About 125,000 housing industry professionals packed the aisles at Design & Construction Week™ on Jan. 20-22 in Las Vegas. Now in its second year, the co-located mega-event included the NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS), the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, the International Window Coverings Expo, The International Surface Event and the Las Vegas Market.

Official attendance for IBS was 55,237, 8% higher than last year’s show. More than 1,200 exhibitors filled 478,000 square feet of space with everything from the latest in kitchen and bath design to millwork and marketing services. Overall, Design & Construction Week boasted 3,750 exhibitors and 4.7 million netsquare feet of exhibit space.

“This has been the best show we have experienced since the economic downturn,” said Jerry Konter, chair of the NAHB Convention and Meetings Committee. “You felt a great energy the moment you hit the show floor, as builders and exhibitors continue to benefit from the recovering economy.”

If “green is the new black” was the catchword five years ago, exhibitors, show-goers and presenters made the case that “smart” is the new green: Home builders crowded sessions discussing the best apps for model home sales centers and tracking customers from first visit to purchase – and beyond.

Designers have gone beyond installing “drop-zones” to plug in smart phones, tablets and laptops in the mudroom. In the Concept Kitchen, a display in the Central Concourse, design-build specialist Jonas Carnemark installed plugs under the built-in kitchen table, so family members can charge their devices while they surf the web.

On the show floor, exhibitors fielded questions about technologies that didn’t exist five years ago, including smart-phone controlled home automation systems for security, lighting and entertainment that have only been available for high-end custom homes and with big price tags.

“We want to provide home automation for the mass market so home builders can penetrate 90% of the market instead of the top 5%,” said Tom Few, vice president of business development for Vivint, a home solar and automation company and first-time exhibitor at IBS.

The big question for many attendees: Do you have a smart phone app? Rob Canfield of Rain Bird irrigation systems – another first-time exhibitor – said he got that a lot. Instead, he pointed to the individual weather stations that come with each automatic sprinkler systems. “If you set this right, there is no reason to play with it on your phone,” he said.

Attendees crowded the aisles for a show that almost overwhelmed Las Vegas taxis, hotels and restaurants in what city officials said was the biggest week they’d ever had in January.

“The exhibit halls were packed from end to end and the energy on the show floor was amazing,” said newly elected NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “Design & Construction Week was truly a unique one-stop shoppingextravaganza for all those involved in the residential construction industry, and this mega-event will be a great springboard for housing in the year ahead.”