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Design & Construction Week — A Call to Action

The custom-install industry is (still) only minimally represented at the KBIS and IBS shows, and we need to change this, fast.

The National Kitchen + Bath Association (NKBA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) have been putting on Design and Construction Week (DCW) for nine years now. This year was a tipping point for the custom-install channel, and we must start considering these shows as important to our businesses — whether you are an attendee (great!), an exhibitor (even better!), or an integrator, association, or manufacturer.

IBS 2022 – NAHB Booth
A scene from IBS 2022. Photo: Nick Hagen Photography

Why? It’s simple: While every other aspect of the home is represented there, what we do and the technology we serve still isn’t being broadly shown at DCW, and that’s giving the wrong impression to the trades we are (still) trying to attract — including designers, builders, architects, and specifiers. This must change, and fast!

This year’s DCW, held in February, was one of the largest in-person events since the start of the pandemic. Together, the connected shows featured 1200 exhibitors, occupying 750,000 square feet, and beat projected attendance plans with 70,000 attendees representing all areas of the new construction and residential remodeling industries.

Sadly, there were maybe 10 brands from the residential technology space at DCW, and out of those brands, Nortek, Savant, and Wall-Smart were really the only ones that brought fully stocked booths, plenty of staff, and treated the show like a major trade event worthy of attendees’ time and attention.

Galia Ben-Dor, co-CEO and founder of Wall-Smart, comments on how the show was important to her company and business: “Wall-Smart participated in IBS [International Builders Show, part of DCW] for the first time this year — our first in-person exhibition in two years. The show exceeded all our expectations! The number of attendees was high. We collected many leads and had extraordinary meetings with potential partners. We were happy to meet the design-build community, both builders and designers, and the match was fantastic. We are looking forward to IBS 2023!”

Representatives from CEDIA, the Home Technology Association, and the integration community at large were at the show doing Home Tech Zone presentations, KBISNeXT Stage talks, and Design Milk X Modenus Talks Lounge presentations about technology and how to connect with integrators. This is a step in the right direction because the custom-install industry was given space to talk about important issues relating to technology and be the subject-matter experts. And it resonated deeply with many in attendance. I personally experienced this and have had many follow-up conversations with designers, builders, and specifiers about brands, integration firms, and how to find the right ones to partner with.

IBS 2022 - Lighting Booth
A lighting booth at IBS 2022. Photo: Nick Hagen Photography

Jamie Briesemeister, vice chairperson of CEDIA and CEO and co-founder of Integration Controls, was there representing our community, presenting on stage, and networking with adjacent trades. She deems it crucial that integrators and the custom-install community are part of KBIS and IBS and the larger conversation about design, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

“[DCW] crosses into markets, products, and opportunities that we have not taken advantage of in our industry…from a networking perspective, product solution development perspective, and beyond,” she says. “There is so much opportunity. [The design-build] community needs and wants us, and if we want to sell to them and truly cater to their needs, we have to change how we interact with them.”

Another inroad, the KBIS Awards feature a Connected Home Technology Award, which LG Electronics won this year for its PuriCare AeroTower Air Purifying Fan. While this is a very cool and timely technology-based product, it’s also an appliance. Imagine what the custom-install industry could bring to KBIS and IBS that would really knock judges’ socks off! We just have to actually bring it. While small victories are great, we need to do more as an industry to engage, guide, and sell to this important market.

Amanda Wildman, owner of TruMedia, attended the show to support our industry and her local builders, some of which were receiving NAHB BALA (Best American Living Awards) Awards. She walked the show with her builders, showing them products and brands on the show floor they should consider and the benefits of working with qualified firms and brands in the custom-install channel.

“Even if a designer sees technology and says, ‘This is really cool, and yes we want to do it,’ the question becomes, ‘But how do I make it work?’ As an industry, we need to hear what manufacturers are promising so we can make it all work. We can’t do that if we aren’t at these shows and we aren’t having those conversations,” she says.

Heather Sidorowicz of Southtown AV participated in several talks, not the least of which was sponsored by LG and facilitated by Elizabeth Parks of Parks Associates. During the talk “Smart Appliances: The user experience and home services,” Sidorowicz shared insights about technology integration and the role our channel currently plays and how we, as a community, can be more effectively involved in the future.

Melanie Niemerg of Integral Systems also attended and was a panelist for one of the tech-driven talks taking place during the show. In the audience that day was a teacher who brought students from nearby Pinella Technical College who are enrolled in an Electronic Systems Integration & Automation course. A few weeks later, Niemerg was invited to present to this same class at their school, showing them the opportunities that exist in our channel and how they can apply their new skills. What a fantastic way to inspire the next generation to join our community!

So, consider this a call to action, one that will benefit your business and the industry as a whole. KBIS 2023 and Design & Construction Week is January 31–February 2, 2023, in Las Vegas, NV, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Mark your calendars now and commit to it. Eighty-three percent of exhibit space for next year is already sold, so if you plan to exhibit, act soon! I’ll see you there!

Curious about the opportunities that exist in the design-build space for brands, integration firms, and associations? Drop me a line at [email protected] and let’s chat. I’ve dedicated a large portion of my time to building bridges and establishing meaningful connections with the design-build community and am here to help you do the same.

Katye McGregor Bennett is chief strategist and CEO of KMB Communications and an avid podcaster. Podcasts include Connecting Tech + Design and AV Trade Talk.