Since Monday, Jan. 20, I have been on the road attending two of the largest trade shows for plumbing and hydronic contractors. Last week I was in Las Vegas attending Design & Construction Week, which is made up of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, the International Builders’ Show, the International Window Coverings Expo, The International Surface Event and the Las Vegas Market. And this week I attended the AHR Expo in Chicago.
During Design & Construction Week last week, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) announced their respective trade shows will continue to co-locate together through 2020 as one of the world’s largest gatherings focused on new ideas, products and technologies to design, build and remodel homes. Since the two shows co-located last year, Design & Construction Week has grown tremendously, and if my gut instinct is correct, the show will continue to attract more exhibitors and attendees next year.
This year there were two designs for the bathroom that really stood out to me. I really like Brizo’s Sotria Collection, which is influenced by car tail fins and airplanes. This faucet is available with a closed or channel spout, and there is also a freestanding tub filler and multi-function showerhead available for the bathroom too.
I also like Delta’s Compel bathroom faucet. Carol Ann Kemper, product manager at Delta, said this faucet design is reminiscent of a car hood ornament. You can definitely see that this is a minimal and clean design, perfect for an urban space.
And I have to add that I have always admired Kohler’s Karbon kitchen faucet, a hybrid of functionality and contemporary design. The black tube design features three articulating pivot points for a total range of motion so you can fill large pots, use it for food preparation and sink cleanup. Every year during KBIS I see such beautiful faucets, but I always go back to admiring the Karbon faucet.
Other Kohler products that impressed me were the Derring handcrafted sinks on display. Each sink is a work of art created by craftsmen and artisans in Kohler, Wisconsin. By utilizing small batch production techniques, the glaze and textural carvings on the Derring collection create fascinating and complex color transitions, capturing and playing off of the lighting and movement in a room. Each sink is an original and unique art piece.
According to the NAHB, approximately 125,000 housing industry professionals attended Design & Construction Week. Attendance for IBS was 55,237 (8 percent higher than last year’s show). Overall, Design & Construction Week boasted 3,750 exhibitors and 4.7 million net square feet of exhibit space. No wonder walking the North and Central Halls the second day of the show was brutal… I learned my lesson and will make sure to wear my Puma sneakers during all three days of the show next year.
Regardless of all the walking and my aching feet, KBIS has always been my favorite show to attend because I see the newest, coolest and prettiest kitchen and bathroom plumbing fixtures on the market.
Next show up was the AHR Expo, which has always been the biggest show for CONTRACTOR, Contracting Business, and HPAC Engineering. Contracting Business and HPAC Engineering are sister magazines of CONTRACTOR. On Monday, CONTRACTOR hosted The Mechanical Town Hall, moderated by CONTRACTOR’s editor at large John Mesenbrink.
Panelists of the fourth annual Mechanical Town Hall were Dave Yates, John Barba, Eric Aune, Bob "Hot Rod" Rohr and Mark Eatherton. They discussed a variety of issues contractors face on a daily basis, including new 2015 efficiency standards, embracing new technologies, hydronic heating and cooling, alternative energy, and my favorite topic – training. Also, during the Town Hall, “diversification” was discussed.
Aune, a plumbing, hydronic and solar contractor, stated that he always focuses on new technologies and new areas that his contracting business can venture into.
“It’s important to remain flexible as a contractor and to offer a variety of different services,” said Aune.
All the panelists agreed with Aune – that it is a must for contractors to be diversified. Aune is a working example of diversification – he works on solar, hydronics, plumbing, boiler and tankless installations, and other high-efficiency products to remain competitive as a small shop.
Regarding training, Bob "Hot Rod" Rohr, the educational and training manager for Caleffi, North America in Milwaukee, said that since education is so available now via associations and manufacturers, there is no excuse for a contractor not to stay current.
John Barba, director of training and education for Taco Inc., Cranston, R.I., agreed with Rohr. He added that all manufacturers offer training and application courses are most beneficial for contractors to attend.
“When you take training, filter out the sales pitch material and focus on the application, so you have good useful information you can apply,” explained Barba.
Besides taking training course in person, contractors have a variety of online course to choose from too.
Dave Yates, the president of F.W. Behler in York, Pa., and a monthly columnist for CONTRACTOR magazine, told Mechanical Town Hall attendees that at his company, employees often take online training classes in the morning, which is very convenient.
“We also train via the Radiant Professional’s Alliance too,” said Yates. “There is so much training online now, so we don’t need to travel as much to take courses.”
Stay tuned for more KBIS and AHR Expo post-show coverage!