Dan Reeves, right, owner of Landmark Fine Homes and vice president-treasurer of the OSHBA, and employee Jason Underhill look at new products on display at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas.
By Tim Fall
For The Oklahoman
Copyright (©) 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Luckily for Oklahomans who attend the International Builders' Show — the mega-meetup for homebuilders, contractors, remodelers and suppliers presented by the National Association of Home Builders — it's often held in balmy Las Vegas.
The annual pilgrimage to the desert from what usually is the coldest, most brittle week of the year in central Oklahoma attracts several hundred people who work to design, construct, outfit and market efficient, stylish and well-built new houses.
This year's event, which took place Jan. 19-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, saw attendance numbers that eclipsed last year's total of more than 55,000, said Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association.
For Means and builders like Mike Gilles, founder of Savannah Builders, the annual convention is first and foremost an educational opportunity.
“I look for those simple, good ideas that save money and make for better houses” when applied to projects back home, Gilles said.
The 2016 show featured more than 120 hands-on, educational sessions taught by building industry experts from across the country. Topics ranged from sales and marketing to construction and codes.
Don Fryer of Tranquility Custom Homes took advantage of breakout sessions to brush up on building techniques that he can apply to houses such as those his company currently has under construction in the South Fork addition and at Northwood
“Oklahoma gets so hot and so cold and so windy,” Fryer said. “We try to build with tighter and tighter envelopes while ensuring the best air quality inside the home. Except for a week here and a week there, we don't open our windows much.”
Convention-goers went in-depth with courses that counted toward industry designations, or got “hands-on” with demonstrations and educational presentations on the show floor.
Kenyon Woods, who owns Authentic Custom Homes with his wife, Brandi Woods, attended the show, representing the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association as its president.
Woods said he was the most impressed by new software products, including programs to improve customer service and streamline project management.
Like most builders, Woods said he's always looking for new products that increase efficiency or reduce costs to his clients. This trip acquainted him with a new model of garage door “that I'll definitely be using” — probably on a home he's building for the “Street of Dreams” exhibit later this year.
Woods noted that exhibits from the Las Vegas area and other less-volatile climates featured more outdoor living spaces than practicality allows for most Oklahoma homes.
On the convention floor, the International Builders' Show featured more than 500,000 square feet of exhibits, showcasing more than 1,400 manufacturers and suppliers.
“It's everything you can imagine, products from the past to the future,” Fryer said.
Out on the floor, Gilles was drawn to indirect lighting schemes that he'll be eager to implement, especially in a modern custom home he's building near NW 7 and Dewey Avenue in the Cottage District.
Cabinetry innovations also caught Gilles' eye. Not the heavy woodwork Oklahomans are accustomed to, he said, but “plastic laminates that give a really clean look, like you'd see in hospitals or commercial designs.”
Means said that although most of his convention time was spent in industry advocacy meetings, he did spend “an hour or so” perusing trends and innovations in the wilderness of exhibits.
The most noteworthy new “must have” feature? “Definitely a solid-copper, free-standing soaking tub,” Means said.
Dan Reeves, owner of Landmark Fine Homes, said he has attended IBS every year since 2000, following industry economics and patterns that could affect the Oklahoma housing market.
As he and his wife, Amy, who directs design and decoration for Landmark, toured exhibits and took in classes, he made notes about what's trending nationwide and how his local business fits with those broad trends.
Although Oklahomans' new house wish lists line up with what other Americans are looking for from their builders, there were some new ideas on the horizon that Reeves noted.
“Screened-in porches,” Reeves said, are in demand, especially in custom builds for adults 55 and older.
That one wasn't as much of a stunner as another feature in growing demand across the country.
“Pet baths,” Reeves said, are (ahem) making a splash.