Most of us know someone who has a hybrid car, but what about a hybrid hot water heater?  And what about someone whose home is fitted with a device that automatically contacts them with an email if it senses a leak, and will shut down the water supply if it doesn’t hear back in 10 minutes?

This type of building innovation was on display at the recent National Association of Homebuilders International Builders Show (IBS) held at the Orlando Convention Centre.  Alternating between Orlando and Las Vegas, the show attracted almost 80,000 industry stakeholders earlier this year, and participants range from renovators and builders to developers and designers who spend their time looking through the more than 1500 exhibits, attending education and information sessions, and socializing at the well organized networking events.

“Its like a home show on steroids!” a 30something marketer of solar roofing products told me.  A not inaccurate description of a place where you can have your picture taken with Vanilla Ice (he is very nice) at the Lumber Liquidators booth or learn about the newest colour of Samsung refrigerators (slate ) from Nate Berkus, known for doing home makeovers on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Speaking of refrigerators, a new line from General Electric partners with the coffee brand Keurig and  allows you to “enjoy the unexpected convenience of hot single-serve brewing at your fridge.”  For those of you who are wondering how you’ve lived without having a fridge that dispenses coffee, what about a mirror that reads your email?

At a nearby booth the Glance mirror is on display and it is in contention for one of the 2017 awards for Best Technology Product at the show. (ultimately it doesn’t win) Glance is “an internet connected mirror that seamlessly displays contextual, pertinent information for the user without interrupting their daily routine.”  So if brushing your teeth while reading emails appeals to you, check out their website at

Along with unique tech products, the information sessions provided an interesting look at the more traditional themes from material applications to building trends in the United States, including the growing category of what are known as “55 plus” communities.  In the USA these communities are frequently eligible for tax rebates as the homeowners do not require the educational component which makes up a good deal of the municipal tax.

Jim Chapman a builder from Georgia who specializes in these type of developments tells me the people who buy are looking for “active adult communities” and are often downsizing from the traditional family home.  They look for a product that has all the amenities, but is low maintenance, limited to one floor and has been built with a focus on the buyers later years. “You’ve got to have wider doorways, zero step entry (from garage) and more space in shower and baths…and save room for an elevator!” Jim tells me when I ask him about what is needed to attract this growing (and wealthy) segment.

Jim’s developments typically offer a club house, swimming pool and tennis courts, but lately the newest addition is for community gardens where residents can grow their own flowers and produce.  The affable southern developer tells me “keeping deer out of the gardens and screaming grandkids out of the pool are two serious issues!”

At the other end of the scale, the show had working models of “container homes” which are built using used intermodal containers and are billed as “earth friendly” for as our friends in the Hamilton steel business remind us, steel is the world’s most recycled material.  When researching this trend in Canada I found that the Canadian company Storstac has modified eight 40’ high cube shipping containers for the “Hamilton  Shipping Container House” which will be “the first shipping container house in Canada to be installed in a major cities downtown core” and is expected to be installed this spring.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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