The roofing industry is (at last!) being recognized as a major part of the solution to the energy crisis. Roofing systems that have been touted for their energy-saving characteristics have been around for years. Now we see that the same “Cool Roof” systems, defined primarily as low-slope commercial roofing with a highly-reflective surfacing (such as is found with bright white single-ply membranes), are gaining the attention of building owners seeking to reduce energy costs. Metal and other roof coverings finished with reflective coatings also gain the “Cool Roof” notoriety.
A group of Atlanta roofing contractors were brought together recently by their distributor, Southern Roof Center, to get some hands-on product training, but also to learn some tips on selling “Cool Roofing” in today’s market.
The contractors first heard from Lucie Griggs, regional director for Cool Communities in Atlanta (www.coolcommunities.org). Cool Communities is a non-profit advocacy program aimed at improving air and water quality, and conserving energy by promoting the use of lighter, reflective roofing and paving materials in combination with strategically planted shade trees as a desirable design system. Cool Communities is the descendant of one of seven pilot programs originally funded by the Department of Energy in 1992. Cool Communities actually promotes cool roofing to government agencies and building owners. The organization is privately funded and is currently supported by the state concrete contractor’s association, and is actively seeking partnerships. This would seem a great opportunity for a roofing contractor or roofing manufacturer’s association to consider.
Griggs explained how the “urban heat island” effect in Atlanta affects not only the quality of air, but of water as well. She showed maps taken by NASA that demonstrate how the heat island has grown as Atlanta has grown. The NASA maps measure both the temperature and the albedo. The ability of a surface to reflect incoming solar radiation is known as albedo. Albedo is measured on a scale of 0 to 1.0. A surface with a relatively high albedo of 0.75 (usually light colored) reflects most of the incoming solar energy, while one with a low albedo (usually dark colored) will absorb most of it. All of this translates to something building owners understand: Roofing that absorbs heat results in a building that costs more to cool than buildings with highly reflective roofing.
Next up, Jim Owen, Southern Roof Center general manager, introduced Bob Brenk, vice president of sales and marketing for Aldo Inc., Kannapolis, N.C. (www.aldoproducts.com). Brenk shared the history of Aldo Products, founded in 1980 as a manufacturer of latex- and solvent-based roof coatings, adhesives and sealants. He next covered the basics of the Aldo product line, then discussed typical substrates and applications. A product demonstration followed.
The product demonstration was conducted by a trained and approved Aldo applicator, Brian Nuhfer of Foam Applicators, Denver, N.C. Nuhfer took the time to explain features of the spray equipment he used in the demo, which was a small version of the equipment he would typically use on a large commercial application. All safety features of the equipment along with personal protection was discussed, and finally the demonstration ensued, which featured several of the various Aldo coatings products on a variety of substrates. Surface preparation and attention to detail were touted as essential to providing a quality finish.
The key point Brian Nuhfer brought to the seminar attendees is the importance of surface preparation and attention to details. Nuhfer stresses the need to apply appropriate mil thickness as specified. Even a little more than that is far better than doing a job that may not perform as advertised. Another secret is to do extra-good work on the edges of the roof and any areas that are clearly visible from the curb. Many building owners judge entire jobs by these small details.
Contractors attending the seminar asked a number of pointed questions. Of Griggs, they asked how to present actual facts and figures to building owners that would show them how much would be saved by applying a “Cool Roof.” While there are many ways to determine this, she recommends a software package as produced by local roof consultant, Patrick Downey of Merik Inc., Roswell, Ga.
A key question asked of Brenk was, “What makes your product line different (from others on the market)?” Brenk acknowledged that it is possible with roof coatings to produce a product that is priced lower than his. The key difference he cited, among others, was the relationship between the manufacturer and the contractor. Brenk contends that the kind of product training and technical support Aldo brings to its trained applicators separates the company from most of its competitors.
As a practical matter, Nuhfer was asked how he handles over-spray and the problems of coating going where you don’t want it to go (like in the parking lot!). Nuhfer relies on experience to know how to stage a job, and to know, based on wind or weather conditions, when not to spray. Taking the time to properly stage the job, and tell the owner exactly what to expect will pay big dividends by avoiding over-spray incidents.
Roofing contractors take note: If you have the opportunity such as this to hear about cool roofing products from industry professionals, take advantage of it. Today’s building owners are looking for a wide variety of solutions from roofing contractors, and it is not only about keeping the water out. It is impressive how much can be learned from a three-hour seminar. And the barbecue wasn’t bad either.