As NRCA conventions go, this one was a success by several measures, but mainly from that seat-of-the-pants feeling that you get when you arrive back home with tons of literature and business cards and are actually interested to follow up and learn more.



There were a number of key differences between the 115th annual convention of the National Roofing Contractors Association and 114th. Following last year’s convention in San Francisco, we reported that the contractor attendance was light and that many industry vendors who came to exhibit in the trade show expressed disappointment. As a result, several manufacturers made deep cuts in their booth commitment for 2002. However, it did appear that considerably more roofing contractors were seen in and around the trade-show floor this year.

We are not quoting actual stats here, and perhaps it was because we managed to speak with more contractors this year than last, but San Antonio seemed to be a more welcoming venue than San Francisco. I’m not complaining about San Francisco, but San Antonio is closer to most of the roofing contractor population in North America, less expensive to travel to, and less expensive to stay in. San Antonio is a nice convention town, especially if you seek to do business. It does not have the distractions that San Francisco does. Since Sept. 11, most people travel with a plan and a purpose rather than moving about casually. Nearly everyone we encountered at NRCA 2002 was there on business (but, of course, there was time for fun).

The convention outside the trade show had much to offer. Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush gave the keynote at the opening luncheon. There was nothing remarkable in his speech, but it’s always a pleasure to hear a polished, experienced speechmaker. He delivered his points one at a time, blended with humor and wit, and punctuated with characteristic hand gestures and finger-pointing. He refers to our current president as “43” (he is 41), and speaks with near-reverence of his wife of 57 years (43’s mom). Bush follows several other former presidents who have addressed the NRCA in the past, including Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

A fascinating feature of the opening luncheon was a poignant video that chronicled NRCA’s involvement in the retrofitting of slate roofing at the Pentagon, damaged from the assault by terrorists on Sept. 11. NRCA contractor and manufacturer members have banded together to contribute over $400,000 in labor and materials to the project, expected to cost $500,000. The project is well underway. The idea started with a phone call to NRCA headquarters from the husband and wife team who own and operate Northern Virginia Roofing, Falls Church, Va. Their effort to contribute to rebuilding and recovery efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks led to the idea of replacing the slate damaged by jet fuel. The NRCA made a proposal to the Defense Department, which was accepted.

New Ideas

As always, there were several new product announcements and some new ideas tossed about. George A. Smith, P.E., of Factory Mutual Research, conducted a seminar to give an update on a number of ongoing projects and recently announced initiatives. Roofing Contractor had the pleasure of meeting with George for a one-on-one to hear all about it, especially the new Technology Center project, RoofNav, FM 4491 and other approval standards for roofing professionals.

First, FM is in the midst of a modernization of its Technology Center featuring a new $80 million campus facility that will encompass state-of-the-art technology in testing equipment and techniques for a wide variety of construction materials and applications. The new facility promises to deliver test results better and faster than previously possible. Construction is underway and is expected to be complete in the last quarter of 2003.

FM demonstrated the RoofNav design and review software in its booth at the trade show. RoofNav is a computer program that will allow designers and contractors to enter specifications for review for FM compliance. According to Smith, this software will “not allow a mistake” in designing roofing systems to FM standards. In addition to this high level of accuracy, the software is designed to save hours of time spent researching all these details. RoofNav will be subscription based, Web interactive, and should be ready to “go live” late 2002 to early 2003.

FM also introduced the Approval Standard for Lightweight Insulating Concrete Roof Deck Contractors (4491). FM worked with LWC industry groups and contractors to develop this standard, which is designed to give building owners assurance that 4491-approved contractors have been trained and approved to install lightweight insulating concrete roof decks. From the base of this approval standards, FM sees approval standards coming down the pike for other roofing professionals, including consultants, observers, specifiers, single-ply roofing contractors and other contractors by specialty.

New Products

We ran into our old friend, John Busch, formerly of Johns-Manville. Seems his retirement from the roofing industry didn’t “stick” too well. Busch is representing Sackit, Inc. in the introduction of Aqua Vert ™, a roof condensate drainage system that protects the roof system from A/C condensate. The product was developed and patented by C. Ross Dutton, a roofing contractor from Houston with whom we also had the pleasure of speaking. Johns Manville tested and manufactures AquaVert, and markets the product along with Sackit Inc. Roofing Contractor plans to feature this item in more detail in coming issues.

Like so many of these convention opportunities, we are sure to have missed a few newsworthy items. One we happened on resulted from an accidental meeting with Pat Kennedy. His firm, Kennedy Equipment & Supply Inc. of Kansas City, Mo., is the new home of the “Mini-Hot Stuff Pump.” This pump has been around for years as a standby (emergency) hot-asphalt pump, for use in smaller kettles without pumps, or for general use when cleaning kettles. Kennedy is now the source for new units as well as parts for existing units.

We were also able to attend a GAF press conference, where we learned what the company is doing in its efforts to become, “a world-class company,” as explained by Dave Harrison, senior vice president of marketing, contractor services and corporate development. Harrison outlined several new products and programs and emphasized that all are available now.

Some of the highlights of the press conference included, on the residential side, improvements in the Timberline® laminated shingle series to go along with the enhanced warranty. In addition, Slateline® shingles now come in three new colors.

On the commercial side, GAF is offering a complete line of APP, SBS and BUR cold-applied systems, in keeping with the fast-growing cold process trend. GAF is also revamping its Low Slope Certified Contractor Program. Key features of the program include tools to help contractors gain attention, such as a national advertising campaign, trade show representation, leads from national property owners and incentives for property owners.

GAF also introduced Roof Advisor™ Software, which allows its certified contractors to enter detailed information about a specific property, including its use, the owner’s investment horizon and other key decision parameters. It then evaluates all major roofing technologies and systems (even some not offered by GAF), and ranks the top three in meeting the owner’s needs.

We also had a chance to visit with the folks from Owens Corning. The company’s Roofing Systems Business announced that it was expanding the MiraVista® Slate color offerings with three new colors and introducing the Berkshire™ Shingle, a new super laminate shingle. The Berkshire resembles the look of slate with 12 colors to choose from. The palette collection is based on seven colors found in natural slate such as reds, purples and blues. In addition, five designer colors will also be available nationally.

Finally, we were able to stop by the Urecoats booth, where the company was making its debut in the roofing industry. Urecoats held five off-site demonstrations of its sealant and coating product, Urecoats RSM-100™, and its BlueMax applicator system. The company found the show a great success and reports that about 100 contractors and distributors attended the off-site events.

Milestones

There were a couple of milestones being celebrated while NRCA convened. ABC Supply Company, Beloit, Wis., marked its 20th anniversary. ABC has changed the face of roofing products distribution, and continues to rewrite history as it grows and prospers. Roofmaster Products Co. of Los Angeles, Calif., is celebrating its 50th. Roofmaster has developed numerous unique and valued equipment items that have made roofing jobs of all types safer and more productive. Roofing Contractor plans to profile both of these firms in issues later this year.

Associations

The Cool Roof Rating Council made a presentation to update its progress on coming up with standards for rating “cool roof” surfacing products and systems. The CRRC is a coalition of a variety of industry and public interests, and has been working together for some time now. Roofing Contractor continues to follow developments in the “cool roofing” concept, which we see as a major new business opportunity for contractors in the 21st century.

The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association held a seminar to outline its position on the long-term thermal resistance (LTTR) standard. According to PIMA President Jared Blum, this initiative, on which PIMA worked cooperatively with NRCA, is about leveling the playing field for R-value claims made by manufacturers. The LTTR is proposed as an addition to ASTM 1289 in the United States. There is a ballot on this initiative due in April, and it could become effective as early as a year later. PIMA also introduced its study on performance values of polyisocyanurate insulation. PIMA, together with the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, has developed an informative and easy-to-read brochure that cites examples of increasing insulation on typical retail and elementary school buildings. Learn more about this at www.pima.org.

Looking Forward to Next Year

Unlike NRCA conventions of years gone by, there was a dearth of hospitality suites on hospitality night. This is possibly a sign of the times, and perhaps a trend, as there have been fewer for the past several conventions. On a personal note, however, the ones we attended the night before hospitality night were outstanding and much appreciated.

Overall, the 2002 NRCA was the usual whirlwind of too many people to see and too many places to be — like the morning that featured three breakfasts beginning with the GAF Master Contractors at 6:00 a.m. NRCA Executive Vice President Bill Good and GAF President and CEO Bill Collins both addressed that group with timely comments on the state of the industry. There were seminars galore, and more trade show booths than could be reasonably visited in the time allotted. That is not a complaint. The ebb and flow of too many or too few trade show hours is about the oldest argument one will hear from exhibitors at one of these things, and it is darn-near impossible to please everyone.

As NRCA conventions go, this one was a success by several measures, but mainly from that seat-of-the-pants feeling that you get when you arrive back home with tons of literature and business cards and are actually interested to follow up and learn more. This industry continues to move forward in spite of war, recession, mold and insane insurance rates. In fact, some of these maladies seem to energize us. See you next year, NRCA.