Industry Outlook 2005: Optimism Makes a Comeback
It's that time of year again. Each January, Roofing Contractor talks to industry leaders to get their thoughts on what lies ahead. We spoke to several contractor and manufacturer organizations to see what was on their agenda, what business was looking like in their arena, and what challenges are facing the industry this year. The general consensus seems to be that while business is improving, material shortages and prices increases-not to mention insurance woes-will keep roofing contractors on their toes in 2005.
FRSA: Weathering the StormSome of the biggest news to hit roofing-literally-happened last fall in the beleaguered state of Florida, which experienced four major hurricanes. In early November, we checked in with Steve Munnell, executive director of the Florida Roofing, Sheetmetal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association, and heard that the situation was, not surprisingly, still crazy.
"There are hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings that need new roofs," he says. On the plus side, this means that the economic outlook for contractors in Florida this year-and for the next couple years-is "Unbelievable." According to Munnell. "Every roofing contractor in this state has a huge backlog." The main problem in Florida is materials. When we spoke to Munnell, he said that the FRSA's most recent survey indicated that shingles were four to five weeks behind.
In the midst of the chaos, FRSA has been fielding questions on code compliance and product approval and is doing more surveys to see where the industry is in terms of materials. Munnell says that the residential side shows the greatest need. "Concrete tile was backed up 12 weeks even before the first hurricane," he explains. "If, as a roofing contractor, you weren't a regular customer of a distributor, you will have a hard time becoming one."
In response to the need from consumers, FRSA has given its phone number to various state agencies, FEMA and the media. "We've been sending out press releases, doing interviews with local papers, TV and radio, and there is information on our Web site," says Munnell. As a result, the association has been fielding questions about materials, how to find a roofing contractor, how much a person should pay for a specific roof, etc.
In addition, "We publish cost ranges for consumers and the insurance industry. We put it up before the first hurricane but took it down after the second because it was out of date," says Munnell. "Now we are working with the Florida Department of Financial Services. They will publish information for all kinds of roofs-shingles, tiles, built-up, etc. This information is desperately needed. There are a lot of problems with insurance adjusters from out of state not really knowing the costs to rebuild under Florida codes."
FRSA is also assisting out-of-state contractors. "We have a toll free number for them," Munnell explains. Out-of-state companies can't legally subcontract with a Florida roofing contactor. A roofer has to be an employee of a Florida company or an out-of-state company has to get a Florida license-which is about a three-month process. Another option is to get a local specialty-roofing license. But since there will be plenty of work for the next couple of years, many companies are choosing to go through the process of getting a Florida license.
Munnell says that hundreds of contractors want to come to Florida. The state's contractors, of course, would like to be able to subcontract, but as mentioned above, it's not legal. "We've asked the governor to consider it but he won't allow it."
In non-hurricane-related news, "We've got problems with OSHA and its new fall protection interpretation. We don't agree," says Munnell. The FRSA is also involved in the updates to Florida's building code. "It is now more in line with the international code and will take effect July 1, 2005," Munnell explains. "But a few issues are cropping up related to hurricanes; some issues involve roofing." FRSA will be heavily involved in ongoing talks.
But there is some good news-some very good news: Workers compensation rates in Florida have decreased 14 percent as of October 2003. "This is the result of our reforms," says Munnell. "It's working so well that we expect another double-digit decrease. It went from $53 dollars [per 100 dollars of payroll] to $47. We now expect it do go down to at least $40, if not less. We had some of the highest rates in the country."
WSRCA: Slow but Steady GrowthTo get a perspective on issues in the West, we spoke to Dan Cornwell of
CC&L Roofing, Portland, Ore., the president of the Western States Roofing Contractors Association. The economic report from this region of the country is that business ranges from "good to great." Says Cornwell, "Everyone has had plenty of work this summer but many are still recovering from a very slow and difficult winter and spring. The Pacific Northwest is still slower than the rest of the West, with the hot spots appearing to be in Arizona and San Diego, where there is more work than most of our members can get to." Overall, Cornwell says that most WSRCA members are looking forward to slow but steady sustained growth in 2005.
First on the WSRCA's agenda for the year is to plan for its upcoming convention, which will be held June 5-8 at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. "As always we have some great informative seminars planned and a spectacular trade show," Cornwell says. "Our exhibition space is 85 percent filled up already, so the tradeshow floor is certain to be overflowing with all the new and innovative products."
WSRCA's committees are working on numerous projects. According to Cornwell, "We have started a conference call program which is working out great to keep the communication lines open between committee members and the work ongoing between board meetings. We have several highly talented new directors who have joined our board this year, and who bring a lot of skill and experience along with new ideas and energy to the table."
Cornwell also reports on a variety of challenges for his members. "I'm not sure if the shortages of virtually all roofing materials and the ever-forthcoming skyrocketing price increases have now overshadowed our insurance crisis," he says. "It is really a tough business when you aren't sure which crisis is the worst crisis!"
He adds, "I could write a book about the challenges facing today's roofing contractor-the material you need not being available when you need it, the price increasing faster then you can keep track of, your insurance being non-renewed, and new insurance (if you can get it) costing way more than you can afford for way less than you had before. Now add in being sued and found guilty of putting perfectly performing roofs on buildings with leaky windows and paying out because of additional insured clauses, and how about paying more for workers compensation than you pay the worker in the state of California? Who is paying for what here?"
In response to all of these challenges, Cornwell says, "We at WSRCA are working hard to keep our members educated and informed, and we are always working to help change the things we can change, for the better." He adds that the WSRCA has increased the services it provides to its membership. In addition, "Education just may be the key to survival in today's modern roofing industry," he says. "Be it new products, new regulations and requirements, or a heads up statement on products or industry issues, WSRCA is keeping our membership informed and providing valuable tools to help members succeed and grow their businesses. Our goal and mission is promoting professionalism in the West, something that we are accomplishing through hard work, dedication and perseverance. If you are a WSRCA member thank you for your support ... If you aren't a member please considering joining, it may be one of the best moves you ever make and we could use your help."
MRCA: Safety and Risk Management Tops AgendaDennis Runyan of Dryspace Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, president of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association, says that after a rocky last two years, optimism seems to be making a comeback among MRCA members. "Discussions ... are focused on the future and the rewards of getting through the lean times instead of being mired in the doldrums of pessimism that so many found themselves in the recent past," he says.
The major item on the MRCA's agenda for 2005 is to increase member benefits while maintaining membership dues within affordable limits. Runyan says that at the association's convention this past fall, the group introduced a plan to include the SHARP safety and risk management program within the scope of the regular membership dues. In the program, a group of contractors-typically six to10-forms a safety cooperative for the express purpose of sharing the expense of providing safety services and training for each member of the group. MRCA's SHARP program director conducts an on-site "safety audit" of each member of the group for the development of each company's safety program. MRCA also performs an annual audit/update and personal visit to all program participants to ensure their program is current and accurate.
"The SHARP program had previously been offered on a subscription basis as an additional service to our members," he explains. "Keeping our members abreast of ongoing and upcoming safety and risk issues is further enhanced by the inclusion of this benefit to our members."
There are challenges in the Midwest, as elsewhere. "Where do we get insulation products and how much will they cost?" Runyan asks. "Will products be available when we are ready to install them and will we be able to recoup those additional costs within confines of our contracts?" So what is the bottom line? "The MRCA is aware of the dramatic and sweeping changes occurring within our industry and has, as always, positioned itself to evaluate, negotiate, and offer assistance to our members as those challenges present themselves," says Runyan.
NRCA: Value AddedDane Bradford, president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, says that the group will be dealing with a number of ongoing issues in 2005, the biggest of which is the problem of general liability insurance for roofing contractors. "Continuing increases in premiums, additional coverage limitations, more stringent underwriting, and the fact that there are simply fewer insurers willing to write roofing contractors are all problems that we are very concerned about," says Bradford. "Although we work closely with the insurance industry in many situations, the problems that we are seeing result directly from the accumulated losses from construction defects litigation, fires and falls from height. Many insurers are making fundamental business decisions about the risk they are willing to write and unfortunately roofing contractors perform work that often represents risks that they are unwilling to take at almost any price."
Contractors, too, are being forced to make decisions about their businesses. "Unfortunately, many are having to decide if they choose to carry the coverage or simply go without insurance," says Bradford. "If they can secure coverage, in many cases they have to decide whether they will be able to continue performing the type of work that they have been doing in the past."
Also of concern to the NRCA are recent price increases and long delivery times for many common materials. "Worldwide shortages of chemical components used in many materials coupled with increased energy prices are making for long lead times for delivery of roofing and rigid insulation products," says Bradford. "This is really putting a crunch on contractors who have quotes for materials that will not be ordered or delivered for months. We have been working hard to educate our members as to the cause of the problem and how to word proposal and contract language to protect themselves ... but it isn't going to be easy and it isn't a problem that we as an association or even an industry will be able to correct any time soon, if at all."
Another challenge confronting contractors in 2005 is the labor issue. Bradford sums it up by saying, "There are parts of the country where finding any help-let alone trained, qualified workers-is virtually impossible. No matter what we are hearing in the news, those of us who can't find help have a difficult time believing that we have an unemployment problem in the U.S. I saw a recent article that indicated that there will be a shortage of 10,000,000 workers in the construction industry by 2010. Our Washington office is working hard on the issue of reasonable immigration reform in anticipation of these types of problems."
The NRCA is also becoming more global in its outlook. "We realize that NRCA is a brand that is recognized worldwide and NRCA services and publications are in demand overseas as well as here at home," explains Bradford. "We have been approached with requests for technical training in both China and India and have had a request from an individual in the Middle East who feels that there is potential for an NRCA presence there and in North Africa. Our other international involvement in Mexico and Europe gives us a pretty good feel for what we can expect. But certainly each of these new opportunities requires us to be thoughtful about how to supply the increased demand and still provide the services that the roofing industry here in the U.S. has come to expect."
General industry relations are another focal point for the NRCA. "Over the last few decades there has been a lot of mistrust built up in the industry," says Bradford. "Unfortunately there have been numerous issues that were made unnecessarily complicated because of that mistrust and misunderstanding. We're working to get contractors, manufacturers, distributors, consultants and trade associations to sit down together and recognize that even though we may disagree on some issues, we have common goals and can, in many, cases work together to improve the industry."
Bradford lists some examples of success in this area. One is NRCA's work with other industry groups in developing an industry-wide approach to promoting high quality, energy efficient and environmentally sound roofing. Another is its government relations office's efforts at passing a bill through Congress to drop the depreciation rate for commercial roofing from 39 1/2 to 20 years.
"Last, but certainly not least, is the need to deal with a significant change in our operations," continues Bradford. "The recent sale of our trade show and related education programs to Hanley-Wood forced us to reassess what NRCA, our staff and volunteers do to bring value to our members," says Bradford. "Our aim is to concentrate more on basic advocacy for our contractor members. Our members indicate that the areas they feel they receive the most value from us are technical services, risk management and government relations. As we move away from reliance on the revenue from our trade show the new found independence it affords us is very exciting ... we know we have the opportunity to add value to what we've been doing."
In terms of the economic outlook for contractors across the country, Bradford says that in most areas, NRCA members are reporting that they are seeing a turnaround in the economy. "I think you could say that roofing contractors, with few exceptions, are pretty happy about 2004 and are cautiously optimistic about 2005."
ARMA: New High-Wind Test MethodsOn the manufacturing side, we first spoke to Dick Nowak, president and chief operating officer of Elk Premium Building Products, and president of the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association. Nowak says that the first item on ARMA's 2005 agenda is to work with paving and asphalt refineries on the health issues related to asphalt fumes. He explains that the International Agency for Research on Cancer every so often goes through and looks at various substances to determine if they are carcinogens. "We want to ensure that we are not classified as a carcinogen," says Nowak. "We want to keep our category three rating and feel strongly that we will-the science supports it."
Commenting on the overall economic outlook for ARMA members, Nowak says, "It's better than good; I'd say it's excellent." He mentions that the National Association of Home Builders is forecasting housing starts at 1.85 million new units and expects remodeling to be at record levels-annual volume is in the $220-$225 billion range. These forecasts, added to the needed repairs in Florida, mean "a very good year ahead."
There is of course, as mentioned by the contracting groups, concern with raw materials. Nowak points out the difficulty in predicting crude oil prices. "We have no idea what is going to happen," he says. "You can ask five different people and get five different answers ranging to a significant drop in prices to a barrel of oil hitting the $100 mark." Nowak himself won't hazard a guess in his crystal ball, though he will say that he expects some leveling. "Will we have disruptions in supply? And if not, will the high prices remain? It's important for contractors to be aware; this is the most important factor in determining price and supply."
What are some other trends to look for in 2005? "We see an increased use of laminated shingles in 2005-more than 50 percent will be laminates; that's a continuing trend," says Nowak. "On the commercial side, the market is making a modest improvement. There was a sharp decline from 1999 to 2002. But some owners are coming back and investing and there is modest growth."
Marica Hannah, vice president of marketing for CertainTeed and ARMA's communications committee chair, agrees with Nowak and adds that in 2005, "ARMA will continue to talk about the results of our 14-year research on a new measurement method for high wind. UL has come up with a new classification system."
Two standards addressing high-wind test methods and uplift resistance have been included in the 2004 IBC supplement. These standards in turn form the foundation for a simple-to-use classification method for matching asphalt shingles to wind-speed zones: Class D shingles are suitable for use in 90 mph wind zones; Class G shingles for 120 mph wind zones and Class H shingles for 150 mph wind zones.
ARMA member companies are conducting testing through approved laboratories or testing facilities. The key to determining the high-wind classification of an asphalt shingle is based on its measured resistance to the uplift force of winds at differing speeds. The new standards introduced in the 2004 building code supplement-ANSI/UL 2390 "Test Method for the Wind Resistance of Asphalt Shingles with Sealed Tabs," and ASTM D6381 "Measurement of Asphalt Shingle Mechanical Uplift Resistance"-take into account such variables as wind speeds, building height, building exposure, sealant uplift resistance, and the specific fastening recommendations of the shingle manufacturers.
Go to www.asphaltroofing.org for more information.
SPRI: Research and CommunicationTo get a perspective on the single-ply side of the market, we spoke to SPRI president Mike Ennis of The Dow Chemical Co. Ennis says that in 2005, SPRI has several items on its agenda:
To be actively involved in promoting the use of improved industry standards and requirements in the building code process.
To develop improved consensus standards for use in the roofing industry such as an improved edge metal test procedure, insulation adhesion field testing procedure, and performance requirements for insulation.
To work with RICOWI, a roofing industry association, to evaluate the performance of roofing assemblies in severe wind and hail events.
To provide technical expertise for the installation of single-ply roofing systems in existing and evolving technologies, such as garden roofs and cool roofing.
To sponsor research to measure the impact of ballasted roofing assemblies on energy efficiency, specifically evaluating reflectivity and thermal mass effects; and to sponsor research that builds on previous work that measured the energy savings potential of reflective roof systems and the cause of loss in reflectivity over time. In this new initiative, SPRI will be investigating the development of an accelerated laboratory-scale test method to simulate this behavior.
"We will also focus this year on communicating the work that we do in an effort to benefit the roofing industry," says Ennis. "For example we will be giving presentations at many forums sponsored by The Department of Energy, The Roof Consultants Institute, The Construction Specifications Institute, and The National Roofing Contractors Association."
Challenging SPRI members this year, according to Ennis, will be extended lead times in obtaining some of the key components of roofing assemblies. "This will require a change in business practices," he says. "Transportation of materials to the jobsite has also become an increasingly difficult issue." Overall though, Ennis contends that all economic indicators predict that 2005 will be a strong year for commercial construction activities.
The Metal Roofing Alliance: Still GrowingThe Metal Roofing Alliance is a not-for-profit coalition of metal roofing manufacturers, paint companies, coil coaters, associations and contractors formed to introduce homeowners to the benefits of metal roofing. Established six years ago, the MRA has seen the residential metal roofing market grow at double-digit rates. As a result, metal roofing's residential market share has risen from 3 percent to 6 percent.
In addition to reaching out and educating consumers, the MRA also focuses on educating contractors on the benefits of metal roofing for residential applications. "From the very beginning, one of our key objectives has been to increase the number of metal roofing installers in the United States and Canada," explains Bill Hippard, president of the MRA. "Many roofers and contractors don't realize that the metal roofing industry has changed dramatically over the last several years. There are a number of new products on the market that are easier to install and the margins on metal roofing products are very attractive."
In addition to the contractor program, Hippard says the MRA has always supported quality products and continues to support initiatives that lead to improvements. "The recent launch of the Metal Construction Association's certification program has helped the industry grow and prosper," he continues. "This scientific testing program ensures contractors and homeowners that the painted surfaces of metal roofing products will stand up to the toughest standards. This initiative differentiates the levels of quality, creating a credible basis for product comparison and providing a means of verifying metal roofing performance."
A major goal for the coming year is to continue to grow the MRA. "Growing the alliance is essential if we want to continue to be successful," says Hippard. "We have a great advertising campaign ready to go, but we need member support to get it on and keep it on the air." Contractors or manufactures interested in joining the MRA should contact Tom Black, executive director of the MRA at www.metalroofing.com.
Despite the sluggish economy, residential roofing sales have continued to grow rapidly. Many in the industry attribute the growth to the marketing initiatives and consumer awareness campaigns the MRA has created and launched. "Before the creation of the MRA, our members promoted metal to homeowners but we're never able to reach them on a large scale," says Hippard. "Two years ago the MRA shifted our media efforts to an online strategy, coupled with an aggressive public relations campaign. The effort included the newest, most effective concepts in Web advertising and search engine placements. This cost-effective campaign continues to deliver qualified leads to the MRA site. Our members continue to report growing numbers. What we're doing is working."
RCMA: Coatings-A Safe BetManufacturers Association, says that in 2005 RCMA will be promoting the use and benefits of roof maintenance coatings to the roofing community, roof consultants and property owners/managers. "Our current research studies continue to evaluate the durability and performance of a wide array of coatings over many types of roof systems."
In addition, RCMA recently added a division called the White Coatings Council to serve the needs of manufacturers and consumers in the use and benefits of reflective roof coatings. "It is our goal to grow our membership in this category, continue our product testing, and bring reliable product information to the marketplace," says Ripps. "RCMA continues to monitor building codes, government legislation and trends in order to adapt our products to the ever changing building community."
According to Ripps, RCMA members' greatest challenge may be the reformulation of some products in order to comply with VOC limits. This is due to "continued influence by non-industry parties who are not stakeholders in our industry such as USGBC (LEEDS), CRRC and Energy Star that create and promote roof product use and demand without always having an open dialog with the industry producers and applicators," says Ripps.
Yet in terms of the economic outlook in this section of the industry, Ripps reports that roof coatings saw modest growth in 2004 with a large upsurge in activity in the late third and fourth quarter. "We expect this upward trend to continue in 2005," he says. "Advancing material costs and product availability issues with other roofing industry products have directed many property owners to maintain their in-place roofs with quality, safe, low-lifecycle-cost roof maintenance coatings."
He adds that as material costs and interest rates continue to rise, there will certainly be a percentage of roofs that will be repaired and maintained instead of being removed and replaced. "Roof maintenance coatings will fill the need of the marketplace if these economic trends continue," says Ripps.