State of the Industry Reports

Market Outlook

Steep Slope Trends

Defining Challenges

Even as they noted signs of growth in the commercial market, commentators pointed to several factors, including changing codes and regulations, which have converged to make commercial roofing projects more complicated than ever.

John Geary, director of education and industry relations, Firestone Building Products, summed it up in one word. “‘Complexity’ is the key word that best describes the trends that contractors should be aware of for 2014,” he said. “It’s not enough for roofing systems to just keep the water out of buildings, but increasingly ddresses energy efficiency needs as well as provide air and vapor barriers. Codes are being updated and more sophisticated building owners are viewing the roof as part of a building envelope system. New regulations for safety, air quality and commissioning of buildings will create more challenges for contractors.”

Geary noted that while complexity may make projects more difficult, it may provide opportunities for expansion for savvy contractors. “We have already seen a shift by contractors that are offering a wider variety of services such as daylighting, vegetative and PV systems to take care of their clients,” he said. “Education will be a key factor in staying on top of this complex construction environment. Contractors must understand the changes and have a plan for cascading the information throughout their organization so that sales, administration, project management and construction teams are fully informed and prepared.”

Richard Nugent, CEO of Nations Roof LLC, Lithia Springs, Ga., and senior vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), noted that keeping up with codes is more crucial than ever. “Building codes will play a larger role in design with huge amounts of insulation being required as well as vapor barriers and some codes that can’t even be met. Contractors will have to keep up with all codes locally, federal, etc. There are many places to look when you get into design.”

“Code compliance will likely be an issue in 2014,” said Brian Lambert, director of products and systems, The Garland Company Inc. “Perimeter flashings are the first to fail in high wind events, and many specifications hitting the street are not in compliance with ANSI-SPRI ES-1 requirements. Many roofing professionals are working closely with the design community and contractors to educate and ensure these requirements are followed. Additionally, contractors need to be educated about the various types of air barriers and vapor barriers in roofs and walls. The increased use of these products is not going away.”

Mike Ennis: Three Low-Slope Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2014

The single-ply roofing industry sees three trends in 2014 that the commercial building industry should be aware of. They are:
  1. Increasing the sustainability and energy efficiency of the building envelope, including low-slope roofing systems.

  2. Increasing attention to building commissioning.
  3. Revisions to wind load guidelines by FM Global (Factory Mutual).

Sustainability. Enhancing the sustainability of a low-slope roof will take many forms. Paramount among them is increasing the energy efficiency of the roofing system itself.

One of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this goal is to increase the amount of insulation required on the roof. This trend will affect both new roofs and roof replacement projects.

For roof replacements, the insulation level of the roof will need to be brought up to current energy code levels. This could potentially require increasing parapet/curb and fenestration heights to accommodate the greater thickness of additional insulation. This would not be a requirement for roof recovery projects.

A second method of increasing roof sustainability is the use of “cool” (reflective) roofs in International Energy Conservation Code Climate Zones 1 through 3 to increase the energy efficiency of the roof system.

An additional consideration for managing a building’s energy efficiency is the design of the air barrier. For example, requirements have been put in place for a continuous air barrier around the building envelope, including the roof. For contractors and specifiers, this means sealing of the connection between the roof and wall air barrier to ensure the air barrier is continuous.

If a building owner wishes to go beyond managing the energy consumption in the building, they may consider onsite energy generation. Commercial rooftops are becoming an attractive platform for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind-generated electricity-producing systems. These low-slope roofs offer an economical and sustainable foundation for renewable energy. Some jurisdictions are also requiring the use of cool roofs or vegetative roofs to mitigate the heat island effect.

However, using the low-slope roof as a platform for renewable, online energy sources or vegetative systems will greatly influence roof membrane selection and roof design on these projects.

Commissioning. Without question, building commissioning requirements will also become more stringent this year. This will involve all aspects of building projects, including HVAC systems, lighting and the building envelope — and, of course, low-slope roofs. In the case of the roof system, inspections will be required to verify that it is installed in accordance with the specific project requirements.  

Wind Load Guidelines. Contractors will also need to be more keenly aware of revisions made to Factory Mutual Approval Guides. Recent revisions have already reduced the approved wind load resistance of many roof assemblies. This means that roof systems that have been installed in the past to meet defined wind loads may no longer be applicable. It may be necessary to use thicker gauge or higher tensile strength steel deck, or reduce purlin spacing to obtain the same wind load resistance. This applies to both mechanically attached and adhered roof assemblies.

These revisions were made due to concerns about the possible overstressing of the steel roof deck. However, the requirements only pertain to jobs requiring FM Approval, so roofing professionals will need to check with local FM engineers to ensure the roof system being proposed meets FM requirements for the required wind load.

All of the above issues represent unique challenges for the roofing contractor in 2014. The overall goal for the roofing industry is to ensure that low-slope roofs are designed, installed and maintained for optimal economic and environmental benefit.

Mike Ennis is technical director of SPRI.

Ellen Thorp, associate executive director of the EPDM Roofing Association, pointed out that the roofing industry has had a growing voice in recent regulatory changes. “We welcome the growing collaboration between industry and regulatory groups, to ensure that regulations and codes reflect the real-life experience of individuals who work in the industry, and the scientific knowledge that they have generated,” she said. “This openness was demonstrated at ASHRAE and the IECC, and the healthy dialogue that resulted is helping to create an environment that meets the needs of the roofing industry and our customers. We look forward to more of this in the coming year. We hope that ‘one size fits all’ approaches to roofing decisions will be rejected, in favor of a more rational approach that takes into account climate variations and the need for individual decision making in roof system choice.”

Product Trends

Douglas Sutter, president of Sutter Roofing Company of Florida, noted his customers have been more receptive to higher-end products and systems. “We are having good success selling upscale roof systems to our clients lately,” he said. “They are seeing the value in 80-mil TPOs, KEE PVC membranes and multi-ply systems with Energy Star cap sheets. Many of our clients have been putting off re-roofing until they feel the economy is on the upswing, so we are also benefitting from that. Also in Florida you have to have an NOA [Notice of Acceptance] for any system you propose, so we use the higher wind rated systems in our presentations to clients. They see value in thicker membranes, increased warranty coverage and energy-saving roof components more than they have in prior years.”

Jay Thomas, vice president of marketing for Sika Corporation, believes TPO sales will be up. “There continues to be multiple forces at work driving the increase in market share of thermoplastic roofing membranes,” he said. “Manufacturer capacity increases and the desire by building owners to save on building cooling costs are combining to drive this trend.”

“TPO continues to gain more of the low-slope market share,” said Timothy M. Dunlap, president and chief operating officer for CentiMark Corp. “Additionally, pricing pressures and relatively low equipment costs has enabled entry into this market, making this roof system more of a commodity. Contractors need to think about how they are differentiating themselves in the marketplace. At CentiMark, we are very aware of this trend and are constantly looking for new ways to increase the value-added services we provide specific to this and other roof systems.

Dave O’Donnell, president and CEO, NEMEON Inc., also pointed to the growth of TPO. “TPO is becoming increasingly popular with contractors and building owners in recent years. If you are not involved in TPO, this would be a good year to take some training and add the offering to your portfolio,” he said.

“In our region, the West, traditional built-up roofing systems continue to decline,” said Christian Madsen, president of Madsen Roofing & Waterproofing Inc. “In addition, 45-mil systems have clearly fallen out of favor as owners appear to be recognizing the significant advantages of high mil thicknesses. California contractors definitely struggle with the performance of state-mandated low-VOC adhesives.”

Kevin Gwaltney, president of Diamond Roofing, sounded a note of caution regarding new products. “I believe with the introduction of new materials designed to meet the intent of the green initiative and energy requirements, roof systems have become more complicated and sophisticated in both products and applications,” he said. “I believe it is important to dedicate time and effort to understanding these technologies to find competitive advantages.”

Chris Salazar, chief operating officer, Karnak Corp., expects moderate growth in the commercial market as the economy improves. “We expect growth of reflective coatings to continue to accelerate as more codes and jurisdictions mandate it,” he said. “Expect higher sales of roof insulation to comply with higher R-value requirements. The higher cost of roof components underneath the roof membrane mandated by new construction codes may result in higher sales of modified roof membranes and BUR systems in some regions as they offer redundant protection due to the multiple plies. Expect higher sales of adhesives to comply with high wind uplift requirements.”

Bill Baley, president of C.I. Services Inc., has seen an increase in his coatings revenue in California. “The largest opportunity opening to us these days is the increase in coating work as a restoration system,” he said. “Coating manufacturers are touting the ability of coating systems to restore old or failing TPO and PVC single plies, and we are seeing more of this on school work as well. My advice is to really look at the manufacturers you are using and choose the coating product wisely. Some do work very well for this type of restoration work, but the various degrees of coating quality and coating types need to be carefully reviewed and chosen. Make sure the system specification you are selling makes sense and is backed properly by the manufacturer.”

Factors Affecting Purchasing Decisions

Dale Tyler, president of National Roofing Partners (NRP), notes that there has been a change in the commercial roofing landscape when it comes to purchasing, especially by larger customers. “There is a paradigm shift, and it’s been happening ever since the downturn in the economy in 2008,” he said. “A lot of national organizations — your multi-site owners — as they experienced pressure in their stock price, as they experienced pressure to stay profitable, they decimated their facility departments.”

According to Tyler, large national chains such as retailers and banks are managed by third-party companies that use their own list of vendors. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by third-party buying groups, third-party procurement groups, and if you’re not savvy at the national level to get in on those opportunities, then you’re missing the boat,” Tyler said. “What we’ve done is we’ve attached ourselves to these groups that manage the tens of thousands of properties for their national clients, and we’ve become a strategic vendor to them and partnered with them as a third party.”

Richard Doornink, managing director, Kemper system America Inc., urged commercial contractors to stay on top of interest rates and financial incentives. “Some upward pressure on interest rates will encourage property managers who may have been sitting on the sidelines to make long-term improvements sooner rather than later,” he said. “About 30 states now have Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which offer a way for commercial property owners to finance up to 100 percent of improvements that contribute to energy efficiency. This could apply to reflective and insulated roofing systems, so contractors will want to explore the opportunities with their customers. See for more information.”

Stanley P. Graveline: The Customer Has Spoken - Curtailing Peak Energy Demand Demands Cool Roofs

‘Tis the season of roofing shows and presentations on all the hot topics. So why are we still debating the cold case of whether white roofs are effective in northern climates? There is no shortage of modeled and empirical evidence that white roof surfaces reduce building cooling energy consumption regardless of geography. Does it really make sense to cast seeds of doubt when a key element in the cool roof energy equation is peak demand reduction, an increasingly critical issue for large project owners in all climate zones?

Outside of peak demand hours, utilities typically have excess energy capacity. As overall consumption increases, more utilities are charging premiums on electricity rates during peak demand hours to influence behavior and even out the load on the grid. Cool roofs can play a significant role for building owners in reducing peak demand across all climate zones.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) simulated the potential impact of substituting conventional dark colored roofs with cool roofs on conditioned commercial buildings in 236 U.S. cities. They determined differences in cooling and heating energy use between dark roofs and aged cool roofs (assumed average reflectivity of 0.55) considering such factors as the building inventory (types, ages, density of construction) and local energy sources.

Not surprisingly, greatest net energy savings were calculated for states like Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. LBNL’s modeling showed that there could be a small heating penalty associated with the use of cool roofs in the coldest climates. In Minnesota, for example, the value was on average 0.137 therm/m2 per year for conditioned commercial buildings. But excluding remote Alaskan locations, the summertime cooling energy savings more than offset any heating penalty, producing net annual energy savings.

In LBN’s 2001 study of a retail store in Austin, Texas, simply by switching a black colored membrane to a white membrane, the average summertime rooftop surface temperature on the facility decreased from 168 degrees Fahrenheit on the black to 126 degrees on the white. This resulted in peak hour cooling energy savings of 14 percent and overall annual energy savings of 7.2 cents per square foot (the equivalent of 9.5 cents per square foot in 2013 dollars).

The experience of major building owners such as Target Corporation, with approximately 1,900 facilities across the United States, broadly bears out the research. For more than 20 years, Target has used reflective PVC roof membranes on all of their facilities, an important component of their energy efficiency program.

For each ASHRAE climate zone, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) estimated the energy equivalency of cool roofs vs. non-cool roofs with additional insulation, to determine the extra insulation required to achieve “energy equal” roofing systems for new construction and retrofit. They selected one city from each ASHRAE climate zone, and assigned a default R-Value for a cool roof (reflectance: 0.65, emittance: 0.90). Then they determined the additional insulation that would be required under a non-cool roof (reflectance: 0.10, emittance: 0.90) to produce similar heating/cooling costs as the cool roof. In all climate zones, additional insulation required for energy equality ranged from R3 in Fairbanks, Alaska, to R17 in Miami, Florida, with an average of R9 in new construction and R4 in retrofit.

Industry sources estimate that approximately 5.5 billion square feet of thermoplastic roofing membrane has been installed in ASHRAE climate zones 5 and higher over the past decade. More than two billion of that has been installed in zones 6 and 7 alone. However, while it’s understood that reflective roof surfaces can reduce overall energy consumption, no private or government cool roof initiatives suggest that using a cool roof is justification for using less insulation. Savvy project owners are looking to use all available means and technologies wherever practical and cost effective to reduce building energy consumption, rather than partially substituting one approach for another. This argument should be put to rest. Thermoplastic cool roofs have proven performance in all climates.

Stanley P. Graveline sits on the technical committee for the Vinyl Roofing Division of the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association.

“Maintenance continues to be a high priority,” said Chris Barrow, president and CEO of EagleView Technologies. “For contractors, the ability to manage their maintenance program is critical. Technology is playing an important role in this with the ability to inventory building data, history and overall design and measurements. Cloud solutions will also play an important role in communications with customers, namely facility managers, in both the sales effort and ongoing relationships through maintenance programs. As contractors make building updates, perform maintenance and support their customers, they need the ability to communicate in real time. This will continue to differentiate leading commercial roofing contractors with manufacturers, distribution and national accounts.”

Green Means Go

Scott Lelling, senior manager, strategic marketing for Polyglass U.S.A. Inc., expects growth in environmentally friendly products and systems to continue. “Although the dominant trends for product demand in the low-slope segments will be driven by cost and durability, we expect to see continued interest in environmentally responsible products such as green/cool roofing, photovoltaic, vegetative and recycled content products,” he said. “These products are typically hampered by relative cost, but our expectations are that innovative improvements and code/statutory requirements will support growth over the longer term.”  Reed Hitchcock, executive vice president of the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), also looks for code changes to have an impact. “Requirements for reflective roofing as part of model codes may continue to become more widespread,” he said. “Examples of significant code changes and revisions in 2014 could include the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ASHRAE 90.1, which both have requirements regarding cool roofing for commercial roofs in southern climate zones. Reflective asphalt roofing systems enhance building energy efficiency, and many commercial facilities may use asphalt roofing as part of an overall sustainable building approach. Further, as the use of solar photovoltaic rooftop panels continues to grow, many building owners will turn to low-slope asphalt roofing to give these systems the support needed for successful installations.”

Martin Grohman, executive director of sustainability at GAF, also sees energy efficiency as a leading driver. “We’re seeing cool roofing continue to make sense on more and more projects, and further north than you might expect,” he said. “That’s due to the way power billing is changing. New power plants are hard to permit, so power companies are trying to get the most out of their existing plants — and spiky demands like summertime air conditioning are a big part of the problem. That’s leading to growth in electrical demand charges. In many cases, cool roofing helps reduce demand charge. Another insight is that no matter where you are, East, West, North or South, additional insulation makes sense for practically every project. You can model both these factors either individually or at once using our free online Cool Roof Energy Savings Tool (CREST) available at”

Insulation and Air Barriers

Tom Gernetzke, RRC, RBEC, project manager, Facility Engineering Inc. and the president of RCI Inc., pointed to several trends to watch. “In addition to ongoing technical issues, such as low-VOC adhesives, lightweight concrete substrates and increased reliance on low-rise foam adhesives, the integration of roofing and roofing air barriers with other vertical air/vapor barrier building envelope components will become more of a challenge as code requirements become more stringent,” he noted. “The pushback against the use of reflective roofing for all of North America seems to be getting some traction.”

Jonathan Shepard, president of Mule-Hide Products, believes insulation will be a hot topic in 2014. “On Jan. 1, the revised ASTM C1289-13e1 — “Standard Specification for Faced Rigid Cellular Polyisocyanurate Thermal Insulation Board” — went into effect, changing the testing methodology used to calculate the Long Term Thermal Resistance (LTTR) of polyisocyanurate foam insulation,” he said. “As a result, R-values for polyiso roofing insulation will decrease, likely increasing the amount of insulation required for a job. Contractors must be aware of these changes. They’ll need to follow the new standards in quoting future jobs. Jobs quoted in 2013 for installation in 2014 may need to be re-quoted. And, during this transition period, there may be instances when contractors should seek clarification on whether the new standard applies; for example, when a job began shipping in 2013 and the contractor needs more polyiso this year to finish the job.”

Shepard also believes continuous insulation will be a hot topic. “Building codes, including the International Building Code (IBC) and International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), have been updated to reflect a growing understanding of the building envelope and how the roof, walls, windows and other parts of a building work together,” he said. “Low-slope roofing contractors will need to focus more on executing best practices to meet the new code requirements. They also will need to orchestrate more closely with their fellow tradespeople to achieve continuity of the building envelope and ensure that steps taken involving one element of the building envelope do not negatively impact other elements of the structure.”

James R. Kirby, AIA, vice president sustainability for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR), also pointed to air barriers as an area to keep an eye on. “The obvious growing trend over the past five years is the big uptick in air barrier materials and installation requirements, both in specifications and in the building codes,” he said. “Verification of air barrier installation comes from post-construction commissioning. And commissioning of completed assemblies is tied to a movement away from prescriptive requirements and toward performance measurements. Roofing continues to be more prescriptive based, certainly when it comes to materials and system design, but as the overall energy efficiency (from insulation and air barriers) of a building moves toward a performance requirement, contractors and roof system designers will likely be held more accountable to the energy efficiency of the building envelope. And because the roofing industry is so heavily reliant on re-roofing of existing buildings, the roofing industry (versus those designing new buildings) has its success in its own hands.”

“Understanding how to design a roof for longevity and energy efficiency will be even more important than it is today, and those in the roofing industry designing and installing roof systems will be accountable for the outcome,” he continued. “While this sounds like a big hurdle, those who figure out how to do this successfully will have strong businesses with tremendous bottom lines. The challenge can and will yield great successes.”

Wendy Pole, senior segment manager, building envelope for ROXUL Inc., welcomed an increased focus on insulation. “ROXUL Inc. is the largest manufacturer of stone wool insulation in North America and globally as a subsidiary of ROCKWOOL International. As we launch into the New Year and energy requirements are continuing to be in the forefront, it is a good time to be in the insulation business,” she said.

Pole pointed to recent research related to the role of insulation in the life cycle of the waterproofing layer on the roof. “According to research conducted by RDH Engineering Ltd., changing insulation materials can change the amount of stress on the membrane, which could therefore affect the life of the membrane,” she said. “Different materials experience different rates of expansion and contraction. Stone wool is relatively stable being made from stone, therefore a stone wool board will not undergo significant dimensional change and the board will stay the same size and thickness with changes in temperature. Foam plastics are more greatly affected by changes in temperature because of the higher rate of expansion and contraction. This can cause gaps between the boards and stress on the top layer.” 

Jared Blum: Stay on Top of Codes and Standards

Contractors should be aware of evolving energy codes and standards. Two of the most important pertain to updates to ASHRAE 90.1 and the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

ASHRAE Standard 90.1 represents the minimum required prescriptive R-value (resistance to heat flow) for roof and wall insulation levels. The 2013 version of ASHRAE 90.1 contains significant upgrades to R-value requirements.

The 2015 IECC provides clear, unambiguous direction on how the energy code provisions apply to roof repair, roof recover and roof replacement. When existing roofs (that are part of the building’s thermal envelope) are removed and replaced, and when the roof assembly includes above-deck insulation, the energy code now requires that the insulation levels comply with the requirements for new construction.

Jared Blum is president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA).