Pieces of History

A home built in 1879. A hotel built in 1902. An industrial site that produced destroyers during World War II. What do these sites have in common? Roofs that stood the test of time, and then were recently restored with modern systems that preserve the historic integrity of the structures.

If you’re a bit of a pessimist, sometimes you might find yourself wondering how any roof gets successfully replaced. Re-roofing involves a coordinated effort that typically includes manufacturers, distributors, contractors and installation crews. Factor in architects, consultants, building owners, tenants, and members of other trades, and the odds of pleasing everyone increase exponentially. When you’re talking about a historic restoration project, the degree of difficulty gets even tougher, as historical societies and other organizations can have rigid standards designed to guarantee the building maintains its historic authenticity.

Historic projects can show the roofing industry at its best, and in this issue, you’ll find three case studies documenting roofs being restored on structures that have been around well over a century.

When the original soldered flat-panel roof on the historic Dilley-Tinnin home in Georgetown, Texas was damaged by lightning, crews from Texas Traditions Roofing were faced with a difficult, labor-intensive puzzle as they installed a double-lock standing seam roof system on multiple intersecting roof planes with low-slope transitions.

On the Chippewa Hotel on Mackinac Island, the Bloxsom Roofing faced a challenging re-roofing project and also found themselves facing turn-of-the-century problems on an island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles. The roofing materials were delivered by ferry and transported to the jobsite by a team of horses.

At historic Pier 70 in San Francisco, an ambitious restoration project converted an empty industrial facility into a modern office complex. But ensuring occupant comfort proved a difficult task in a building without air conditioning. Central Coating Company devised a plan to install a spray foam roofing system on the uninsulated metal roof to minimize heat gain and ensure the historic look of the building.

These stories share common themes, including the importance of quality craftsmanship, then and now. In the case of Pier 70, Central Coating Company President Luke Nolan points out that aside from a few persistent leaks, the original corrugated metal roof was in pretty good shape.

“For us as a foam roofing contractor, we typically do roofing projects that have the benefit of adding insulation to the building,” Nolan said. “This one was different in that we were doing a foam roofing project that was really an insulation job.”

Interesting Times

“Stay safe.”

“Take care.”

“Hope you are healthy and safe.”

Work correspondence has taken on a different tone in the last couple of months as events have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s touching. People have been so kind in their responses. It puts me in mind of the gruff but friendly desk sergeant in the 1980s TV series “Hill Street Blues,” who would end every pre-shift meeting — no matter how chaotic — with this reminder: “Let’s be careful out there.”

When I emailed safety expert Richard Hawk to thank him for his column in our last issue, he responded, “There is a centuries old Asian saying that is both a blessing and a curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ It fits now, huh?” 

It does. The business landscape and most work environments are changing rapidly. In this issue you’ll see case studies and technical columns, as well as several articles geared specifically to coping with the coronavirus pandemic as the roofing industry continues to fulfill its indispensable role in maintaining our infrastructure.

This issue contains advice for employers coping with the fallout of COVID-19 from Benjamin Briggs and Elliot Haney at Cotney Construction Law. You’ll find tips from contractors like Ken Kelly of Kelly Roofing and Steve Little of KPost Roofing & Waterproofing, who had to come up with creative solutions to meet new jobsite regulations and keep business flowing. You’ll also see the story of a roofing manufacturer that found a way to help meet critical shortages of medical personal protective equipment.

Duro-Last CEO Tom Saeli told me how a team of employees at Duro-Last came up with the idea to use the company’s materials and equipment to make medical gowns and masks for area hospitals. He also assured me his company was doing all it could to ensure employees manufactured the equipment safely — including maintaining social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting the plant and equipment, providing masks and face shields, and taking everyone’s temperature.

At Roofing, we are committed to maintaining our role as “the industry’s voice” through our glossy print issue and digital edition, as well as our website and e-newsletter. Tom Saeli noted Duro-Last was sharing its story in the hopes that it would inspire others to help. If you have a story you’d like to share, please let us know.

And hey — let’s be careful out there.

What’s New?

Photo: International Roofing Expo

There’s a running joke I have with a couple of other trade journalists about how the most common sentence uttered at industry trade shows is “What’s new?” The joke isn’t that funny, but it is true. I found myself asking that question a lot at the recent International Roofing Expo (IRE) in Dallas, and I saw a lot of people brighten up as they started to show me their company’s latest offerings.

For me, the sheer number of new products being introduced at the show was the most striking thing about this year’s IRE. The event set records for attendance and the size of the show floor, but it was the new products I will remember most.

Almost every asphalt shingle manufacturer has introduced new developments in the past year, including new polymers that increase strength, hail resistance and flexibility, even in cold weather. New features also include larger and more durable nailing zones. Roof membrane manufacturers have continued to develop new features designed to make their products easier and more efficient to install. Underlayments are more durable, less prone to tearing, and offer better traction. Tools and equipment are being updated to make them simpler and easier to use.

The manufacturers are clearly aiming to address roofing contractors’ key pain points, which include the current labor shortage. In fact, at the IRE the term “labor shortage” might have been uttered almost as often as “What’s new?”

Products that are easier to install mean that there is less likelihood of making mistakes. The learning curve is also reduced, so a new employee in the field can be trained and brought up to speed more quickly. In an era marked by tight labor, promoting someone from field laborer to installer more quickly can be crucial.

We’ll continue to update readers on new product developments in the pages of Roofing as the year goes on. At press time, the COVID-19 coronavirus is currently making headlines, and it is possible a pandemic will be the next force to affect the economy. Right now, the future is uncertain.

Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer to the question, “What’s new?”

Everything’s Bigger in Texas

This issue spotlights hospitality and entertainment projects, so when Susan Miller of 5MetaCom contacted me about a story on the new Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, I was excited for several reasons — including the fact that the project was close to the site of the 2020 International Roofing Expo, which will be held in Dallas February 4-6. But the more I dug into the story, the more complicated it looked. There was a domed roof on the main arena, which was surrounded by flat roofs. There were metal roof systems on the arena’s towers, and below was a pavilion with a standing seam metal roof system on it.

Susan wasn’t talking about any of those roofs, however; she proposed an article focusing on the plaza deck, the area that extends around every side of the 140,000-square-foot main arena and covers event space below. The plaza itself serves as an outdoor event space, and at the rodeo, attendees can look down through windows in the pavilion to view the warm-up area for horses during the event.

It was a lot of information to cover, so we included articles on both the Dickies Arena roof systems and the plaza deck in this issue. If you need another Texas-sized project, check out our article about The Star, a complex located on 91 acres in Frisco, Texas, that includes the Dallas Cowboys indoor practice facility. That project serves as the basis for the Roofing Alliance’s sixth annual Construction Management Student Competition, where teams will present their bids to the judges like actual companies offering a proposal to a general contractor. KPost Roofing & Waterproofing, the Dallas-based roofing contractor that installed the roof on the practice facility, will be working closely with the Roofing Alliance to prepare documents for the competition.

I hope to get a look at these projects and take in the student competition when I’m in Texas for the IRE. I hope to see you there. I also hope it will be a record-setting show. After all, they say everything is bigger in Texas.

Inside, Outside

I was first introduced to Malinowski’s hierarchy of needs in college during an introduction to sociology class. I must admit, I wasn’t paying very close attention. I was an English literature major, and sociology was just a required elective. My hierarchy of interests was topped by the cute girls I might meet at the local tavern during quarter beer night.

I do remember that Malinowski put the need for shelter right up there with food and companionship as one of human society’s most important components. That concept made intuitive sense to me, but as I sat in the classroom, it never occurred to me how important the buildings themselves — and their roofs — were to educational facilities. Roofs not only protect students and teachers, but they also help preserve priceless works of art and literature — including those in digital formats — inside academic buildings.

The project profiles in this issue document the crucial roles roofs play in educational settings. They detail how roof design and installation, roof maintenance, and roof replacement are all critical functions that must be expertly handled. They also reveal how a school’s buildings can embody and define the institution architecturally.

At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, crews from Charles F. Evans Company, Inc. replaced the roof systems on the first building constructed on the campus — Morrill Hall, built in 1868. The challenges on the project included bringing the building up to code while capturing its original look with modern products.

On the campus of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, crews from Empire Roofing faced similar challenges as they replaced the roof on historic Austin Hall, a building that has been occupied since 1851.

Educational buildings that are less than 150 years old also need to have their roofs replaced. At the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, crews from Tech Roofing re-roofed the entire complex, which houses irreplaceable works of Yiddish literature in a building designed to resemble a shtetl, or traditional Jewish town common in Eastern Europe before World War II.

This issue also profiles building envelopes that help embody the design goals of new construction projects, including the Innovation Lab at the Lamplighter School in Dallas and the energy-positive Myrtle Beach Middle School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

While we all probably remember begging our teachers to hold classes outside on a beautiful fall day, it’s reassuring to know that structures like these will live on to serve future generations, thanks in part to the work of dedicated roofing professionals.

Seeing the Light

Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. What hurts the most is when we miss an obvious solution to a problem — when we look back at a difficult time and realize an option we didn’t take advantage of was staring us in the face all along. Picture Homer Simpson smacking his forehead and exclaiming, “D’oh!”

When we look back at this time in history, I think that’s how we’ll feel about adopting solar power. No matter what your opinion is about other forms of energy, including fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, and wind turbines, I think you’d have to admit that we aren’t making enough use of solar. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I think it’s obvious that in the rays of the sun, we have a tremendous renewable resource that is mostly going by the wayside.

I interviewed a plumbing contractor a few years ago who specialized in passive solar hot water systems. He said the inspiration came to him when he picked up a garden hose that had been out in the sun and the water nearly scalded his hand. “It was then I thought, ‘Why am I paying a utility to heat the water in my house?’” he said.

I was reminded of that conversation when I interviewed Martin DeBono of GAF Energy for this issue. Before entering the world of rooftop solar, DeBono had a background as a nuclear engineer and served as a submarine officer in the Navy. “I’ve always been fascinated by solar,” he said. “The sun provides the equivalent amount of energy in one hour as all of the world’s power plants produce in a whole year. You combine that with the fact that I am a huge outdoors person — I love the outdoors —and you can see some of the challenges the world faces by relying on fossil fuels.”

His job also allows him to tap into his love of building things. “Last week I built a mock-up roof in my driveway with a mock-up solar system to show some executives and some family and friends what we do,” DeBono said. “So, solar gives me the opportunity to build, to think, to advance technology and do something I believe in.”

DeBono believes in making the most of technology to harness the power of the sun. He also believes in another obvious point: the roof is the domain of the roofing contractor. “We firmly believe that roofers should be installing the system and ensuring the integrity of the roof,” he said. “You do not want anybody other than a roofing contractor working on your roof.”

Bedside Manner

About a decade ago I had to find a new doctor. While researching doctors on the internet, I stumbled onto to a bunch of articles about the decision-making process of patients. Surveys asked patients which traits they looked for in a doctor and which factor was most important when choosing their physician. As I remember it, the answers varied quite a bit; some looked for certain areas of expertise, while others stressed an affiliation with a local hospital. Referrals from a trusted source were the most important criterion for some people, while others pointed to compatibility with their insurance carrier as the key factor.

While the reasons for initially choosing a doctor were all over the map, there was one overwhelming reason patients gave for staying with their doctors: their ability to communicate with them, encourage them, and explain a diagnosis or treatment options — otherwise known as their “bedside manner.”

I thought of those surveys as I spoke to the contractors who worked on the health care projects profiled in this issue. In many ways the dynamic was similar to that of doctor and patient. Whether it was a new construction project or a roof replacement, the owners of the health care facility needed an expert opinion. For the contractors profiled in this issue, technical competence, quality workmanship and experience were all extremely important. But all of these contractors also stressed the importance of communication — with the building owner, the manufacturer’s rep, the facility manager, their own crews and members of other trades. Throughout the job, they discussed what was necessary to eliminate or minimize disruptions for all involved — including patients, visitors and guests.

For Jason Carruth of Advanced Roofing, the task was especially tough, as his re-roofing project at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, placed his crews right above the main entrance of a busy hospital — and its neonatal intensive care unit. When asked why the project was a success despite its challenges, Carruth replied, “The communication between the manufacturer’s rep, the owners and ourselves was excellent. Pre-planning is everything. When the key players on a job are all on the same page, that’s when a project ends up being successful.”

A good bedside manner keeps patients coming back to their doctors. It can lead to more business for roofing contractors as well.

A Little Piece of the Planet

There was an old TV commercial for one of the Big Box stores that really hit me. It was an ad selling garden tools and mulch, and at the end of the commercial, the tagline was something like this: “It’s not just your yard. It’s your own little piece of the planet.”

That’s how I remember it, anyway. And that’s weird for several reasons, including the fact that I almost never watch commercials (that’s what the remote control is for), and I’m certainly not a huge fan of yard work. I am, however, ridiculously attached to the small scrap of grass behind our house that is our backyard.

When the weather cooperates, our yard makes our house seem ten times bigger. The backyard provides more usable space, a place to relax and a little touch of Mother Nature. It’s a literal breath of fresh air.

I was reminded of how much I miss our backyard during the winter while working on this issue, which spotlights green roofs. I can understand the desire to increase usable space, but vegetative systems can bring so much more to the rooftop than aesthetics. They can help minimize storm water runoff, expand the natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, and help roofs perform more efficiently over a longer lifespan. From The Wharf in D.C. to a Manhattan skyscraper to home on an island in the state of Washington, the green roofs profiled in this issue are getting attention for all the right reasons.

When it comes to providing a haven for the birds and the bees, green roofs are the stars of the show, but every roof has the potential to last longer, conserve energy and help the planet. The industry is taking a leading role in educating the public and government on the benefits of long-lasting, high-performing roofs. In this issue, Tom Hutchinson, Louisa Hart and Marcin Pazera explore the importance of designing and installing thermally efficient products and systems — and documenting their performance.

The roof is the most crucial part of the building envelope, and roof performance is a critical component of a building’s energy footprint. In this industry, durability and sustainability have become the watchwords. And that’s important because when you pull up Google Earth on your computer, what do you see? Roofs.

It’s not just your roof. It’s your own little piece of the planet.

Back to the Future

As the calendar flips to mark the start of a new year, it is traditionally a good time to take a step back and contemplate the future. This often means focusing on setting goals — both for yourself and for your business. 

That topic must have been top of mind for many of the authors who contributed to this issue, as the articles can serve as a road map when planning for the year ahead. 

This issue is chock full of great business management advice, beginning with personnel. In her column, business consultant Diane Helbig urges business owners to think of their business like a football team, making sure the right people are in the right positions. 

Once the lineup is set, the team needs systems in place to guarantee success. Caroline Trautman points out that proper record-keeping procedures can be the key to prevailing in a dispute, and she offers tips on procedures to safeguard your company. 

Success also hinges on finding new business, so marketing is always essential. Heidi J. Ellsworth and Karen L. Edwards detail the importance of developing an overall marketing plan — and outline ways to get started. 

Others tackled the task of identifying potential problems facing the industry. Jared Blum believes Congress and extreme weather will pose the biggest challenges to the roofing industry in 2019. Tom Hutchinson looks at roof failures in new construction using metal studs, while Justin Koscher points to more robust building codes as a valuable tool to protect communities from severe weather events — and help them bounce back. Trent Cotney explores the jobsite of the future — which is already here, in the form of high-tech tools including geofencing, building information modeling (BIM) and smart contracts. The same technology that helps people count their steps can now help companies determine who is on the jobsite, record their work, calculate their pay and automatically trigger the next task to be performed. It’s a Brave New World. 

There will be lots of new technology to explore at this year’s International Roofing Expo in Nashville, and I hope to see you there. It’s a great place to network and hone the strategies you are working on to help improve your business. 

There might not be any products there to help me with my annual goal to lose some weight, but at least I have Josie the Wonder Dog to make sure I get around the block a few times every day.

Here’s wishing that 2019 brings you much happiness and success. 

How ’Bout That, Sports Fans!

Late autumn can be the most beautiful time of the year. It is also a great time to be a sports fan. College and pro football are in full swing, the baseball season culminates in the World Series, and basketball and hockey get underway. There are a lot of great sporting events to get lost in during the fall, which is a good thing, because it’s also election season, and there is nothing more depressing than campaign commercials.

But sports can be more than just a distraction from a brutal TV news cycle. Growing up, I thought of sports as a parallel educational track that taught me just as much as — if not more than — my formal schooling. Whether you are paying attention or not, you absorb a lot of life lessons on the athletic field.

You learn that hard work pays off. You learn the value of teamwork. You learn that you can do your absolute best and still lose. You learn that crazy, unexpected things happen. You learn that people get hurt. You learn that authority figures can be wrong — that coaches, umpires and referees make mistakes. You learn what nepotism is. You learn that last year’s bitter rival can be this year’s teammate — and not such a bad person, after all. You learn that every once in a while, David really does beat Goliath.

There’s a reason people use a lot of sports metaphors. It’s especially common in the business world, where the relationship between individual achievement and group success plays out every minute of every day.

I remember once consoling a co-worker who was passed up for a promotion she thought she deserved, which went instead to the boss’s son. I didn’t tell her that this was a lesson I learned at age 10, when I realized the coach’s son was going to start at second base, and I had to find another position. At age 13, I learned that the rule about missing football practice meant missing that week’s game somehow did not apply to our star running back. At age 36, I learned that the last-place men’s league softball team can beat the undefeated first-place team in the first round of the playoffs. I also learned that cheap champagne can give you a wicked hangover.

So, as fall turns to winter, root for your favorite team and savor every victory. Remember, as someone once said, life is the ultimate team sport. Now, dust yourself off and get back in there.