Commercial roofing had a strong year in 2008, according to Rob Reale, Manager of Marketing Communications for Carlisle Construction Materials.

Commercial roofing had a strong year in 2008, according to Rob Reale, Manager of Marketing Communications for Carlisle Construction Materials.

“Most roofing manufacturers realized an increase in shipments over 2007,” he said. “However, the downturn in residential construction finally spilled over to the commercial building market, resulting in a disappointing fourth quarter.”

Reale said instability in transportation and raw material pricing had an unprecedented effect on commercial roofing manufacturers in 2008.

“With oil reaching a record high of $147.27 per barrel (mid-July 2008), raw material prices seemed to increase daily, making it impossible for purchasers and estimators to keep pace,” Reale said. “Those hardest hit were the makers of asphaltic-based products, but no manufacturers were immune. As a result, roofing contractors were forced to put escalation clauses into their bids and sometimes had a difficult time honoring estimates beyond 30 days.”

Reale said 2008 could be remembered as the year of TPO in commercial roofing, “with this membrane having taken over as the market share leader for the first time in history.”

“New manufacturers entered the game while others added additional manufacturing lines to keep up with demand,” he said. “The success of TPO was fueled by the architectural and building owner community looking to ‘go green.’”

This trend is a concern for some industry experts who fear that some in the industry are “confusing rooftop reflectivity with energy efficiency,” Reale said. “Reflectivity can certainly be a large contributor towards energy savings in southern climates, which have more cooling degree days than heating degree days. However, mechanically fastened TPO systems are suddenly gaining popularity in northern regions where more energy-saving benefits could be realized from the use of additional insulation and black membranes, according to calculations generated by the Department of Energy Cool Roof Calculator (developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory).”

By all accounts, 2009 looks to be a challenging year. Even with a quick rebound to the economy, it will take some time for construction to catch up, Reale said.

“Mother Nature, however, could have the greatest impact,” he noted. “Nobody wishes for natural disasters, but events such as severe winters resulting in heavy snow loads and freeze-thaw conditions, hailstorms or hurricanes could create isolated pockets of business for roofing contractors.”

Rising energy costs have also presented unique opportunities for the savvy roofing contractor. “For example, a leak in the roof could be patched for a relatively low cost,” Reale said. “That could prove to be the easy but ultimately costly solution for the roofing contractor and the building owner.”

The smart play, Reale suggested, would be to act as an energy consultant by taking the following steps:

• Suggest thermal imaging of the roof to determine if there is air leakage or moisture in the insulation.

• Offer to perform a life-cycle analysis. Many buildings with older roofs are also underinsulated.

• Expand your product offering. By understanding the system options that are in the marketplace, the roofing contractor is better equipped to offer value-added solutions.

• Understand your competition. How many times are there 10-plus roofing contractors bidding on a single project? Imagine what that will be like if there are fewer opportunities.