Editor's Note: Developing an Environmental Strategy
No matter what size or what kind of roofing work you do, it may be time for you to consider how "green building" initiatives might impact your contracting business. Working on an environmental policy now may put you in the position of a leader, while waiting for the rest of your competition to get ahead may land you in a defensive position.
My rationale for recommending an environmental strategy (business enhancement) may be more practical than honorable (or emotional as some environmentalists are inclined to be); but the end result should be the same. If everyone were to build with the idea of being environmentally responsible and conservative with nature and natural materials, the world should be a better place, no matter the motive.
Roofing plays a major role in the growing field of environmentally appropriate design and construction. The impact of the roofing system on the overall project is substantial since the roofing system contributes so much to the thermal integrity of the building envelope. Add to this the concerns for downstream use or reuse of the considerable materials it takes to construct the roofing system.
A recent survey of design and construction professionals by our sister publication, Environmental Design + Construction (www.edcmag.com), revealed that the vast majority (78 percent) had seen an increase in requests for environmental or “green” building design and construction in the last two years. Another interesting statistic showed that over half of the respondents specified, recommended or purchased environmentally considerate "green" roofing products.
Many roofing products manufacturers are already cashing in on this trend by touting environmentally friendly aspects of their systems, such as sustainability, recyclability, low-VOC coatings and adhesives, high reflectivity, and sustainable r-value performance in roof insulation products. Other than simply putting these products in front of your clients, roofing contractors can also mount campaigns that put their firms forward as “environmentally conscious.”
The best way to start this would be the same as with any initiative that would impact your customers: Talk to them. A great technique to stay close to your clients is to conduct the occasional market research call. Set up a meeting to find out how they feel about environmental issues. People who buy roofing jobs from you are concerned about their environment. They want to know how you intend to put on their roof, how it will perform in terms of thermal and moisture protections, and how you will protect their collateral assets while you are working on their property.
But how would they answer questions such as, “Does it matter that we dispose of the refuse left over from your job in a legal landfill?” Or, “Would you prefer that we recycle refuse to every extent possible?” How about telling them: “We offer solutions that cost a little more, but result in better thermal protection, or will last much longer.” Ask them: “Would you be interested in hearing about these solutions when your building is in need of roofing work? Should the materials we use to replace your roofing system be recyclable?”
The answers may or may not surprise you. Either way, if you ask them, your clients will tell you how they feel about environmental issues. And if there is a growing inclination toward environmental sensitivity, you should go to work to set yourself up as the “environmentally correct roofing contractor of choice.”
There are plenty of resources to learn more about “green” roofing products, including the material manufacturers, particularly those who have products qualified to wear the “Ener gy Star” rating (see www.energystar.gov). The US Green Building Council is one of the groups leading the charge toward sustainable, high-performing buildings. Its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Buildings Rating system is a voluntary national standard for developing such buildings. USGBC describes the LEED system as a consensus-based national standard that is under continuous development and improvement.
It will be smart to get in front of your clients with your environmental policies and products program instead of waiting for them to ask you about them. It would be even be worse to do nothing and allow your competitors to put you in the position of defending your lack of one.