Does a Low Price Mean Good Value or Bad Quality?

Why can’t roofing industry professionals understand that old technology and outdated products that have outlived their usefulness are no longer really considered competition but are a target for replacement? Higher-performing and technically advanced products replace outdated and underperforming products all the time. They don’t try to compete with them on price. That doesn’t always seem to be the case in the roofing industry.

The bar has to be set higher—not lower—when dealing with all types of products in the roofing industry; I tend to notice this disconnect when it comes to woven synthetic underlayments because of my line of business. However, test standards and inspection compliance should reflect the quality of all products in the industry. Today’s consumer is not demanding lower-performing products at lower prices with the intention that the materials on their house or business will not last and will not endure the weather and heat from the sun.

In addition, the roofing industry’s practice of selling the customer a 40- to 50-year or lifetime-warrantied roof with an underlayment that is warrantied for five or 10 years should be discontinued because this concept is not in the best interest of the customer. This is especially true when those products are used in a way that is in conflict with the restrictions placed on price-oriented imported products. Buyers, including roofing contractors, builders, distributors and homeowners, need to read the data and instruction materials to fully understand what they are buying.

Cheaper is not better! Better is better! There is no getting around it. If suppliers and manufacturers are going to employ salesmen and women, they ought to be able to sell the products in their charge and be able to give the buyer reasons why they should buy their product. For example, do you really think the consumer who is buying the higher-end asphalt shingle product wants a lower-end synthetic underlayment? You’re supposed to be replacing poor-quality products, not competing with them.

Using poor-quality cheap products is yesterday’s thinking. You’re not serving the public’s needs with that thought process. Quality and proven performance levels are being demanded in today’s marketplace, and price has nothing to do with it.

Why can’t the roofing industry understand this and stop this race to the bottom?

Quality Assurance

As all of us in the roofing industry are keenly aware, roofing work is fraught with exposure. If the installation quality is poor at any time, there is real risk that the entire structure and its contents can be damaged or destroyed. Depending on the size of the loss, the result could be absolutely crippling for any roofing contractor to absorb. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for quality; what works for one company may not work for another. I do feel strongly, though, that the emphasis on quality has to permeate your entire organization, top to bottom.

For our office, McHenry, Ill.-based Metalmaster Roofmaster, the process begins as early as the pre-award, bidding and estimating phase of the project. Our seasoned estimators carry years of industry experience and are always looking to identify, from the project plans and specifications, issues with the specified products or system, the effectiveness of which often depends on the season in which the roof is being installed. What frequently happens is that we end up recommending a change to the specified system type or installation method to better accommodate project or weather conditions, which will consequently result in a better installation in the end.

This review process does not end there. Post-award, the project moves to our submittal department, which serves as yet another set of eyes to review the plans and specifications for effectiveness of the specified roof system and installation. Our submittal technicians fulfill an office quality-control function to ensure the system products and installation are, in fact, best suited for that particular project. As part of the department’s review, the submittal department works closely with our valued manufacturing partners to elicit feedback and confirmation on the final submittal package. If changes to the plans and specifications are warranted, they are addressed timely and prior to roofing installation—during the submittal process.

The end result is that, by the time the project moves to our project management department for the actual installation, the groundwork for a quality installation has been laid because the products, manufacturers and installation methods have been carefully reviewed multiple times to ensure maximum effectiveness and applicability to the project. Unfortunately all system and
product changes have already been made and approved. All that is left is for our trained field crew to install.

Just prior to the actual field installation, our project managers and superintendents carefully review the plans, specifications and approved shop drawings. The site is reviewed to identify site issues that could potentially affect the quality of the installation. The project documents are furnished to the project foreman, who reviews and discusses the most effective means and methods with the superintendent and project manager. Throughout the course of the installation, open communication among the project manager, superintendent, foreman and field crew is encouraged to proactively discuss and address issues and concerns. At times, a third-party consultant is retained to perform an objective inspection of the roofing installation and to offer suggestions.

Once the installation is complete, we utilize our service department personnel to visit the site and perform any touch-up and detail work prior to the final manufacturer’s inspection. The manufacturer’s representative is accompanied during his inspection by one of our field staff, so that any and all concerns can be addressed and corrected on the spot and manufacturer
approval can be furnished and warranties issued in a timely manner. Owner and architect punchlists are dealt with similarly and, at that point, the owner and general contractor have assurances as to the quality of the roof installation.

It goes without saying, quality of installation is and always will be absolutely critical to the success of Metalmaster Roofmaster. Being able to point to a long history of quality installations has directly impacted our ability to earn new and repeat business, maintain and increase company profitability, build our reputation in the industry, gain manufacturer certification and recognition, reduce insurance premiums, achieve adequate bonding capacity and rates, and a litany of other items. Although we invest a substantial amount of time and resources into the process to ensure the quality of installations, the investment is small relative to the peace of mind and other tangible benefits achieved by maintaining a consistent record of quality roof installations.

Commercial Roofs Will Be More Difficult and Expensive to Insure

Early in the evening hours of June 12, 2014, Abilene, Texas, was hit by a hailstorm that covered approximately 40 percent of the town.

Early in the evening hours of June 12, 2014, Abilene, Texas, was hit by a hailstorm that covered approximately 40 percent of the town.

Early in the evening hours of June 12, 2014, Abilene, Texas, was hit by a hailstorm that covered approximately 40 percent of the town. What made the storm unusual was the size of the hailstones combined with the intensity and duration of the storm. Hailstones varied in size from 2 to well over 6 inches and fell for more than 23 minutes. Most of the stones were frozen rock-hard; some pieces formed when two to three mid-size hailstones froze together.

Some residents reported multiple deck and ceiling punctures with several homeowners reporting stones that penetrated deck and ceiling to smash flat-screen TVs. The damage covered most of the downtown business district; Hardin Simmons and Abilene Christian universities; and a large regional hospital complex, including outlying medical and laboratory facilities. Auto damage was severe and widespread, exacerbated by the large number of visitors gathered downtown for a popular monthly event. There were a few injuries, but no deaths, other than some animals at the local zoo. Initial damage estimates topped $400 million, a sizeable amount for a town of 100,000.

Hailstorms are not unknown in our area though not as common as might be assumed. Since I have been in the roofing business, we have had damaging hails in 1967, 1973, 1988, 2011 and 2014. Our company, now in its 124th year, did not keep records of storms prior to 1967. It has been my experience that no two storms are alike, each taking on a life of its own with regard to how the insurance industry reacts. The last several years, Texas has had major storms in a number of areas, including Amarillo, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and Rio Grande Valley. In these areas, roof claims litigation has exponentially increased, driven by a cottage industry of public adjusters, roof consultants, restoration contractors and attorneys, all making a business of inserting themselves between the insurance carrier and the building owner/policy holder. While there can be legitimate need for all these people at times, it does appear some may have crossed the ethical line to shake down insurance carriers with inflated claim demands.

The last several years, Texas has had major storms in a number of areas, including Amarillo, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and Rio Grande Valley.

The last several years, Texas has had major storms in a number of areas, including Amarillo, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and Rio Grande Valley.

We experienced a little of this activity during our 2011 hail, but it was limited because the hail coverage area included few commercial properties. I was personally aware of several claims made in areas where there was no hail and the damages claimed far exceeded the value of the building.

In response to these perceived abuses, the insurance industry in 2014 has become much more aggressive in its claims handling, especially with gravel-surfaced built-up roofs. Gravel-surfaced roofs remain a significant portion of the roof inventory in this market. Adjusters have been paying for modified bitumen and metal roofing without too much argument. But, since the June hail, we have looked at dozens of buildings with gravel-surfaced roofs that, in our opinion, should be total losses, only to have the adjuster, who is often only vaguely familiar with gravel roofing balk at paying and call in consulting engineers to take sample cuts for lab analysis.

So far, it appears that in the absence of multiple punctures, the assumption is that there is no damage—or at least damage short of a total loss.

So far, it appears that in the absence of multiple punctures, the assumption by adjusters is that there is no damage—or at least damage short of a total loss.

My roofing intuition suggests this activity is a prelude to claims denial. So far, it appears that in the absence of multiple punctures, the assumption is that there is no damage—or at least damage short of a total loss. I can understand the adjuster’s desire to have incontrovertible evidence to base his payment or denial decision, but my experience as a contractor suggests that lab analysis is not foolproof. Some of the tests are based on theories that are at least debatable. The public adjusters and restoration industry have their own labs and tests to compete with the carriers. Regardless of tests, my experience as a contractor suggests that a built-up roof, even with gravel surfacing, is no match for a 20-minute pounding of baseball-sized hail. It is my hope that our industry does not devolve into an adversarial system, which pits dueling laboratories and experts into the claims process.

My suspicion is that it will become much more difficult and expensive to insure commercial roofing, with limits on coverage, much higher deductibles and more specific language to define what is damage. The real loser will be the building owner, forced to assume a much larger portion of the risk.

PHOTOS: JERRY SIEWERT

Fleet-management Technology Fuels Midwestern Roofer’s Growth

I established Roberts Roofing Co. Inc. in 1985 in a garage in St. Joseph, Mo. with a single truck and one lone employee. Since then, the company has rapidly grown into a premier roofing business in Northwest Missouri, operating a 30-truck fleet with 60 employees.

Roberts Roofing is a full-service roofing contracting firm, focusing on residential, commercial and industrial projects, including educational and government buildings and churches. It is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association and Midwest Roofing Contractors Association and certified by GAF as a Master Elite Roofing Contractor.

Roberts Roofing’s fleet-tracking system monitors 30 trucks and has improved the business’ bottom line.

Roberts Roofing’s fleet- tracking system monitors 30 trucks and has improved the business’ bottom line.

The business is operated on the principles of quality work, expert craftsmanship, employee safety, honesty and professionalism. To better deliver on these promises for customers, my team and I knew it was important to improve efficiency and response time of crews in the field. We also knew a fleet-management system could help us achieve these goals, and, in looking for the best solution, we sought input from a few customers. After testing units recommended by our customers in a few of our vehicles, it became a no-brainer to equip the whole fleet.

A fleet-management solution was rolled out to our entire fleet in August 2012. What started as a useful vehicle- tracking tool quickly became something of much greater business value.

Having a sizable team of professional roofers, estimators and project managers on staff required knowing where they were at all times and how jobs were progressing. The fleet-management system has not only made progress and location of employees in the field more transparent, it also allowed us to better match payroll with actual time worked—a pitfall of payroll accounting for many construction companies. Additionally, we began to see a marked difference in fuel use, a decrease in the wear and tear of vehicles, better driving habits by staff and increased productivity.

SLASHING FUEL COSTS

To date, Roberts Roofing has decreased fuel spend by 30 percent, saving the business $2,000 to $3,000 monthly. An additional $24,000 to $36,000 annually pays off in a big way. Management also found there were less miles being put on trucks; the solution enabled smarter, more efficient routing and dispatching. Fewer miles driven means less need for unexpected maintenance and fewer trips to the tire store. In total, the business has saved about 100,000 miles, several sets of tires and countless oil changes.

CORRECTING BEHAVIOR IN REAL TIME

In the hot summer months, idling can lead to skyrocketing fuel costs, and we noticed many drivers leaving the engines on for long periods of time. The fleet-management system offers alerts to notify us if one of our vehicles has been idling for a long period of time. When we receive an alert, someone in the office contacts the driver directly to bring it to his or her attention and ensure the engine is turned off in a timely manner.

REWARDING EMPLOYEES

Because the fleet-management solution monitors driver behavior, such as excessive and harsh braking and acceleration and speeding, which can cause accidents, my team and I have launched a safety rewards program that compensates employees with an end-of-year bonus for responsible driving. Employees are evaluated based on their work attendance; efficiency at the job site; and a clean driving record free of violations, accidents and speeding tickets. Typically, 95 percent of employees meet these standards. There also is a corrective action program in place to address the occasional mistakes. Not only does this ensure that we as a company are being represented in the most professional manner to customers and the public, but it rewards staff for good behavior, increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty.

INCREASING SERVICE CALLS PER DAY

Another core benefit of our fleet-management solution is its ability to enable the staff to make more service calls per day. Between employees completing jobs in a timely and efficient manner and smarter routing to and from sites, Roberts Roofing has been able to add at least two additional projects per day. Depending on the type of job, this can mean an additional $200 for a repair or the sale of a more expensive replacement. This means increased revenue and more satisfied customers.

We have recommended this technology to a lot of other contractors the past two years and wonder how we did business without it before. It’s easy to use, dependable and accurate.

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Roberts Roofing utilizes Fleetmatics GPS fleet tracking and management solution.

The Cool-roof Bandwagon: Is It Headed To Your City?

Spring is here, and summer is on the horizon. But for millions of Americans, it will take more than a few days of sunshine to thaw the memories of the winter of 2013-14. The National Weather Service is still compiling the statistics to let us know just how bad the winter really was. In the meantime, most of us have a more immediate way to measure the impact of the polar vortex on our lives: One look at our heating bills and we know that this past winter deserves its reputation as one of the most brutal on record.

On the West Coast, as 2014 dawned, very different climate issues were front and center. The city of Los Angeles was being praised for its mandate requiring all new and renovated domestic housing to install “cool”, or reflective, roofing. The L.A. City Council passed the requirement as one of its last acts of 2013, and the new ordinance became part of California’s Title 24, which already required “cool” roofs in new and remodeled commercial construction.

THE NEWS media hailed Los Angeles as the “first major city to require cool roofs”, implying other urban areas will inevitably follow its lead. However, the winter of 2013-14 did a good job of reminding us that the climatic conditions of Southern California are dramatically different from the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. This simple fact needs to be underscored as the bandwagon to require cool roofs travels somewhat erratically to major Eastern cities.

Last June, the mayor of Pittsburgh initiated a lukewarm cool roofs program by calling for volunteers to help paint the roofs of 10 city buildings white. Two-thirds of the Pittsburgh effort—$56,000—was funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies, a project of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The tagline of Bloomberg Philanthropies is “Good Intentions, Great Results.” I applaud the mayor’s good intentions in supporting projects that are designed to save energy. As for achieving “great results” by painting the roofs of 10 Pittsburgh buildings white? Don’t bet your next heating bill on it.

While Bloomberg was mayor of New York, the city launched the “NYC °Cool-Roofs” initiative, encouraging building owners to cool their rooftops by applying a reflective white coating as part of the city’s overall plan to reduce greenhouse- gas emissions 30 percent by 2030.

In Baltimore, the talk about cool roofs was fueled by a report issued last October by the Abell Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing quality of life in Baltimore and Maryland. The report, which is primarily an overview of previously published research, recommended increased use of cool roofs in Baltimore.

While these cities institute varied programs to support cool roofs, several major facts are ignored:

    ▪▪ Energy costs are closely related to climate. A solution that works in a warm and temperate climate to curb energy costs will not necessarily work in a colder climate.
    ▪▪ It’s vitally important to consider the source of information about cool roofing. Unbiased, up-to-date scientific studies can provide the data you need to make an independent judgment. Likewise, the manufacturers of roofing membranes have a vested interest in ensuring their products are used correctly and have in-depth knowledge of how roofing systems will perform in a wide variety of conditions.
    ▪▪ Choosing and installing a roof that will contain energy costs is a complex business. It requires understanding the interaction between building design, climate, insulation and all the other factors that impact the efficiency of a roofing system. A one-size-fits-all approach will only delay the discovery of workable, cost-effective, energy-efficient solutions.

IN FACT, a study conducted by Arizona State University published this past winter in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences underscores the pitfalls of disregarding climate differences in roofing decisions. “What works over one geographical area may not be optimal for another,” says sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu, who led the research.

Although the headlines are touting Los Angeles’ cool roof requirements, I’d like to see headlines that read, “Energy Savings Achieved by Roofs Designed to meet Midwest and Northeast Climate Challenges”. Before anyone thinks about driving that cool-roofing bandwagon from Los Angeles to New York, you might want to equip it with snow tires.

A Homeland Security Program Minimizes Administrative Headaches

Lines & Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation Inc. is a small family-owned business that was started in 1947. We have grown to be the largest roofing company in Yuma, Ariz. Jonathan Lines, the general manager, is the third-generation Lines to guide this company. He is taking the reins from his father, John Lines, and uncle, Steve Lundgreen, the current owners.

Unfortunately, we all know there is a lot of turnover in construction. Having to worry about eligibility for employment is a distraction from what we do. We have an office staff of two people. How do you train two people to become experts in all the different areas a businessperson needs to be aware of nowadays? It is just impossible.

A few years ago there was an article in the local newspaper about a raid on a local business. The purpose of the raid was to check for illegal workers. The article stated there were a number of illegals working at this site, and the business would receive fines above $10,000. I didn’t want to worry about this, but we were not experts on the different documents that could be used to prove eligibility and didn’t know how to look for illegal documents. I did not want to become an expert either. I thought I was doing what was needed.

A day or two after the article appeared, one of the owners was talking to a group of employees and said we would have to check all employees for document accuracy. He was joking, but we lost a surprising number of employees that morning. They just disappeared, and we all knew why. I knew that whatever we were doing was not working. Then we were audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I was more than a little uneasy as they presented their badges and realized why they were in our office.

Our audit turned out to be a positive experience. ICE agents went through each of our I-9 forms. Then they held a meeting with us. They could see we had been making an honest attempt to use appropriate hiring processes. They helped us clear up the things we were doing wrong and encouraged us to take advantage of the best employment practices available to us on the Internet.

We were using E-Verify already; E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. We now use E-Verify for I-9 documentation, socialsecurity.gov for Social Security number verification and Arizona’s New Reporting Center to withhold child support. We are in compliance and ICE does the verification. I no longer worry about these issues, which is one less headache for me.

The IMAGE Program

Lines and Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation Inc. was the second Yuma, Ariz., employer to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in a nationwide program designed to strengthen hiring practices and combat the unlawful employment of unauthorized workers. Lines and Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation was certified as an ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers (IMAGE) partner.

Lines and Lundgreen is a roofing, insulation and acoustical ceiling installation firm with 46 employees serving Yuma County and the Imperial Valley. The company’s projects range from residential roof repairs to large commercial and government contracts, such as the F-35 simulator building at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides private companies with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including the use of employment screening tools, such as E-Verify. IMAGE-certified companies also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

Employers interested in learning more about IMAGE membership should visit its web page.

Polyiso Roof Insulation R-value Update

An update to ASTM C1289, “Standard Specification for Faced Rigid Cellular Polyisocyanurate Thermal Insulation”, (ASTM C1289-13) features important improvements regarding the prediction of Long-Term Thermal Resistance (LTTR) for a variety of polyiso insulation roof boards. Members of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) began reporting LTTR values in accordance with ASTM C1289-13 on Jan. 1, 2014.

ASTM C1289

ASTM C1289 was first published in 1998. The standard is a series of physical property tests, including the measure of an insulation’s LTTR, conducted to ensure a polyiso product’s performance meets a minimum standard. The standard is used to predict an insulation’s R-value equivalent to the average performance of a permeably faced foam insulation product during 15 years.

To provide a comprehensive approach to predicting long-term R-value throughout North America, the updated ASTM C1289-13 standard incorporates two test methods: ASTM C1303-11 and CAN/ULC-S770-09. Each of these methods offers a similar approach to predicting the long-term thermal performance for foam insulation materials that exhibit air and blowing-agent diffusion or aging across time.

ASTM C1303, “Standard Test Method for Estimating the Long-Term Change in the Thermal Resistance of Unfaced Closed Cell Plastic Foams by Slicing and Scaling Under Controlled Laboratory Conditions”, is, in part, the result of a research project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The project was co-funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, PIMA, NRCA and the Society of the Plastics Industry.

CAN/ULC S770 is the result of work in Canada. This method is also based on the same thin-slicing and accelerated aging concept as ASTM C1303 but it also accounts for the effect of permeable facings, or skins, on the LTTR of foam insulation in addition to a number of other factors. Considered to be a prescriptive way to perform ASTM C1303 (a more narrowly defined procedure within the bounds described in the ASTM standard), CAN/ULC S770 predicts what the foam’s R-value will be after a five-year aging period—the equivalent to a time-weighted thermal design R-value of 15 years.

Based on extensive research during the past five years, including bias and ruggedness testing, most researchers now agree ASTM C 1303 and CAN/ULC–S770 provide similar and consistent results predictive of actual aged performance.

LTTR and Polyiso

The polyiso industry uses the newly revised ASTM C1289-13 standard for determining the thermal insulation efficiency of permeably faced products. LTTR represents the most advanced scientific method to measure the long-term thermal resistance of foam insulation products using blowing agents.

The use of an LTTR value provides numerous advantages:

  • It provides a technically supported, more descriptive measure of the long-term thermal resistance of polyiso insulation.
  • The thin slices are taken from current production insulation samples. Prior methods used samples that were at least three-months old with some up to six-months old.
  • Determining an LTTR value is fairly rapid and, depending on a slice’s thickness, can produce an LTTR design value for 2-inch-thick polyiso insulation board in about 90 days.
  • A formula is used to determine the aging time period for a particular thickness of insulation, instead of using the same conditioning period for products of all thicknesses as was done in the past.
  • It applies to all foam insulation with blowing agents other than air and provides a better understanding of the thermal performance of foam.

PIMA QualityMark

The PIMA QualityMark certification program is a voluntary program that allows polyiso manufacturers to obtain independent, third-party certification for the LTTR values for ASTM C1289 Type II, Class 1 and Class 2 permeable-faced polyiso foam insulation produced with EPA-compliant blowing agents. Participating companies are required to include each of their manufacturing locations in the PIMA QualityMark certification program. Polyiso is the only insulation to be certified by this program for its LTTR value.

The PIMA QualityMark program began reporting LTTR values in accordance with ASTM C1289-13 on Jan. 1. To participate in PIMA’s QualityMark certification program, a Class 1 roof is suggested to have a design R-value of 5.7 per inch.

FM Global, one of the world’s largest independent commercial and industrial property insurance and risk-management organizations, is the PIMA QualityMark certification administrator. Polyiso insulation samples are randomly chosen from each plant of a participating manufacturer in accordance with the program’s guidelines. An accredited testing laboratory then establishes and certifies to FM Global the 15-year LTTR value in accordance with ASTM C1289-13.

Reroofing Is One of the Few Opportunities to Improve the Built Environment

All of us get misled by catch-phrases, like “Save the Planet” or “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”. Although phrases like these are well intended, they can be misleading; they really are off topic. Something like “Save the Humans” is more to the point and truly the root of the entire sustainability movement. Let’s face it: The efforts to be more green are inherently aimed at a healthier you and me, as well as our children’s and grandchildren’s desire for continued healthful lives and opportunities.

The discussion about green and sustainability needs some context to make it real and effectual. The question to ask is: How does green construction help humans live a healthier and happier life? The answer is: It is because of the co-benefits of building (and living) in a more environmentally appropriate way.

One key component of building environmentally appropriate buildings is that, collectively, we use less energy. Less energy use means no need to build another power plant that creates electricity while spewing pollution into the air. Less pollution in the air means people are healthier. It also means the water and soil are less polluted. We drink that water and eat what grows in the ground. We also eat “stuff” from the rivers, lakes and oceans. Healthier people means reduced costs for health care. Reduced sickness means fewer sick days at the office, and fewer sick days means more productivity by employees. And, dare I say, happier employees are all because of the environmentally appropriate building, or a “human appropriate” building.

So what does all this have to do with roofs? Rooftops, because they are a significant percentage of the building envelope, should not be overlooked as an important and truly significant energy-efficiency measure. Building owners and facility managers should always include energy- efficiency components in their roof system designs. There are few opportunities to improve the building envelope; reroofing is one of those opportunities, and it shouldn’t be missed.

According to the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, Washington, D.C., and building envelope research firm Tegnos Inc., Carmel, Ind., roof systems have the potential to save 700-plus trillion Btus in annual energy use. Too many roofs are not insulated to current code-required levels. If our rooftops were better insulated, these energy-saving estimates would become reality. Imagine the co-benefits of such a significant reduction in energy use!

But how do we know we’re doing the right thing? RoofPoint and the RoofPoint Carbon Calculator will help. The RoofPoint Carbon Calculator uses seven inputs to compare an energy-efficient roof with a baseline roof: insulation, thermal performance, air barrier, roof surface, rooftop PV, solar thermal and roof daylighting. The outputs from the RoofPoint Carbon Calculator are total roof energy use, energy savings due to the energy- efficient roof design, energy savings during peak demand, and CO2 offset for the energy-efficient roof design. This can be used to compare an existing roof (the baseline roof) to a new roof design (the energy-efficient roof), and this will help verify the energy savings and reduction of carbon output. It’s an excellent tool for verifying how green a new roof can be.

Don’t just take my word on this co-benefits idea. The Economist recently published a blog about the EPA and rulings on interstate pollution. The article cited a claim that by 2014—if pollution rates were half of those in 2005—hundreds of thousands of asthma cases each year could be prevented and nearly 2 million work and school days lost to respiratory illness could be eliminated. And just think, improving your roof’s energy efficiency is key to the reduction of power-plant use and the pollution that comes from them. So, yes, a roof can help your kids and your grandkids be healthy and happy.

Green-building Innovation Is Important, But So Is Refinement

In March 2006, I swore allegiance to the wildly popular green-building movement. I even put the kibosh on my favorite joke about recycling in the landfill—you know, so not to deprive future generations of fossil fuels and diamonds. Nice.

I’ve worked in facility management at Duke University Health System for 26 years. In this profession, being overly pragmatic is an occupational hazard. So, why did an “old-school” guy (no pun intended) show up at a green love fest alongside folk with funny-colored hair and way too many bumper stickers? Quite simply, I came to the party to plea for intellectual honesty.

Unfortunately, early on, the sustainability movement offered myriad earth-friendly materials often with little thought to their durability or life cycle. Similarly, early building rating programs focused largely on the merits of individual products without factoring their proper integration into functional systems or assemblies. Consider, for example, the many thousands of squares of reflective “cool roofing” membranes applied over non-durable assemblies. A LEED-applicable roofing membrane that fails prematurely because of inferior quality or misapplication does not look very sustainable buried in a landfill.

It’s no longer 2006, and the greenie you’re partying with may be a blue-haired, retired architect. It’s encouraging so many in the building industry, and particularly the roofing industry, have embraced the concept of durability as the essence of green and sustainable building design. Moving beyond mere branding “strategery,” sustainability can be good for the bottom line. On the Duke campus, a 2007 roof replacement used forward-thinking design to divert 718 tons of solid waste. Salvaged materials from this effort included 296,000 board feet of XPS insulation, which was repurposed in new roofing construction on three Duke buildings. It’s our story. And it’s simply good business.

It has been said “architecture is storytelling.” The story of our 2007 roof replacement project settled forever how Duke University Health System will conduct itself in regard to sustainable roofing design and environmental stewardship. We distilled our story into the following “Guiding Principles of Sustainable Roofing”:

  • 1. Favor insulations or insulating assemblies that are highly resistant to water and physical damage.
  • 2. Favor roof assemblies that position the roof membrane directly over a permanent or semi-permanent substrate.
  • 3. Favor roof designs that prohibit or highly discourage the entrapment of water within the roof assembly.
  • 4. Favor membrane and insulation designs capable of in-place reuse or recycle in future roof iterations.

Through the years, these guiding principles have produced a dramatic improvement in roofing performance on our campus. In particular, our emphasis on adaptive reuse of materials will minimize our impact on the environment, as well as reduce future demand on hospital resources–resources best used in support of outstanding patient care or cancer research, not funding a premature roof replacement. Interestingly, the U.S. General Services Administration, Washington, D.C., has recently incorporated our guiding principles in facilities standards for future public building construction. Now our story has legs.

In April 2013, I attended the Energy Efficient Roofing Conference in Charlotte. I was invited to participate in the program, offering a building owner’s perspective about emerging roofing technologies. The focus, primarily, was energy-efficient roofing as a value proposition: how to achieve it and how to sell it. The format leaned heavily on panel discussions, which produced large amounts of banter and at times outright tension regarding the subjects at hand. It was as if someone handed a microphone to the elephant in the room. Has the proposition become a “solution” in search of a “problem”?

Don’t misunderstand; everyone can see the benefits in much (but not all) of the new energy-efficient roofing innovations and building codes. But should we be excited about reflective or solar membranes on massively thick R-30 minimum insulation while still far too many roof installations will fail prematurely because of shortsighted design and construction? If quality and durability are of utmost value, do you—the roofing contractor— know how to achieve it and how to sell it? Should you care?

Back in 2006, I believed everyone was trying to “out green” each other; durability be damned. Today, I wonder if the problem is that everyone wants to “out innovate” each other. As we’ve witnessed with green, the danger when innovation means everything is that it can soon mean nothing.

Innovation is exciting and necessary, but so is refinement. Refinement may be the most powerful strategy of all, yet it remains under emphasized. The most effective way to celebrate refinement is by creating new stories–new institutional memories. Roofing contractor, you are the biographer. Run with that.