New Products Dazzle at Builders’ Show

By Camilla McLaughlin

From Michael Eisner to Ty Pennington, the International Builder’s Show always has a number of big names. In addition to Eisner, who was the keynote speaker, Paul Teutul, Sr., of Orange County Choppers stopped to unveil a custom bike and kick off GAF’s Made in America challenge. Still, as in every year, the real stars of the show are the products. Compared to big debuts of prior years, 2013’s offerings were more subdued, with a number of manufacturers building and expanding on existing technologies and products with a focus on sustainability.

Helping consumers visualize changes to interior and exterior spaces also has become an important task for manufacturers. New tools not only take the angst out of picking a roof or new trim, but they also enable companies to reach out to consumers directly. Ply Gem took their vizualizer tool introduced last year to a new level. Instead of trying out various exterior finishes and design elements using a stock photo of a specific style, the new PlyGem app, My Home, gives the option of uploading a photo of your own home to see how the addition of stone, various trim styles or roofing color will look.  Additionally, they also have an iPad app that guides the selection of exterior colors.

Last year Sherwin Williams debuted Chip It, which translates any online image into a palette of colors. This year, they expanded the functionality of their Online Color Visualizer tool and Color Snap Studio iPad app with drag and drop and other functions. “Exploring color is an integral part of the design process,” and these tools make it easier for consumers to experiment with color and chose colors with confidence, says Jackie Jordan, Sherwin Williams director of color marketing. Also new is a paint that turns a wall, or whatever surface you choose, into a dry erase board. The color doesn’t have to be white and, unlike white boards, this paint erases cleanly without telltale impressions from  previous use.  Another new paint line, Harmony, reduces airborne concentration of formaldehyde, promoting better indoor air quality, particularly in new construction.

Does anything seem to generate more attention than the color of the year? Although Pantone already heralded Emerald as the IT hue this year, every paint manufacturer introduces its own palette. Aloe, a subdued take on Emerald, is Sherwin Williams’ pick this year. Appliance colors are always big news. Whirlpool introduced their new color, ice, which may set the trend away from stainless toward a new take on classic white. GE’s new standard is slate, a take on stainless without the drawbacks of fingerprints.

Every IBS has a show stopper, the one or two products everyone seems to be talking about. This year, it was a showerhead from Kohler that incorporates a Bluetooth speaker. And instead of being restricted to tunes in the shower, the speaker lifts out and can be used on a counter top.  However another Kohler product — a touchless faucet — grabbed the “Best in Show” award from NAHB.

Taking top honors for outdoor living was an indoor/outdoor fireplace manufactured by Heat & Glow. Putting a fireplace in a wall so it can be enjoyed both outside or inside seems like a no-brainer, but few other manufacturers offer this option. One of the best features of this gas fireplace is that it requires no venting or chimney, and it has a 36-inch viewing area. Plus how often do you find a product that answers two needs at once?

One of GE’s new products tackles a problem that is particularly vexing to anyone who does a lot of laundry, with the introduction of a detangling feature as an option in some dryer models. An unsolicited opinion from the floor said it does indeed work. Something of an oxymoron, GE’s newest French Door refrigerators deliver hot, as well as cold water.  Consumers can set the hot water to specific temperatures or use one of the preset options. The cold water dispenser also fills vessels from cups to sports bottlers and automatically turns off when they are filled.  GE also upped the capabilities of their filtration system to remove trace pharmaceuticals from water and ice. One of the best new options is an oven that can be controlled with a smart phone (no more running downstairs to turn off it off) and also has a strip of LEDs that light up as the oven preheats.

Lastly, sustainability concerns have the industry looking for cost-effective products with improved durability. Tapco Group was one of several companies introducing composite roof tiles replicating tile and slate, and they reduce peak cooling demand by 15 percent and require no maintenance. With staggered shapes, DaVinci Roofscapes Bellaforté Shakes are a doppelganger for the rough-hewn look of the real thing. Like many of the new roofing products they are resistant to hail. DaVinci’s color expert says to look for blue and grey with a blue hue as a hot exterior color this year.

Running throughout the show was a “Made in America” theme, with a number of manufacturers emphasizing where their products were made.  GAF, which built the first “Made in America” house in 2011 in Bozeman, MT, kicked off the theme with the arrival of American Chopper’s Paul Teutul, Sr., who presented the GAF commissioned chopper and encouraged attendees to commit to using 5-percent more American-made products.

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