Commercial building owners and property managers are starting to expect that roofing systems not only provide thermal and moisture protection, but also perform in terms of reflectivity and emissivity. Being "sustainable and recyclable" or "resistant to wind and hail" are also important. This is good news for the roofing industry, in my view, since all of this translates into a higher quality product for our consumers and a higher return for contractors on a job-to-job basis.

Building owners and managers have price and performance expectations, but do understand that the roofs on their buildings are more than just a waterproofing membrane over insulation. They generally understand that the key components of their buildings-including the roofing system-demand routine maintenance to optimize performance and longevity. In fact, nearly 80 percent of building owners and managers responding to a survey by Roofing Contractor and Buildings magazines agree that scheduled maintenance is "not a waste of time."*

In recent years many commercial roofing contractors have established separate management and profit centers to better focus on maintenance. Some are offering scheduled maintenance programs that seek to assist their clients in keeping their roofs going even beyond a normal life expectancy.

Manufacturers of roofing products have likewise stepped up efforts to assure building owners that they will receive everything they pay for by offering improved warranties covering the entire roofing system. The Polyisocyanurate Manufacturers Association labored long and hard to answer building owners' concerns about thermal performance by developing the Long Term Thermal Resistance standard. The Cool Roof Rating Council was created to develop methods for evaluating and labeling the solar reflectance and thermal emittance (radiative properties) of roofing products. The CRRC Product Rating Program continues to grow with 238 products on its January 2005 listing. The National Roofing Contractors Association has stated that one of its goals is to promote roofing systems that are sustainable and reduce energy consumption.

A good way for commercial roofing contractors to add value to their existing list of services may be maintaining roofing systems-not just to keep the moisture out, but also to keep highly reflective membranes performing in the role of energy-savers and pollution-reducers. Reflective-membrane systems not only need to be manufactured and installed in such a way that they will perform as specified, but the finished product must also be kept clean to have a hope of performing on a long-term basis.

So here is your next business opportunity: cleaning low-slope roofs to maintain the value of the highly reflective membrane.

If the building owner thought enough of the idea to spend the money to purchase a "cool roof" system in 2000, will he not still want to take advantage of the energy savings in 2005? Standards for how to clean a membrane and how frequently to do it do not presently exist, at least on a universal basis. How fast a roof gets dirty will always be a function of where a roof is and what goes on in the building beneath. It should not be difficult for a roofing contractor to come up with a cleaning method that the membrane manufacturer can live with and that the building owner can understand.

Why should roofing contractors go into the low-slope roof cleaning business? Number one, because it gives you another point of contact with your client. Why would you want anyone else to do this work? Anyone else performing cleaning work on the roof may do damage. If a roofing contractor performs the work, however, other roof maintenance may be taken care of at the same time. This will leave the roof not only cleaner, but in better overall condition than it was before the work began.

For a minimal investment you may find a nice addition to your enterprise. And if your competitors choose to ignore this opportunity, you may find a new friend in some of their clients.