A Roof is a Building Owner and Homeowner’s First Line of Defense in a Storm

The Midwest has been battered by unrelenting storms this year. Last week, I spoke to a friend who had just returned from visiting mutual college friends in Minnesota. They experienced a strong storm during the visit, and while they were all sleeping, our friends’ house was struck by lightning. The acrid smell of smoke awoke them and the eight people (four of which were children) scurried outside in their pajamas, leaving all their belongings inside. The local fire department contained the fire to the garage, which is attached to the house. However, the smoke damage inside is so severe that the family of four is currently residing in a hotel while their house is professionally cleaned.

Stories like these are all too common recently and this one hit a little too close to home for me. It seems easier (and less scary) to think storm damage won’t happen to me when those who are affected are strangers on the news. However, according the Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc., extreme-weather events and natural disasters are becoming more prevalent. The organization reports that since 1987 there have been eight natural disasters with insured losses greater than $1 billion; before 1987, there was one.

Although the Greensburg, Kan., EF5 tornado that occurred in 2007 didn’t cost that much, it destroyed 95 percent of the town, which is scary enough. Greensburg is coming back as a model for the rest of the country—rebuilding stronger and more sustainably. Read about one of the town’s strong, sustainable projects—the BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership, which is a metal building featuring roof-integrated daylighting systems designed to withstand high-velocity impacts—in “Tech Point”.

About 550 miles to the east, an EF4 tornado inflicted $30 million in damage on the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in 2011. To rebuild four copper domes that were the crowning glory of Terminal 1, airport officials opted to use copper-clad stainless steel, specifically because they wanted something beautiful that could withstand harsh weather. Read about the roof system in “Tech Point”.

The other night, a clap of thunder actually shook my house for what seemed like a full minute. I’ve always been the type of person that enjoys storms but, after my friends’ incident, I have to admit I feel less safe in my home. I immediately looked online to determine whether I should move to the basement and then I stayed awake until the storm passed to ensure my roof didn’t catch on fire. I think it’s time I look into a better, stronger roof.

Long-term Performance of Roof Systems

The April e-newsletter distributed by Roofing contained an online exclusive about sustainability. The author, Brooks Gentleman, an owner of window refurbisher Re-View, Kansas City, Mo., questioned whether we’re talking about the right things when referring to a building as sustainable. He says, “During the past 10 years, there has been a great deal of talk about green buildings and sustainability, but how many of these ‘green’ commercial or residential buildings are designed or constructed to last for centuries? When will the life cycle of the structure and the construction materials themselves become factors in the sustainability criteria? It seems to me that more effort is placed on whether a material is recyclable than whether it can perform over the long haul. It is time that the design community, manufacturers and construction processes begin to consider the life of the building if we are truly going to incorporate sustainability in our industry.” (Read the entire article.)

Gentleman’s commentary is the perfect precursor to this issue, which has a focus on the long-term performance of a roof system. Three “Tech Point” articles explain the life spans of metal, EPDM and asphalt, respectively. The authors—Chuck Howard P.E., a Roofing editorial advisor; Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, FRCI, RRC, RRP, a Roofing editorial advisor; and James R. Kirby, AIA—share roof-cover characteristics that achieve and industry studies that prove long-term performance.

Insulation is a component that will help extend the life of a roof system. In “Cool Roofing”, Kyle Menard, president of Bloom Roofing, Brighton, Mich., shares insight about polyisocyanurate, specifically how it contributes to long-term roof performance and why the roofing industry should educate clients about its importance as part of a roof system.

As architects, building owners and occupants increase their expectations for the environmental performance of the buildings they design, operate and dwell in, building component manufacturers have begun rolling out environmental product declarations, or EPDs. EPDs are related to life-cycle assessments and product category rules, all of which are part of an ongoing effort to provide as much transparency as possible about what goes into the products that go in and on a building. In “Environmental Trends”, Allen Barry writes about the significance of EPDs for the roofing industry.

As a longtime proponent of sustainability, it’s wonderful to see the conversation turning toward the critical issue of durability and long-term performance. Yes, specifying materials with recycled content or from sustainably managed forests is a nice consideration, but if those materials will only last a few years and must be replaced, we’re expending more energy—and money—using them. There’s nothing sustainable about that.

The Honest Roofing Industry

I attended the recent International Roofing Expo where I was reminded of what I love about the roofing industry. The people are so real! Manufacturers and contractors alike shared with me how their businesses are doing, the mistakes they made this past year, their plans for the coming years and how they really feel about where business is headed. I must say this was one of the most optimistic shows I have attended in quite awhile. (Read a post-show wrap-up about IRE in “New & Notable”.) Everyone I spoke to during the show was positive and full of energy for what’s to come—a welcome change from previous years when the construction industry struggled.

Gaining perspectives like these is a huge reason we structured the magazine as we have. Our tagline, “The Industry’s Voice”, is meant to clarify what types of articles you’ll find within the issue: Our authors are part of this industry and are willing to be honest with you—their peers—about their successes and failures in the hopes that you’ll learn from them just as you would if you were networking at IRE or another industry event.

For example, in “Business Sense” you’ll hear from Iain Fergusson, owner of Highland Roofing Co., Wilmington, N.C., who recently purchased the assets of his competitor, a 133-year-old roofing contracting company with almost 30 full-time roofers. Fergusson admits he made some mistakes during the merger but, he says, “You will learn way more from one mistake than you will from 10 good decisions.”

Meanwhile, Kaney O’Neill, who overcame a spinal-cord injury that ended her military career but launched her roofing profession, shares how she perseveres in a tough business climate. In “Business Sense”, O’Neill describes how she embraces lifelong learning for herself and her employees. “No matter where you are in business, you have to keep learning and growing to persevere,” she says.

O’Neill notes her military training has helped her stay “mission focused” and committed to excellence. Seeking employees with that sort of work ethic drew Chad Muth, president of Muth & Co. Roofing, Westerville, Ohio, to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. The program, which is covered in “Special Report”, helps veterans, active service members and their spouses transition back into the workforce through nationwide hiring fairs and an online process. Muth successfully hired and has since promoted Grant Smith, a former Marine, and hopes to hire more veterans. “We’re hoping we can … showcase what we have to offer [veterans] for the long-term future,” Muth notes.

Helping prospective employees recognize there is a long-term future in roofing is one of many goals of The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress, a 501(c)3 organization that was established by the National Roofing Contractors Association, Rosemont, Ill. In “Education”, Alison L. LaValley, CAE, NRCA’s associate executive director of Member Services, highlights the partnerships, training initiatives, technical and educational programs, and awards the Alliance funds as part of its mission. According to Tom Saeli, CEO of Duro-Last Roofing Inc., Saginaw, Mich., everyone should consider supporting the Alliance: “The organization funds important scholarships, sponsors innovative research to advance the roofing industry and partners with members from all walks of the industry who really care about what the future holds. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Collaboration

This morning I awoke to our first real snowfall of the season—about 7 inches. I typically enjoy watching the snow flutter down, but as it fell yesterday afternoon into the night I began to dread shoveling my long driveway. As I was brewing my coffee this morning, I heard a motor outside my window and spotted my next-door neighbor walking up and down my driveway behind his snow blower. I immediately went outside to thank him. I plan to bake him cookies today and offer him gas for his snow blower to show my gratitude. And, in the future, if he needs me to walk his dog or check his mail when he’s away, I’m more than willing.

My neighbor’s kindness reminded me of this issue of the magazine. The concept of “having someone else’s back” came up again and again as I edited the contributed articles. For example, our editorial advisory board member Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CSI, RRP, principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd., Barrington, Ill., writes in his regular series, “From the Hutchinson Files”, about how communication and collaboration between roof system designers, installers and manufacturers will lead to roofs that withstand high-wind events. He shares two examples of roof system failures that he notes would not have occurred if all parties had collaborated—and taken care in their work.

You can read an example of extreme collaboration in this issue’s “Tech Point”. Contributor KJ Fields describes the reroofing of the 10.3-acre James W. Jardine Water Filtration Plant in Chicago. Not only did Chicago-based Trinity Roofing Service’s crews have to contend with a phased schedule to ensure the plant continued to supply fresh water to its 5 million customers, but they also dealt with roof-load restrictions, unique stainless- steel expansion joints, the Department of Homeland Security and Chicago’s wild weather. Constant communication between Trinity Roofing Service and the membrane manufacturer, Flex, ensured a successful project.

If you’re looking for tips to ensure quality on your next roofing project, Richard Biosca, vice president of operations and general counsel for McHenry, Ill.-based Metalmaster Roofmaster, shares insight into his contracting company’s processes in “On My Mind”. The firm ensures quality as early as the pre-award, bidding and estimating phase of the project. Metalmaster Roofmaster’s estimators, submittal department, project managers, crews and service department are encouraged to discuss and address issues and concerns. Biosca points out in his column, investing time and resources to collaborate all the way through a project has led to many returns for his company, including repeat customers, profitability and awards. Who doesn’t want that this year?

May you have much success in 2015!

Work Smart, Not Hard

My friend Bart was raised with the motto, “work smart, not hard.” When he was a teenager, Bart’s dad asked him to clean out a large cattle barn while his parents went away for a long weekend. Bart realized he would not be able to clean the barn himself with only a pitchfork in three days time. So he hired his family’s neighbor who had a skid loader to do the chore for him. When his father returned, Bart said his dad was proud (and surprised) he had accomplished the task. While bragging around town about what a good worker his son was, Bart’s dad learned from the neighbor that Bart had not cleaned out the barn himself. His dad returned home angry with him, but Bart reminded him that he had taught him to “work smart, not hard”. Bart explained he cleaned the barn using his brain instead of his back. His father couldn’t argue, and Bart carries this life lesson with him. He says he finds ways to work smarter every day.

As a roofing worker, the motto “work smart, not hard” seems easier said than done. Every day is physically demanding and consists of climbing, heavy-lifting and lots of bending. But there are ways roofers can work smarter, and Mark Carpenter, president of Tualatin, Ore.-based Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal, shares a few of his company’s techniques in our “Safety” column.

Carpenter notes safety is his roofing contracting company’s No. 1 priority and, as such, he strives to keep his workers healthy and safe. Among his tactics is a program called “Save A Back” in which his employees are taught how to prevent back injuries through specific lifting methods and education. In addition, Carpenter’s foremen lead crews every morning in “Stretch and Flex” activities, which further help prevent on-the-job injuries.

I think Carpenter’s proactive approach to protecting his workers’ health helps them to work smart, not hard. After all, back injuries are difficult to cure and are expensive. Consider the following:

    ▪▪ More than 1 million workers suffer back injuries each year. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C.)

    ▪▪ Back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    ▪▪ One-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    ▪▪ Thirteen percent of back injuries last two years or longer. (Source: National Council on Compensation Insurance, Boca Raton, Fla.)

    ▪▪ The average total cost of a back injury exceeds $24,000. (Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association)

As Carpenter states in his article, “You are never ‘money ahead’ making sacrifices related to safety. … The value of sending home employees and customers to their families in a healthy way—every day—is priceless.”

Construction Writing

I recently reconnected with an old friend. We’d been in touch via social media but we hadn’t had a chance to actually sit down in the same room and catch up for many years. As we were talking about our careers, she asked me whether I like writing about construction. I actually am asked this question quite often, and I always admit construction wasn’t what I had imagined myself writing about when I dreamt about a career in writing. However, I am always quick to say how much I love it. There are a couple reasons why:

First, I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world and hoped my career would allow me to give back to others. Construction writing does that. With each issue of the magazine and e-newsletter and post on the website, I am able to share innovative ideas that make buildings more energy efficient, help contractors find new ways of doing things and promote products that make everyone’s lives easier. I especially love when I hear someone completed one of his or her projects differently because of something that appeared in the magazine. For example, when Iain Fergusson, owner of Highland Roofing Co., Wilmington, N.C., first reached out to tell me about the Bermuda-style roofing project that became this issue’s cover story he shared the following with me:

    “You ran a series of articles a year or two back covering all aspects and types of metal roofing, including a section about traditional lead roofing. I had a custom builder at the time who wanted to use ‘something different’ than copper for 3,000 square feet of porches and dormers on a custom home. Having just read the article, I suggested lead and he liked it. We have just finished installing the 24-inch-wide flat lock and soldered lead panels. It’s very cool and different!”

Those of us who work on Roofing may not always know when an idea that appeared in the magazine is constructed somewhere in the country but I can tell you when we do hear about it, it makes for a very gratifying day!

Secondly, I have made a number of very special friends in this industry. I’ll admit I was a little intimidated when I attended my first construction trade shows and industry meetings many years ago. I assumed I was entering a “good ol’ boys club” where women weren’t readily welcomed. I was completely wrong. Everything I have learned about installing a roof, I’ve learned from industry professionals. I feel extremely lucky to work in an industry in which I look forward to trade shows and meetings because I know I’m going to see friends from all over the country. In fact, I’m excited about METALCON, which takes place Oct. 1-3 in Denver. Please say hello if you see my colleagues and me on the show floor.

Construction writing has been an extremely fulfilling career path. If given the choice again, I can’t think of anything I’d want to write about more.

Against the Wind

The city of Moore, Okla., recognizes it cannot keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. You may recall on May 20, 2013, an EF5 tornado did extensive damage to the town. The new residential construction codes are based on research and damage evaluation by Chris Ramseyer and Lisa Holliday, civil engineers who were part of the National Science Foundation Rapid Response team that evaluated residential structural damage after the May 2013 tornado.

“A home is deconstructed by a tornado, starting with the breaching of the garage door,” Ramseyer explains. “The uplift generated by the wind causes the roof to collapse until the pressure pulls the building apart. These new residential building codes could possibly prevent that in the future.”

The new codes require roof sheathing, hurricane clips or framing anchors, continuous plywood bracing and windresistant garage doors. Moore’s new homes are required to withstand winds up to 135 mph rather than the standard 90 mph.

Although the city of Moore deserves to be commended for passing a more stringent building code less than one year after the 2013 tornado, this wasn’t the first damaging tornadic event Moore had experienced. The town also made national headlines in 1999 when it was hit by what was then considered the deadliest tornado since 1971. Moore also was damaged by tornadoes in 1998, 2003 and 2010. In my opinion, it was time for the Moore City Council to do the right thing by its citizens.

As extreme weather events occur more frequently, more emphasis is being placed on commercial roof wind resistance, as well. Robb Davis, P.E., recently attended a continuing-education conference for civil/structural engineers that discussed changes in the 2012 International Building Code and the referenced ASCE 7-10 “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures”. During the seminar, it became clear to Davis that nobody is specifically responsible for the design of wind loading to rooftop equipment as defined in the IBC and Chapter 29 of ASCE 7-10. Therefore, Davis reached out to Roofing because he believes it’s important roofing professionals understand the code requirements for wind loading to rooftop equipment, how the load is determined and applied, and how the load is transferred to the building structure. Davis shares his insight in “Tech Point”.

As Davis points out in his article, by better understanding wind loads on rooftop equipment, roofing professionals will be even better positioned to lead the design and construction industry in creating more resilient roofs and, ultimately, strengthening the structure and protecting the people underneath.

Clues from the Universe Put Us on a Path to Career and Personal Happiness

I recently reconnected with an old friend, Michael. He and I met probably a decade ago while I was the editor of a green design and construction magazine and he held a leadership position in a sustainably focused association. I always appreciated Michael’s wisdom regarding the industry and life in general. Although he’s only a few years older than I, Michael is what I believe to be the definition of an “old soul”.

Michael and I changed jobs and at least two years had passed since we last chatted. It was social media—a LinkedIn anniversary notice about Michael’s consulting business—that reconnected us. I sent him a congratulatory message through LinkedIn, and he immediately called me. During the conversation, I learned Michael recently had been very ill. He spent weeks in the hospital, undergoing a battery of tests and worrying about his wife and children and their future. He believed his illness was a signal from the universe that he needed to make some changes in his life. When he recovered, Michael quit his job; moved his family across the country closer to their roots on the East Coast; and started his own environmental consulting firm, which has kept him busy doing what he loves. He is happier—and healthier—than he has ever been.

Michael said as he was lying in his hospital bed, he realized the universe had been sending him clues for a long time that he needed to make changes to his life, but he ignored them. “We can always talk ourselves out of something,” he told me. “There’s never enough time or money, and there are always responsibilities that seem to take precedence.” However, Michael thinks ignoring the universe and trudging forth ultimately resulted in his health issue, which was the wake-up call he needed to finally transform his life.

I’ve thought a lot about this conversation and was reminded of it again when I interviewed Bruce Diederich, president of Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., for “Spotlight”. Waukegan Roofing is celebrating 100 years in business this year, an amazing feat for any company. Diederich, who has owned Waukegan Roofing for the past 16 years, started digging into the company’s past in anticipation of this year’s celebration. He discovered some astonishing coincidences in his own life and Waukegan Roofing’s history that—as Michael would say—suggest Diederich was destined to lead the company all along. I know it may sound unbelievable, but I think once you read “Spotlight” you too will find the coincidences and clues are difficult to ignore. These days, I’m making a conscious effort to recognize when the universe is telling me something. In fact, I now believe there’s a reason I spoke to these gentlemen recently.

I know it won’t always be easy to ascertain what the clues are telling me or how exactly to follow them but, based on Michael and Bruce Diederich’s experiences, I’m open to the possibilities.

The Great Melt of 2014 Means Buildings Are in Need of Repairs

Thank goodness it’s spring! The entire country battled a tough winter, so I’m sure you’re all breathing the same sigh of relief I am. Although the end of winter was a great thing, here in Chicago it caused what I like to call the “Great Melt of 2014”. For me, the snow, ice and extreme cold were bad; the resulting Great Melt of 2014 was much worse.

A little background: In 2007, I bought a second-floor two-bedroom condo on Chicago’s northwest side. The three-floor, 15-unit building had recently been gut rehabbed and I was among the first owners. For seven years, my neighbors and I have dealt with numerous construction defects; the board even passed a special assessment soon after we all moved in to deal with masonry issues. I still believe the developer is laughing on a beach somewhere with my money and I’d love to sue my inspector, but those are stories for another day.

When the Great Melt of 2014 began, as you can imagine, new problem areas arose. I couldn’t catch all the water pouring into my unit—through the back door’s frame, around a ceiling HVAC vent, through the HVAC ductwork in the utility closet and even through the microwave. Yes, you read that right. Through the microwave. The management company brought a contractor out who claimed water pouring through a duct is just condensation. Really? Even if it was condensation—which I vehemently disagreed with—who considers it OK for water to pour into their home?

After some aggressive emails and phone calls from yours truly, the management company sent another contractor to the building who diagnosed problems with the masonry (again), inappropriate mortar used on the steps leading out of our back doors onto the typical Chicago-style wraparound porch, poor incorporation of our outside-facing doors with the masonry, bad caulking around my exhaust vent (the kitchen exhaust fan is integrated with my microwave above the stove), gutter and downspout problems, and ice dams.

The point of writing about my experience—other than the therapeutic process of writing about nerve-racking problems—is condo boards and management companies could use construction partners who provide regular maintenance, make them aware of issues spotted during maintenance visits and ultimately minimize unit owners’ stress. In “Business Sense”, page 23, Scott Otey, vice president and managing partner of West Coast Florida Enterprises Inc., Naples and Fort Myers, writes about how his business has partnered with condo associations and management companies and has even joined the Falls Church, Va.-based Community Associations Institute.

The partnership not only helps the condo residents, but also keeps Otey’s team busy. I’m sure you’ll glean some ideas from him about how to network with these groups and make yourself invaluable to them.

Despite the ongoing issues with my building, I have many friends who live in multifamily buildings in Chicago that also experienced leaks during the Great Melt of 2014. Feel free to use our experiences to prove how indispensable partnerships between contractors and condo associations/management companies can be.

If you enjoy reading the magazine, please consider submitting something for the next one. Let’s talk about ideas! Call me at (630) 308-4602; email me; post a comment below; and/or Facebook and tweet us. This magazine—and your peers—are counting on you!

New Year, New Magazine

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first edition of Roofing!

Although we may be new to many of you, Roofing actually is the next iteration of a successful regional roofing magazine called Carolinas Roofing. (Check out our back issues in digital format.) Since the first issue of Carolinas Roofing mailed in March 2010, we were approached several times to bring the magazine to a broader audience. Last summer, we decided to evolve Carolinas Roofing into a national publication.

The magazine’s goal, which is highlighted in our tagline, “The Industry’s Voice”, is to provide insight from your peers (roofing contractors, architects, roof consultants, building owners and facility managers). We hope as you receive and read each issue of the magazine you feel like you’re having a conversation with other members of the roofing community. We hope their voices inspire, challenge and sometimes even irritate you. With each article and shared experience, Roofing hopes to drive the roofing industry forward.

Roofing will mail bimonthly, and we plan to keep in touch with you regularly. Our dynamic website is updated daily with news and product information. We’ll be posting online exclusives, as well. If you want to be made aware of these updates, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. And of course you can follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

We know everyone is busy these days, so we’ll strive to bring you the best content in the most efficient manner. You’ll notice the magazine contains many short columns that impart knowledge quickly. For example, did you know someone can be suffering from hypothermia but be fully alert? I didn’t until I read Michael Rich’s “Safety” column. James R. Kirby shares efforts by ASTM D08.24 to develop standards specifically related to sustainable roofing in “Environmental Trends”. Craig Dallas helps you brush up on leadership skills with four great tips in “Business Sense”. And an anonymous author reminds us why safety on the job site is of utmost importance in “It Happened to Me”.

Even our feature articles are short and sweet. Get to the gist of some amazing hospitality and entertainment projects, including the 8-acre Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn. Baker Roofing’s crew was challenged by rolling hills, 30-foot parapet walls and a vegetated section. “Tech Point” explains why penetrations in the roof in the form of skylights and rooftop monitors can be beneficial to buildings. And get Solar Installer Matthew Bennett’s perspective about why roofing contractors and solar installers make good partners in “Cool Roofing”.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue but we couldn’t have put it together without help from roofing industry professionals. Therefore, I urge you to contact me with your stories. I know you’ve read that before and probably thought the editor doesn’t really mean it. I do! To live up to our tagline of “The Industry’s Voice”, Roofing depends on your wisdom and in-the-field experiences. If you enjoyed reading this issue, please submit something for the next one. Call me at (630) 308-4602; email me; post a comment on our website; and/or Facebook and tweet us your ideas. This magazine—and your peers—are counting on you!