The 2011 International Builders' Show-New products and services for your home improvement and new construction projects

Visiting the International Builders' Show (IBS) is like running a marathon: it’s an exhausting ordeal but the rewards are worth the effort. This year, the trade show featured more than 1,000 exhibitors, 170 educational sessions, and 47,000 visitors from around the world. Although attendance was down a bit from previous years, modest optimism prevailed in the hallways and on the showroom floor.

As in the past, the green theme was prevalent and vendors raced to unveil their eco-friendly products. Inline Fiberglass Ltd. announced that it will release an R-6 rated double hung window. The increased thermal resistance of these windows makes homes more energy efficient.

Other exhibitors featured solar products that can take a chunk out of homeowners' heating and cooling costs. Velux showed off its solar blinds, which can reduce cooling costs by lessening the amount of sunlight that enters the home. (You Northerners may complain about your heating fuel bills in winter, but in many places in the sun-drenched South, we're paying for AC all year long!) Velux solar blinds are operated by remote control and require no wiring because of a sleek NiMH battery. And it should be noted that these blinds, like many other solar products such as solar water heating systems, are eligible for a 30% tax credit on the purchase and installation costs.

There were many other standouts at the Builders’ Show. Among those deserving mention:

  • Levitron's GFCI outlet receptacle that has an integrated LED nightlight and sensor”very clever and useful. With LEDs offering both increased energy savings and longevity, these types of light sources are being incorporated into more products.
  • Formica's 180fx laminate is a wonderful marriage of form and function. The 180fx line offers a true representation of the world's most beautiful stones, such as granite and marble, without a repeated pattern. Not only are the laminated counter tops affordable at $8-$9 a square foot, the material resists oil and wine, which commonly stain more costly natural stone counter tops.
  • Kohler, always a leader when it comes to products with sleek and functional design, introduced its Evandale vanity. This vanity has movable rear legs to accommodate protruding baseboards, which allows it to fit snugly against the wall.
  • Sterling's Accord shower modules address the needs of seniors who may be looking for assistive bathroom fixtures. The Accord contains a sturdy seat and reinforced backing for grab bars, if desired. This easy-to-install shower stall snaps together and requires no caulking.
  • Electrolux showcased its Wave Touch line, which contains a control panel activated by touch. When the faceplate is touched on an oven, for example, the operation icons appear and can be used. When the control panel is not in use, the icons disappear, leaving a sleek, blank surface.

When it comes to home shows, the IBS is the one to visit if you can. Generally it is restricted to contractors, architects, planners, designers, and other professionals. But where there's a will, there's a way. If you can demonstrate that you are undertaking a significant building project, you may be able to finagle a pass from the professionals with whom you will be working.


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