PM, Ecoflex and MCAA teamed up to bring Americans to the biggest PHC show on earth. Photos here.

The statistics defy easy summary: 2,285 exhibitors from 42 countries; more than 225,000 visitors from 100 countries.

Here are sample reactions from people in our tour group about ISH 2001:

Donny DiCarlo, Trademaster Contracting Inc., West Seneca, N.Y.: "As this was my first trip to ISH, I was overwhelmed by its magnitude. My most lasting impression of the show was the professionalism of the exhibitors, not only in the displays, but staffing as well."

Paul Pollets, Advanced Radiant Technology, Seattle: "I found ISH to be as vital, big and comprehensive as the past three visits. I noticed a greater receptiveness among the manufacturers to export their products to North America. Since European sales of plumbing and heating equipment are down, it now makes more sense for them to do so.
"I'm always impressed by European craftsmanship. Their attention to the finest details enhances the engineering of the products."

John Gentile, Executive Vice President, MCAA: "Speaking for MCAA, we were thrilled to be part of the tour, and amazed at the scope and quality of the ISH show. We certainly look forward to its North American debut."

On this page is a review by editor Steve Smith of one of the centerpieces of this year's show, a "Smart House" exhibit. A related article appears in Jim Olsztynski's Editorial Opinion column. We'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

A stunning view of picturesque Prague.

Quick ISH Facts

  • More than 17 miles of exhibit floor space (793,659-sq. ft.);
  • Roughly 2,285 international exhibitors;
  • Nearly 225,000 attendees;
  • New two-story, 42,000-sq. ft. trade hall for bath and shower accessories is in the works.

    Messe Frankfurt's American head, Dick Ebner (left), chats with MCAA vice president John Gentile and wife, Sally.

    ISH Smart House Exhibit

    ISH 'SmartHouse' Displays
    Integrated Controls Potential

    Typically, Americans attend the ISH trade fair to view technology that's years ahead of what they'd find from domestic manufacturers. This year's exhibition, however, gave attendees from around the world a chance to see the emerging possibilities of integrated controls that can manage anything and everything in a home.

    The "SmartHouse," a special pavilion organized by the German Heating, Plumbing and Air Conditioning Federation and various manufacturers, was part reality and part showcase.

    Essentially, many of the individual control setups are doable. The Viessmann boilers used in the display, for example, have had computer interface capabilities for several years. But to network all the controls together into one system - and reach into that system on the Internet - is still on the drawing board.

    "The technology wasn't new," said Paul Polletts, Advanced Radiant Technology, Seattle, Wash., and ISH Grand Tour participant, "but the emphasis on how integrated it could be was. On the commercial side, this is definitely done, but not in a residence."

    While much of the display was theoretical, an increasing level of comfort and service is what's creating a demand for such a home network. And there wasn't too much that the SmartHouse couldn't do - even to the point of opening and closing windows to ensure optimum ventilation.

    The exhibit included an array of technologies including, to name just a few, a natural gas refueling unit in the carport, an oil tank that fit in a wall cupboard, solar collectors, and a system that used rainwater to flush the water closets.

    While we may be oversimplifying, the home network ran on a Windows-based program that allowed homeowner and contractor to control and troubleshoot all electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems in the residence either onsite by computer or offsite by logging onto the Internet with even a mobile phone.

    But it's not just a one-way street either. Under some circumstances, the network will automatically dial up the contractor to arrange a service call for itself. Any number of technical glitches can be pinpointed at the earliest stages. The system synthesizes the data into an actual voice message. Thanks to the amount of detail the system can pass on, a contractor can even determine the urgency of the service call before sending a tech.

    Other monitoring devices include, oil and leak detectors, low water protection devices, and gas and smoke detectors. The system also can provide information about necessary repairs and servicing. To protect against corrosion, for example, an internal anode inside the water heater sends a signal when it's worn out.

    Beyond diagnostics, the network also has the potential to monitor energy use and optimize running costs. Items ranging from heating controllers through exhaust gas analysis to a control system for the combustion chamber's air supply flap promote efficiency.

    The SmartHouse also displayed another variation of integration beyond just hidden controls. Simply supplying domestic water may not be regarded as an isolated service when it could be considered an integrated component of a fully networked system that can readily adapt to the needs of the user. As a result, the SmartHouse's bathroom included electronically controlled fixtures that automatically adjusted to individual heights to suit children, adults and the disabled. Special valves in the bathroom tied into the network open up a number possibilities at conserving water use.

    "This was all experimental, but the Germans are still way more advanced than we are," Pollets added. "American boiler companies have 10 engineers doing research and development; German companies have 400. You're bound to see the cool stuff at ISH."

    Ecoflex hostess Anne Coffelt, at breakfast with a table full of tour shipmates.

    Ken Cornwall of ProSet Systems croons a tune during a fun-filled evening at a Prague restaurant.<

    PM tour group members (from left) Ken Barney, James Sabol and Clay Thornton inspect an underground installation mock-up at the Ecoflex display at ISH.

    Enjoying the tour were (closest to the camera) Marvin and Erika Kalisch of Kalisch-Jarcho, Inc., and David and Susan Siegel, Hercules Chemical Co.