the 2019 Fine Homebuilding Summit - a review

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I have probably read every Fine Homebuilding Magazine ever published (they gave us 1981 to 2018 on disc as part of our schwag bag!) And I have a personal goal of having one of my houses on the cover of the magazine. This was the first summit/symposium and they were being a bit coy as to whether there will be future ones. I suspect that given how well they pulled this inaugural event off, there will be and they will only get better. I already knew many of the presenters and will eventually know all of them. They represent a pantheon of giants in the FHB world both established and up-and-coming.

The Presenters:

Steve Baczek: Architect
Michael Maines: Designer/Builder
Martin Holladay: Editor at large, GBA
Jordan Goldman: Mechanicals/HVAC expert
Mike Guertin: Builder/Remodeler
Ben Bogie: Builder/Remodeler
Christine Williamson: Building science expert
Brent Hull: Old house expert
Peter Yost: Building science expert
Glenn Mathewson: Building code expert
Jake Bruton: Builder/Remodeler

The format was very smooth. We arrived Wednesday evening for an introductory event with schmoozing and a keynote. Both days started with breakfast (nothing special – I went to a local coffee shop for real coffee) followed by all of us gathering in the main auditorium for 15 minutes from each speaker for that day so that we could make decisions about what we wanted to catch when we moved off into other rooms for the specific sessions. The sessions were separated by enough time to allow for some presenters going over on time and for lots of communication in between. So many of us were meeting for the first time having made connections online through Instagram and Facebook.

The sessions themselves were very high quality. I didn’t really have any expectations in that regard and was keeping an open mind but I was very pleased with the content.

- I would like to see more design focused content. I detected very little of the usual builder/architect issues. These people are pros. The builders who were there value design as much as us architects do.

- We need food on Wednesday before or after the keynote. I heard people ran out to convenience stores for junk food. Most of us were coming off a tiring day of travel.

- Print the schedule on white paper with space for notes. The background on the schedule was black and difficult to read.

- The facilities – Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center was a very good choice (the carpet didn’t upset me to an unreasonable degree and the layout was quite good) but the largest space could only hold about 250 people which would be a limiting factor.

- I would like to see a session for both builders and architects focused on sales and marketing.

- Lunch was a bit too good. “you must bow to the taco” – Samin Nosrat I decided I was among friends and they wouldn’t really judge me if I had Guacamole on my nose.

- Need to get more young people to these events and make it feel inclusive for them - perhaps with mentors to help make it more accessible and less overwhelming. (I’m talking about pre-college and very early career folks)

- Last year at NAHBS (North American Handmade Bicycle Show) someone had a coffee cart in the convention hall selling really good coffee. They made money.

- It may be useful to have a printout of attendees or an online list of who is registered. Prior to the event I was wondering who was coming and had not sense at all of how many people would be there.

- There were no detectable attitudes. (my perception) Just people having fun.


- WE really need to work on gender and LGBQT representation. People who are not white male and of Euro descent are terribly underrepresented in a field that could be a leading example of inclusion - and Fine Homebuilding is very ready for it. We need to seek out and foster presenters in greater proportion to the current status quo to lead by example. Every person presenting is a role model. SO much exciting potential here!

Update as I listen to the podcasts from the summit I hear that Fine Homebuilding will be trying out a Design focused summit as well.