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. 

The Building Industry Is Working to Reduce Long-term Costs and Limit Disruptions of Extreme Events

“Resilience is the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and recover rapidly from deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring threats or incidents.” —White House Presidential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm. Insured losses topped $41 billion, the costliest U.S. catastrophe in the history of the industry. Studies following the storm indicated that lax enforcement of building codes had significantly increased the number and severity of claims and structural losses. Researchers at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, found that if stronger building codes had been in place, wind damages from Hurricane Katrina would have been reduced by a staggering 80 percent. With one storm, resiliency went from a post-event adjective to a global movement calling for better preparation, response and recovery—not if but when the next major disaster strikes.

CHALLENGES OF AN AGING INFRASTRUCTURE

We can all agree that the U.S. building stock and infrastructure are old and woefully unprepared for climatic events, which will occur in the years ahead. Moving forward, engineering has to be more focused on risk management; historical weather patterns don’t matter because the past is no longer a reliable map for future building-code requirements. On community-wide and building-specific levels, conscientious groups are creating plans to deal with robust weather, climatic events and national security threats through changing codes and standards to improve their capacity to withstand, absorb and recover from stress.

Improvements to infrastructure resiliency, whether they are called risk-management strategies, extreme-weather preparedness or climate-change adaptation, can help a region bounce back quickly from the next storm at considerably less cost. Two years ago, leading groups in America’s design and construction industry issued an Industry Statement on Resiliency, which stated: “We recognize that natural and manmade hazards pose an increasing threat to the safety of the public and the vitality of our nation. Aging infrastructure and disasters result in unacceptable losses of life and property, straining our nation’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner. We further recognize that contemporary planning, building materials, and design, construction and operational techniques can make our communities more resilient to these threats.”

With these principles in mind, there has been a coordinated effort to revolutionize building standards to respond to higher demands.

STRENGTHENING BUILDING STANDARDS

Resiliency begins with ensuring that buildings are constructed and renovated in accordance with modern building codes and designed to evolve with change in the built and natural environment. In addition to protecting the lives of occupants, buildings that are designed for resilience can rapidly re-cover from a disruptive event, allowing continuity of operations that can liter- ally save lives.

Disasters are expensive to respond to, but much of the destruction can be prevented with cost-effective mitigation features and advanced planning. A 2005 study funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Emergency Management Agency and conducted by the Washington-based National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multi-hazard Mitigation Council found that every dollar spent on mitigation would save $4 in losses. Improved building-code requirements during the past decade have been the single, unifying force in driving high-performing and more resilient building envelopes, especially in states that have taken the initiative to extend these requirements to existing buildings.

MITIGATION IS COST-EFFECTIVE IN THE LONG TERM

In California, there is an oft-repeated saying that “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.” Second only to Alaska in frequency of earthquakes and with a much higher population density, California has made seismic-code upgrades a priority, even in the face of financial constraints. Last year, Los Angeles passed an ambitious bill requiring 15,000 buildings and homes to be retrofitted to meet modern codes. Without the changes, a major earth- quake could seriously damage the city’s economic viability: Large swaths of housing could be destroyed, commercial areas could become uninhabitable and the city would face an uphill battle to regain its economic footing. As L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo said, “Why are we waiting for an earthquake and then committed to spending billions of dollars, when we can spend millions of dollars before the earthquake, avoid the trauma, avoid the loss of afford- able housing and do so in a preemptive manner that costs us less?”

This preemptive strategy has been adopted in response to other threats, as well. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., emerged as a national example of electrical resilience with its microgrid, an efficient on-campus power-generation and -delivery network that draws electricity from a gas-turbine generator and solar-panel field. When the New Jersey utility grid went down in the storm, police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency-services workers used Princeton University as a staging ground and charging station for phones and equipment. It also served as a haven for local residents whose homes lost power. Even absent a major storm, the system provides cost efficiency, reduced environmental impact and the opportunity to use renewable energy, making the initial investment a smart one.

ROOFING STANDARDS ADAPT TO MEET DEMANDS

Many of today’s sustainable roofing standards were developed in response to severe weather events. Wind-design standards across the U.S. were bolstered after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with minimum design wind speeds rising by 30-plus mph. Coastal jurisdictions, such as Miami-Dade County, went even further with the development of wind- borne debris standards and enhanced uplift design testing. Severe heat waves and brown-outs, such as the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, prompted that city to require cool roofs on the city’s buildings.

Hurricane Sandy fostered innovation by demonstrating that when buildings are isolated from the supply of fresh water and electricity, roofs could serve an important role in keeping building occupants safe and secure. Locating power and water sources on rooftops would have maintained emergency lighting and water supplies when storm surges threatened systems located in basement utility areas. Thermally efficient roofs could have helped keep buildings more habitable until heating and cooling plants were put back into service.

In response to these changes, there are many opportunities for industry growth and adaptation. Roof designs must continue to evolve to accommodate the increasing presence of solar panels, small wind turbines and electrical equipment moved from basements, in addition to increasing snow and water loads on top of buildings. Potential energy disruptions demand greater insulation and window performance to create a habitable interior environment in the critical early hours and days after a climate event. Roofing product manufacturers will work more closely with the contractor community to ensure that roofing installation practices maximize product performance and that products are tested appropriately for in-situ behavior.

AVERTING FUTURE DISASTERS THROUGH PROACTIVE DESIGN

Rather than trying to do the minimum possible to meet requirements, building practitioners are “thinking beyond the code” to design structures built not just to withstand but to thrive in extreme circumstances. The Tampa, Fla.-based Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has developed an enhanced set of engineering and building standards called FORTIFIED Home, which are designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to reduce damage from specific natural hazards. Research on roofing materials is ongoing to find systems rigorous enough to withstand hail, UV radiation, temperature fluctuations and wind uplift. New techniques to improve roof installation quality and performance will require more training for roofing contractors and more engagement by manufacturers on the installation of their products to optimize value.

Confronted with growing exposure to disruptive events, the building industry is working cooperatively to meet the challenge of designing solutions that provide superior performance in changing circumstances to reduce long-term costs and limit disruptions. Achieving such integration requires active collaboration among building team members to improve the design process and incorporate new materials and technologies, resulting in high-performing structures that are durable, cost- and resource-efficient, and resilient so when the next disruptive event hits, our buildings and occupants will be ready.

Pinpoint Work with Weather-forecasting Technology

MetLoop helps contractors monitor existing and previous customers for severe weather so customers can be contacted immediately if they are impacted by a storm.

MetLoop helps contractors monitor existing and previous customers for severe weather so customers can be contacted immediately if they are impacted by a storm.

MetLoop helps contractors monitor existing and previous customers for severe weather so customers can be contacted immediately if they are impacted by a storm. MetLoop receives real-time, raw data from every NEXRAD station across the country, as well as thousands of smaller weather-monitoring devices. Military-trained, operational forecasters interpret the data and produce alerts and forecasts, which are 95 percent accurate, down to the individual building level, 24/7, so contractors can be on scene before their competitors.

Copper-clad Stainless Steel Replaces a Tornado-damaged Roof at the St. Louis Airport

Hundreds of people milled about the terminals at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on the evening of April 22, 2011. Three airplanes with passengers on board sat on the tarmac. It was business as usual at one of the largest municipal airports in the country. But meteorological conditions were anything but usual. A powerful supercell over St. Louis spawned an EF4 tornado (view the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which rates the strength of tornados by the damage caused, on page 2) packing 150-mph winds. The twister barreled directly into the airport 11 miles northwest of downtown, blowing out half the floor-to-ceiling windows in the main terminal and inflicting approximately $30 million in damages. In addition, the tornado seriously damaged part of the copper roof over Terminal 1.

CopperPlus was installed in stages over the domes at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Like solid copper, copper-clad stainless steel acquires a patina over time.

CopperPlus was installed in stages over the domes at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Like solid copper, copper-clad stainless steel acquires a patina over time.

The 55-year-old roof was iconic and beautiful. Its four copper domes had been the crowning glory of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, welcoming up to 13 million international passengers each year. But the roof had been showing its age for some time, leaking often and requiring frequent maintenance. Following the tornado strike, airport officials made the difficult decision to permanently retire the roof. “The tornado damaged less than 10 percent of the total roof, but that section needed to be totally replaced,” explains Jerry Beckmann, deputy airport director of Planning & Development. “That damage, plus the fact that the roof was almost 60-years old, influenced our decision.”

Airport officials were challenged to install more than 100,000 square feet of material over four domed vaults as quickly as possible with minimal disruption to the public. Beckmann, who is an engineer, wanted a roof that was watertight and capable of withstanding high winds while airport administrators wanted to maintain the roof’s mid-century architectural integrity. All parties wanted the project completed as economically as possible with results that were aesthetically pleasing, historically appropriate and, most important, built for harsh weather events.

COPPER AND STEEL

They found the solution in copper-clad stainless steel, a material that has been used in roofing applications for roughly 50 years. The selected ASTM B506-09 architectural metal features two outer layers of 100 percent copper strip roll bonded at very high pressures to a core of Type 430 stainless steel, the same metallurgical bonding process used to make U.S. quarters and dimes. The material delivered the natural beauty and patination properties of solid copper with the strength and durability of stainless steel—exactly the attributes desired by officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

“Copper-clad stainless steel is a great-looking material that can be fabricated for any roofing style. You can’t tell the difference between it and straight-up copper,” says Shane Williams, vice president of Civil Construction for Kozeny-Wagner Inc., the Arnold, Mo.-based general contractor awarded the public bid by the city of St. Louis. “It’s stronger, has a better shelf life and costs less than pure copper. This allowed us to bid competitively for the job and even return a credit to the city of St. Louis.”

Workers install CopperPlus batten-seam panels over a dome at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Stepby- step, the installation of CopperPlus is virtually identical to that of copper.

Workers install CopperPlus batten-seam panels over a dome at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Step-by-step, the installation of CopperPlus is virtually identical to that of copper.

The owners of Missouri Builders Service Inc., the Jefferson, Mo.-based roofing subcontractor, were attracted to the material’s lighter weight and easy solderability. “We were going to have to maneuver a lot of material on the job site and perform a very large amount of soldering to cover four domes,” notes John Kinkade, Missouri Builders Service’s vice president. “We liked that copper-clad stainless steel had a lower thermal conductivity for easier soldering. That was important to us, given the scope of the project.”

The $6.7 million project to replace the airport roof was announced at a press conference in March 2014 by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge. “The new skin will shine of raw copper like it did in the mid ’50s when the terminal was built,” Slay stated in a press release issued by the airport. “The roof will slowly transform in color again in time as this airport serves new generations in this region.”

WEATHERING NATURE’S WORST

Copper-clad stainless steel has become more popular in tornado and hurricane-prone regions of the U.S. in recent years, thanks to the strengthening of building codes for wind-lift and hail-resistance standards. Copper-clad stainless steel conforms to Miami-Dade BCCO requirements and exceeds UL2218 Class 4 hail-test requirements; wind-uplift tests have shown its strength to be equivalent to steel at the same gauge. It offers a strength advantage compared to solid copper, providing higher tensile strength and yield strength at a thinner gauge than monolithic copper.

Numerous churches, college buildings, museums, private residences and other buildings nationwide now feature copper-clad stainless steel in their custom roofs, dormers, cupolas, flashings and downspouts. Notable installations include the following:

  • Several 67-foot panels of copper-clad stainless steel were rolled onsite, then lifted and put in place by a crane to replace the ice-damaged roof at the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Traverse City, Mich.
  • In 2012, more than 30,000 square feet of copper-clad stainless steel were installed in the fascia and coping of the Trinka Davis Veterans Village, Carrollton, Ga., the nation’s first privately funded U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA facility.
  • In 2014, the material was selected for a 2,100-square-foot perforated sunscreen installation in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, one of the most significant urban development projects in the U.S.

PHOTOS: MISSOURI BUILDERS SERVICE INC. AND LAMBERT-ST. LOUIS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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The National Storm Damage Center Develops Website for Impending Weather

The National Storm Damage Center has developed a portal that offers forensic, geo-targeted technology.

The National Storm Damage Center has developed a portal that offers forensic, geo-targeted technology.

The National Storm Damage Center has developed a portal that offers forensic, geo-targeted technology that can detect every critical characteristic of an impending tornado, hurricane and storm, including the precise addresses that will be most affected. The portal pairs homeowners with prescreened certified roofing and building contractors, along with the nation’s leading public insurance adjusters who work on behalf of the policy owner, not an insurance carrier. Learn more about becoming a certified contractor at StormDamageCenter.org.

RICOWI Seeks Speakers for 2016 Seminars

The Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues (RICOWI), Clinton, Ohio, is committed to providing in-depth and comprehensive education to identify and address important technical issues related to the cause of wind and weather damage to roofing systems. RICOWI’s research and education initiatives focus on providing a broad knowledge base regarding wind, hail, energy efficiency and durability effects; establishing new/improved consensus standard practices for weather design and testing; and providing an educational platform of roof design and weather concepts within the building community.

RICOWI is currently seeking speakers for its 2016 Seminars. This is your opportunity to showcase your research, lessons learned in the field and educate others about the effects of weather on roofing systems.

The seminars’ audience consists of architects/engineers, consultants, building owners/facility managers, manufacturers, distributors, foremen, superintendents, project managers, roofing contractors, code bodies and the insurance industry. Eight 45-minute education sessions will be chosen related to the following potential presentation topics:

  • Weather Damage Case Studies
  • Lessons Learned in the Field after Weather Events
  • Innovative Roofing Solutions to Wind and Hail Issues
  • Sustainable Roofing
  • Green Building Codes for Roofing
  • Design Details
  • Mitigation and Loss Prevention
  • Edge Metal
  • Maintenance and Repair Solutions
  • Green Detail
  • Secondary Details
  • Weather Modeling and Predictability
  • Fasteners and Fastening Systems
  • Above-sheathing Ventilation
  • Lightweight Concrete
  • Research and Development

RICOWI’s audience prefers presentations that are:

  • Timely and will have an impact on the industry.
  • Innovative solutions to problems.
  • Forward looking to potential industry issues and threats.
  • How-to classes that stimulate and provide attendees with a new skill, technology or process.
  • Stimulating and cutting-edge for the construction and roofing industry.
  • Proposals for a better understanding of processes and techniques.
  • Solid research and data from case studies.
  • Upcoming research.

Presenters should have strong speaking experience and in-depth knowledge of subject matter presented. Topics should be related to the audience and not generic in nature and should not be product pitches.

Submission forms with abstracts should be submitted no later than June 15, 2015, to the RICOWI offices. The forms are available online. The RICOWI Conference and Education Committee will review, and authors will be notified regarding the selection of an abstract by Sept. 1, 2015. Once accepted, authors for the Spring 2016 seminar will be required to have bios and finalized abstracts in by Nov. 1, 2015, for the preliminary agenda publication on the RICOWI website and for distribution. All presentations and handouts will be due from presenters no later than Feb. 15, 2016.

If you have questions regarding RICOWI’s Call for Abstracts, contact Joan Cook, RICOWI’s executive director, at (330) 671-4569, or email jcook@ricowi.com.