The Inside Outside Guys: International Builders Show highlights innovations

The Detroit News

Correction: This story corrects the roles of ASTM International and NFPA.

If you were looking for a builder during the week of Feb. 8-10, they were very likely in Orlando, Florida, where nearly 120,000 industry professionals converged for Design and Construction Week which included the National Kitchen and Bath Association Show, NKBA, and the International Builders Show, IBS.

The events included a keynote on Tuesday morning from Earvin “Magic” Johnson as a prelude to 2,000 exhibits spread out over nearly 1.2 million square feet of space at the Orange County Convention Center, the second largest convention center in the United States.

In addition to product launches and exhibits, the event included 110 dedicated education sessions and ongoing “how-to” programs on the exhibit floor, featuring specific product application and training.

The Guys were in attendance along with some of the folks from Motor City Floors and Coatings in Novi, who sponsored our trip and allowed us to broadcast from their exhibit in the South Hall.

We had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of attendees and professionals and, quite honestly, we ran out of energy before we ran out of new products to explore.

We got to witness the launch of an interlocking building block system that was 26 years in the making. Lok N Blok constructed a two-story building at the show using its self-aligning, mortar-less block system.

Lok N Blok constructed a two-story building at the show using its self-aligning, mortar-less block system.

The hollow-core blocks are made of recycled materials and proprietary resins and easily interlock with each other to quickly create structural walls for disaster relief housing or permanent buildings.

The material accepts standard mechanical fasteners for various siding applications and is water resistant, insect resistant and bacteria and mold proof.

One of the reasons a new product like this can take so long to bring to market was explained to us over lunch by a show exhibitor. His company will help get new products tested and approved by third-party agencies so that they can then make application for code acceptance and approval.

For example, when you see tags on a product with UL, Underwriters Laboratories, it means the product has been tested and met certain standards. Groups like NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, create standards for fire safety. And when you see tags on a product with ASTM International,  this means an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standard was used in the production of this product. There are dozens of such agencies out there.

The Guys also learned that one of our prediction’s from several years ago is coming true. We said windows would one day be the source of our electrical power and many years of research and development has been dedicated to creating solar films that can be applied to glass while maintaining the integrity of the window and the film. Some recent test installations in New Mexico show promising results.

Speaking of windows, we also discovered that a building in Beijing, China, recently had the largest window ever built installed. Weighing in at 15,000 pounds, the 54-feet by 10-foot unit featured glass nearly 2.5 inches thick.

Many contractors at the show were looking for siding alternatives since supply chain issues have impacted their projects.

As per the old saw that says when one door closes another opens, several builders discovered engineered polymer PVC siding and trim products that were featured by AZEK at the show.

Whenever we attend these shows, the Guys enjoy discovering the “in” colors for the coming year. Of course, each paint manufacturer has its own ideas regarding this.

Benjamin Moore’s October Mist, resembling a sage, is in the family of greens as a clear signal “we are being drawn to colors that are grounded yet whimsical”, while Sherwin-William’s Evergreen Fog, a little softer than an avocado green, was chosen because “people are seeking nourishing, healing and meaningful colors with strong associations to nature.”

Sherwin-Williams’ Evergreen Fog works in a variety of spaces, including this welcoming mud room/hallway. It is part of the company’s 2022 Colormix.

Pantone went in a different direction with their Very Perl, described as “encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time with its violent red undertone.” The color is said to “display carefree confidence that animates our creative spirit.”

As expected, smart home technology continues to improve with the availability of more modular, plug and play products such as the Smart Voice Dimmer from Eaton that allows you to listen to music or the news or even make household announcements from the room where they are installed.

Perhaps one of the most enlightening discoveries we enjoyed was realizing that 20- and 40-year veterans of the industry were in attendance. And, without exception, everyone we talked with made it clear they were here to continue learning about product, innovation and software that can help them run a better, more efficient and customer friendly business.

Sounds like the Pros you’ll find at

  For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at