Construction Education-International Builders Show

This blog originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor’s Website.

2023 was my fifth trip to the International Builders Show and third time attending in Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas Convention Center was the location for the event, which took place January 31 through February 2nd.  This year, the International Builders Show was spread out over three different halls with a fourth outside location.  According to IBS, 2023 had 70,000 people in attendance with more than 1,300 exhibitors (these totals did not include the Kitchens and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), the hardware show or the surfaces show (countertops and floor coverings), all of which also took place over the same dates.)

I attend IBS for three reasons, to network with builders who have similar construction interests, many who I only get to see at IBS, to walk the halls chatting with different manufacturers on what makes their products great, and the education opportunities.  There are many opportunities for construction education at IBS.  My favorite options are in the venue, mixed in with the exhibitors, the two locations are called the Construction Performance Zone and the Craft Techniques Zone.

If you’ve ever attended IBS, one thing you find to appreciate is a place to sit down to give your feet a break during the event, something both these education areas offered, seating to watch the education.  Something I noticed is some of the events were so popular, there was standing room only, the seats often filled quickly.  Both areas had sets built where different construction products were installed, proper installation was demonstrated, and product performance was discussed. 

Nikki Krueger talking dehumidification strategies for crawlspaces in the Construction Performance Zone.

The Construction Performance Zone concentrated on high performance education, everything from proper window flashing and air sealing to performing an actual blower door test on stage (one of my presentations).  A second location, the Craft Techniques Zone had many how-to and unique ways to improve productivity.  Topics like constructing a curved deck and installing cabinets on out-of-level walls were of interest to me.  Over the course of the three days, the two locations had more than 60 discussions and demonstrations.

There were many speakers, the who’s who in the industry, helped keep the education interesting.  Each location had regular presenters with many guest speakers, all who are experts in their field.  The three regular speakers in the Construction Performance Zone were Ben Bogie, Travis Brunardt and Joe Cook.  The Craft Techniques Zone featured Walt Tomala and newcomer Brandon Jones.  Some of the guest speakers were HVAC expert Ross Trethewey, a regular on This Old House, contributing FHB author Myron Ferguson, Jason Russell aka Dr.Decks, GBA contributor and indoor air quality expert Nikki Krueger, IBS regulars Mark LaLiberte and Gord Cook from Construction Instruction, Instagram education guru Aron Jones (, FHB code expert and educator Glenn Mathewson, and even Joe Lstiburek was on stage.  This is not an inclusive list of the presenters, many more added to the education.

Ross Trethewey and Walt Tomala discussing the installation of a ceiling cassette air source heat pump system.

Dr Decks demonstrating how to build a curve deck using composite decking.

Ben Bogie and Aron Jones discussing different water resistive barrier installations.

Travis Brungart and Joe Cook from Catalyst Built talking responsive (smart) vapor control products.

As I said earlier, there were more than 60 different, mostly half hour presentations between the two locations.  A few examples of the different presentations on the Construction Performance Zones stage, Josh Salinger (another FHB and GBA contributor) talked about concrete free slab on grade foundation systems, the do’s and don’ts of a concrete reducing strategy for residential construction.  Ben Bogie and Travis Brungardt gave a presentation on house wraps, sticky or stapled.  The two presenters demonstrated proper techniques for installing mechanically attached and self-adhered water resistive barriers, discussing benefits and obstacles in using both.  Gord Cooke gave a sponsored presentation on net zero energy vs. net zero carbon, a couple of topics readers of GBA are discussing daily.

In the Craft Techniques Zone, education included correct drywall tapes and applications with Myron Ferguson.  The discussion included new products, tools and techniques that make drywall finishing easier.  There were several deck building classes featuring Jason Russell, aka Dr. Decks, which included product selections including spans and spacing requirements, approaches to meet customer expectations, and the rules on how to bend composite decking materials.   There were also a couple of presentations on shower systems, pre-built or custom?  Included in this discussion were methods and materials used in constructing a custom shower using a shower system approach, including water management of the floor and walls.

This is just a small portion of the education that happened on the IBS show floor.  The interaction between the presenters and attendees was unique.  The presenters usually had time to interact with the audience after the presentation and many of the products used during the demonstrations were available for the audience to get their hands on.  I mentioned earlier in this post that my favorite education at IBS are these two venues located on the show floor, the reason being is most of the education is produced using mockups and props to show proper technique and correct application of the products or principles.  I don’t think I’m alone in finding visual education the easiest way to understand and learn the principle of building better.

There were many more educational opportunities at IBS, most are classroom settings that are scattered around the venue.  Much of this education has to do with running a construction business or dealing with the housing industry as a whole and less about the techniques and building science issues faced on the job site.  Though those topics are important, after all if you can’t keep your business earning income, the jobsite concerns of how we build are no longer important.  But for me, it’s always been about hands-on work, and that is the reason the Construction Performance Zone and Craft Techniques Zone are where I spend most of my time.


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