International Home Builders'Show Has A Digital Flavor

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ATLANTA - The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is expecting 70,000 professionals from the building trades and related industries to attend the 57th annual International Builders' Show here, Feb. 9-12.

Among those attending will be some of the big players in major appliances, including GE Appliances, Viking, Maytag and Whirlpool.

New to this year's show is the "tecHOMExpo," a pavilion focused on home-networking technologies, which will showcase hundreds of products and services from leaders in the digital revolution.

NAHB president Robert Mitchell said the "tecHOMExpo offers builders the opportunity to learn about the high-tech tools of the business by actually using them, with help from the experts at every turn." The special exhibit will include multimedia sales and marketing tools, Web-accessible home automation systems and online project management solutions.

Dozens of educational seminars will be offered at the tecHOMExpo. BellSouth Telecommunications CEO F. Duane Ackerman will speak on "The Promise of Broadband and Future Network Technologies."

Another featured session, "e-Nough Said: Understanding Information Technology in Homes and in Home Building," will be moderated by two former NAHB presidents - Charles Ruma of Columbus, Ohio-based Davidson Phillips Inc. and Tommy Thompson of Owensboro, Ky.-based Thompson Houses Inc.

In addition, HomeStore.com chief Stuart Wolff will lead a session titled "The Future of the Internet and the Home Building Industry."

Many of the leading major appliance manufacturers exhibiting at the Builders'Show said they are focusing on energy-efficiency products, while also revamping already-existing appliances to create streamlined appearances. Here's a glimpse of what show attendees can expect to see:

GE will be introducing its side-by-side Arctica, which it calls "the most comprehensive refrigeration system it has ever offered." Emphasizing an even temperature control system and fashionable appearance, the company said the unit includes a CustomCool ExpressChill setting, ExpressThaw setting, FrostGuard process and a Quick Ice feature.

The GE Profile Arctica refrigerators comply with 2001 energy standards, and most of them meet 2003 clean air requirements. They will carry an estimated retail range of $1,699 to $2,799, and will be available in March.

GE will also show the new GE Profile Advantium 120 oven, which cooks food up to four times faster than a traditional oven, the company said. Designed for speed and simplicity of use, the Advantium 120 oven comes preprogrammed with over a hundred popular recipes. The program menu is flexible, allowing consumers to add their favorite recipes into the memory program.

The estimated retail for the new GE Profile Advantium 120 oven is $749-$849.

Another new kitchen item, GE's electric smooth cooktop, is scheduled for display at the Builders'Show. The cooktop features electronic controls and sensors and comes in two sizes: a 30-inch model, JP938, at $1,149-$1,349 suggested retail; and a 36-inch model, JP968, for $1,289-$1,489. These will be offered in white, black, bisque and stainless steel as part of the Profile Series and will be available in the first quarter.

Maytag will debut its new Wide-By-Side refrigerator, which it said "offers the widest available refrigerator and freezer space in a traditional side-by-side refrigerator." While fitting into the common 36-inch refrigerator footprint, it allows for more refrigerator space on top and larger freezer space on the bottom, according to the company.

The unit includes a PuriClean water filtration system, Spill-catcher easy-glide shelves, an Elevator Shelf that moves up and down without removing food items, and ClimateZone technology that controls the temperature of drawers for optimal storage.

The Wide-By-Side carries a suggested retail of $1,649 and will be available in February.

Whirlpool Corp. will show its Calypso Washer with Calypso Wash Motion for the first-time at the builder show, as well as updated "energy-efficient appliances that do not compromise performance," according to a company spokesman.

The Calypso Wash Motion is currently available under the Kenmore brand at Sears and will be available at retailers nationwide in the second quarter. Using 46 percent less water and 65 percent less energy than Whirlpool's most popular models, it considerably exceeds the current Department of Energy's Energy Star ratings and meets future ratings through 2007.

The Calypso is available in white-on-white, graphite and bisque-on-bisque, and carries a $1,099 suggested retail price.

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