The late fall and winter mark the season when the roofing and construction worlds are introduced to all manners of new materials, systems, accessories and equipment. The editors of Roofing Contractor like to follow up by sharing some of the items with which we have been most impressed.
Many of the manufacturers who routinely spend big bucks on research and development have scaled back in these economic times. The downturn is getting so long that folks have taken to calling it the “new normal.” Business is not just off, as in temporarily, but changed, as in, “That was the way it was then; this is the way it is now.”
Now that normal has shifted to something new, nearly all contractors are on the lookout for the next great opportunity for sales and profit growth. While the R&D checkbook may have been curtailed, creative inventors, engineers and designers have not disappointed in this season of new. Products are introduced in a variety of ways, including the trade media and trade shows. The big ones include METALCON in the fall and the International Builders Show (IBS) and International Roofing Expo (IRE) in the winter. Roofing Contractor is proud to be the official publication of the IRE. Here are some of the interesting and innovative products we singled out for our Editor’s Choice awards.
The Green Pavilion at the IRE is the place you find the latest and greatest innovations that answer the call for roofing products that are sustainable while contributing to energy efficiency and aiding the environment. The trend is not new but is still very much in a growth phase. Many of our Editor’s Choice items come from this segment of the industry. It is exciting to watch the solar technologies moving so quickly, and new initiatives being put forward by our federal government are likely to speed the process in the near term and stand the chance of changing the roofing industry well into the future.
Not limited to just making electricity or just hot water, this system boasts a broad array of domestic, commercial, and industrial applications. Heat may be generated for water, to run air conditioning using desiccant or absorption chillers, to power industrial ovens, or as a pre-heater in other industrial applications, just to name a few.
Promoting environmentally responsible roofing: The Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (www.roofingcenter.org) is a 501(c)(6) organization designed to promote the knowledge base, development and use of environmentally responsible, high-performance roof systems. The CEIR was established by the National Roofing Contractors Association and a group of industry leaders to serve as an industry forum to draw together all roofing stakeholders into the common cause of promoting awareness of environmentally friendly, energy-saving roof systems.
The center endeavors to advance innovative solutions that help roofing consumers save energy, reduce the environmental impact of roofing material life cycles and promote the understanding that the spirit of collaboration between all roofing stakeholders is the critical ingredient for innovation.While the center is not a new product or system or piece of equipment, it is an initiative that is quickly proving beneficial to the entire roofing universe. From its beginning the center has been embraced by virtually all constituencies operating in the roofing industry. Look for their important work to continue having an even greater impact as the world seeks more environmentally suitable building envelope solutions.
Optimizing solar collection: In the middle of November 2008, Carlisle Energy Services, a newly formed division of Carlisle Construction Materials (www.carlisle-syntec.com), announced it had signed a long-term sales contract with Solyndra Inc., a manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) systems designed to optimize solar electricity production on commercial rooftops. Sounds like just another roofing manufacturer announcing they are entering the solar business, but this system is positioned to really take advantage of today’s highly insulated, highly reflective roofing systems.
Spectro360 features a unique piece of engineering: a PV system designed around cylindrical tubes mounted above the roof surface to take advantage of sunlight coming a variety of different ways, including direct, diffused and reflected. The innovative design allows for better cooling as well as a simplified installation whereby the solar array is self-ballasted, eliminating many penetrations. This kind of “out-of-the-box” engineering may ultimately win the day as the world moves toward the adoption of renewable energy sources.
Single-ply for the small guy: Single-ply roofing has historically been absent from the world of low-slope residential and small commercial projects. There are several reasons for this, including the firm grip asphalt roofing has on the residential side of the business. Another stopper has been the packaging quantities of single-ply sheets and accessory goods. A 10-foot by 50-foot roll of EPDM or a 5-gallon pail of adhesive may not seem like huge quantities to a commercial roofing contractor. For contractors seeking work one small job at a time, however, these quantities may be way overboard.
GenFlex (www.genflex.com) has announced an initiative in partnership with its distributors that may change some old habits. The new GenFlex Showroom Display Rack is designed to live in the roofing-oriented distributor’s showroom right next to the displays of shingle boards and hand tools. The package quantities on the display are all “bite size” and designed with the small project in mind. Featuring both EPDM and TPO products, the display even allows for the sale of sheet goods by the foot, thereby eliminating a great deal of waste and allowing contractors into the game who were previously restricted to other material choices.
We have seen membrane-to-plate fastened systems in the past, but this is the first that uses an electromagnetic induction welder that bonds the underside of the membrane to the top of a specially coated metal plate. The welder forms an aggressive bond that holds membrane in place while the fastener grips the deck, holding the entire assembly in place.
Metal Roofing Innovations
Make the machine do it: MetalForming Inc. (www.metalforming-usa.com) is introducing robotics to the roofing jobsite. That may be a provocative description of an ingenious innovation that takes the jobsite roll-forming machine to an entirely new level. After all, computerized machinery is not new to the roofing and building industries - and most folks do not call shop-borne machines “robots.” This machine does, however, give contractors a “hands-off” metal forming, notching, and cutting operation from plans delivered via a computer program to a formed metal pan ready to lay up on the roof.
The Schlebach Quadro Cinco (Computer Integrated Notching-Cutting Operation) is a portable roll-former that also delivers inline notching and angle cutting that is fully integrated with 3-D roof design software. Contractors can now produce precise machine-cut and angled roof panels directly from site-verified dimensions using TopView ™ 3-D roof design software. The result is not only an increase in productivity, but an increase in accuracy and a reduction in waste.
Don’t overlook the attic: Owens Corning (www.owenscorning.com) has introduced a new business opportunity to its residential roofing applicators. Fiberglas insulation has long been a core business for Owens Corning, so this is nothing new to them. For roofing contractors, however, this is, well, “off the rooftop.” The fact is, however, when homeowners are in the business of improving their home by replacing an aging roof, they are often open to other home-improvement opportunities - like saving money on their heating and cooling bills.
The Atticat system has been designed with non-insulation contractors in mind. The investment in equipment and training are very small in comparison to starting what could amount to an entirely new business. Roofing contractors have historically referred attic insulation inquiries to other contractors. This is in spite of dealing directly with the homeowner on the topic of proper attic ventilation (and how that affects heating and cooling bills).
Bottom line: In this or any economy it makes sense to maximize the transaction. Finding a customer is expensive. Selling the job is even more expensive. Increasing the size of the contract only requires a little more conversation and does not come with the same cost as your typical closed lead. But you have to be willing to “get off the roof” for a change.
Where would a roofing contractor suggest such a thing? How about a school or hotel near an airport? How about at an airport? Innovations are not restricted to new products, but often come as new applications for existing products are discovered.
Next generation cover board: Firestone Building Products Company (www.firestonebpco.com) has begun production and marketing of its ISOGARD HD cover board. This unique cover board is lightweight, at only 11 pounds per 4-foot by 8-foot sheet, and easy to cut. With its 1/2-inch thickness and 120 PSI compressive strength, ISOGARD HD offers the highest R-value (2.5) of half-inch cover boards on the market while providing a firm substrate to protect the roof from damaging effects of the weather and foot traffic. Firestone’s new cover board features a fiberglass facer that is moisture resistant while resisting mold growth. It also contains a closed-cell polyiso core that can provide greater UL fire ratings in some uses.
Why Didn't I Think of That?
That is only one of the questions you hear when looking at new and innovative products, services and labor-saving devices of all types. Fact is, some of these innovations may go the way of the dinosaur while others may change the way the roofing industry works forever.