Weather, Congress Among Variables Likely to Affect Industry in the Year Ahead

As we move forward in 2019, the roofing industry can expect to be influenced by two sometimes out-of-control, difficult to predict forces: the weather and the United States Congress. Add to the equation a shifting economic outlook, as well as uncertain immigration policies, and you have a potentially toxic mix that makes any projection difficult. But there are some constants in the current environment that can help guide strategies for the roofing industry, and here’s our take on what to expect as this decade winds to a close.

There may be some limited success in tackling immigration reform, but don’t expect enough change to mitigate the labor shortage experienced by roofing companies. The Trump-promised wall has yet to be built, but actions to slow illegal immigration have been somewhat successful. The roofing industry has pressed for immigration reform; experts estimate that worker shortages account for up to 20 percent in lost roofing business each year, and sensible immigration reform could help end those shortages. The Center for Construction Research and Training, or CPWR, points out that in some construction occupations, including roofing, more than half of the workers are of Hispanic origin. So, the roofing industry certainly has a compelling case to be made for reform. 

Balancing the demand for secure borders against the need for additional workers has so far failed to produce meaningful legislation. Given the intense disagreement on how to move forward, 2019 will most likely be another year of bipartisan gridlock on this issue. The encouraging news comes from two areas of activity: innovations that promote ease of roofing installation, and industry efforts to certify roofing workers and increase the prestige of working in the trades. These efforts may help to recoup some of the business that has been lost because of the labor shortage, but only rational immigration reform will help to meet the unmet demand.

The weather may, in fact, be more predictable than the lawmakers who just assembled on Capitol Hill. Late in November of this past year, the Federal Government released the National Climate Assessment, the fourth comprehensive look at climate-change impacts on the United States since 2000. The Congressionally mandated thousand-page report delivered a sobering warning about the impact of climate change on the United States and its economy, detailing hownatural disasters are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and predicting that they may become much worse. 

While some may challenge the reality of long-term climate change, statistics tell us that short-term increases in cataclysmic weather events are an indisputable fact of life. And a temporary lull in these disasters cannot be taken as a sign of a change in weather patterns. For instance, as of early August this past year, the Tropical Meteorology Team at Colorado State University downgraded the forecast for the rest of the year, until November 1, from      “slightly above average Atlantic hurricane season” to less than anticipated. They were correct, for a while. No hurricanes formed in the Atlantic during the rest of August, making it the first season in five years without a storm of hurricane magnitude. But just as forecasters were declaring victory over unpredictable nature, Hurricane Florence delivered a pounding to the Carolinas in early September, and in October Hurricane Michael devastated much of the Florida panhandle. The erratic weather patterns did not stop at the end of the hurricane season: an early December storm dumped as much as a foot of snow on parts of the Carolinas that rarely see that much during an entire winter. So much for the predicted respite from extreme weather conditions.

The difficult-to-predict weather is creating one certainty for the roofing industry: customers will increasingly be looking for durable materials and systems that can withstand weather extremes. Additionally, the focus is turning to anticipating destructive weather and mitigating its potential impact by creating resilient structures. ERA has just produced its first annual report, “Building Resilience: The Roofing Perspective.” We anticipate updating this product each year to help provide the roofing industry with the latest approaches to creating resilient roofing systems. 

Unpredictable labor markets and unpredictable weather patterns are defining the “new normal” for our industry and will no doubt be part of our reality in 2019. But based on past performance, there’s at least one certainty we can count on: the roofing industry will come out ahead in the face of these challenges, providing our customers with innovative products and superior service and providing our employees with a work environment that ensures a secure future.

About the Author: Jared Blum is the executive director of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), www.epdmroofs.org, and serves as chair of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 

Congress Votes to Extend Energy-efficiency Tax Deduction for Two Years

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued the following statement on Congress’s two-year extension of the 179D tax deduction, which provides up to $1.80 per square foot for the design of energy-efficient buildings. Please attribute the statement to AIA President Russell Davidson, FAIA:

“As architects, we’d have preferred a longer-term extension. With this deduction expiring each year, it has been difficult for us to plan our finances, which in turn has limited the effectiveness of this key incentive for designing energy-efficient buildings.

“Nonetheless, we are pleased members of Congress have voted to extend this tax provision through 2016 as part of the comprehensive budget bill. In addition to providing a benefit to commercial building owners, the 179D deduction encourages federal, state and local government building owners, like public schools or state universities, to build energy-efficient buildings by offering a tax deduction to the designer of these buildings.

“By allowing government entities to transfer the tax deduction to designers of buildings that surpass industry efficiency standards, our profession is able to put in the extra time and effort needed to design the best buildings for our neighborhoods and communities, while government entities can better manage their bottom lines.

“Our 87,000 members strongly support this deduction as one way to encourage the design and construction of buildings that are energy efficient—and save taxpayer dollars in the process. We’d like to see it made permanent.”

RCMA and Members of Congress Address Issues of the Roof Coatings Industry

Members of the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA) met with its members of Congress on Capitol Hill as part of the Association’s Summer Meeting and Legislative Day.

More than 30 RCMA members participated in the Legislative Day, which entailed paying visits to members of Congress and key congressional staffers from their states and districts. RCMA scheduled meetings with more than 80 congressional offices, offering opportunities for manufacturers and suppliers to the industry to communicate to lawmakers the issues of importance to the roof coatings industry.

“The meetings on Capitol Hill gave RCMA members the chance to highlight the issues that are important to our industry,” says John Ferraro, RCMA’s executive director. “It was clear many of the senators, representatives and legislative staffers we met with were receptive to these industry issues, and therefore RCMA will be continuing the dialogue with these congressional offices.”

In particular, RMCA members discussed three main issues of interest to the roof coatings industry: opposing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from further lowering the National Ozone Standard, supporting the Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act, and advocating for a federal tax credit for reflective roof coatings.

The RCMA opposes the EPA’s proposal to lower the National Ozone Standard. Reductions to the standard have resulted in implementation of hundreds of regulations that created a tremendous regulatory burden. Consequently, the rule forced industries to spend billions of dollars to reformulate their products to achieve new volatile organic compound (VOC) content limits. Over the last few decades, 90 percent of VOC content has been eliminated from roof coatings, and further reduction of VOCs can have a wide variety of unintended consequences.

The RCMA supports the CASE Act (Senate Bill 751 and House Bill 1388). The bill would prohibit the U.S. EPA from lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) until at least 85 percent of counties that are in nonattainment areas have attained the standard.

To incentivize building owners to make the investment to save energy and reduce roofing waste, the RCMA supports the creation of a federal tax credit for reflective roof coatings applied to low slope roof surfaces on multi-family residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

NRCA Releases Statement on 2014 Midterm Elections, Calls for Breakthrough of Partisan Gridlock

The following statement is attributable to William Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association

“We are pleased a vast majority of candidates supported by the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and ROOFPAC, our political action committee, prevailed in the 2014 midterm congressional elections on Tuesday. In particular, we are pleased to see a pro-business majority has been elected in the U.S. Senate. We look forward to working with returning and new lawmakers in both parties to break through partisan gridlock and advance the policy agenda NRCA has been supporting for years. This includes pro-growth tax policies, relief from burdensome regulations, legislation that addresses the workforce development needs of our industry, and replacement of the so-called Affordable Care Act with market-based reforms to our health care system.

ROOFPAC, the voice of the roofing industry in Washington, D.C., was very active in the 2014 congressional elections, investing more than $300,000 in support of nearly 75 pro-business candidates during the 2013-14 election cycle. NRCA and ROOFPAC will continue to support members of Congress and other candidates who support government policies that enable roofing industry entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses.”