metwood Building Solution’s 2810HR Joist Reinforcer allows utilities to be run through joist beams while also adding additional strength. This greater flexibility in the routing and installation of utilities helped the product win “Most Innovative Building Material.”

If the above products are intended to make our lives easier and more aware of the environment, then AeroBarrier, which won “Best Green Building Product,” is another way to step it up even more. This product is based on AeroSeal, a patented technology invented in 1994 which seals cracks and holes in new and existing air duct systems. What AeroBarrier does is expand this technology to an entire building envelope for single-family, multifamily, and commercial uses, making it a sort of environmental fortress against a changing climate.

Of course products are only good as how they’re used, and that’s where BILT Incorporated’s 3D Intelligent Instruction can be useful. Winning “Most Innovative Construction Tool,” this voice- and text-guided application on both Android and iOS walks the user through a product overview, tools required, parts included and step-by-step instructions. Feeling confused? You can also zoom and rotate your view from different angles. When you’re done, you can register the product, track the warranty, and review it with a Net Promoter Score (NPS). The benefits to the manufacturers include registrations, star rating, and brand loyalty while reducing assembly time, errors, and those frustrating calls to customer support. Imagine what that could do for buyers of new homes.

Patrick Duffy is a Principal with MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors and contributes to BuilderBytes. He may be reached at pduffy@metrointel.com or at 310-666-8288.