The July issue of Roofing Contractor brings you up to date on many of the latest technologies performing in the roofing industry. In the ongoing quest to keep myself up on the latest tech, I recently had the pleasure of attending the annual convention of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Atlanta.

I was reminded of how technology has changed nearly everything in this world, including the experience of attending a trade show. Downloading an app allowed me to carry in my pocket the full conference agenda, including my schedule and my planned stops on the show floor.

One aspect that technology hasn’t changed is the core foundation of what the AIA and the roofing industry are all about: the basic need we humans have for shelter. We need spaces in which to work, live, learn, heal and play. The first basic requirement for adequate shelter is to keep the weather out, and that’s why it’s good to be us: guardians of the roof. While the roofing industry was but a small part of the overall AIA Convention experience, it seemed we were everywhere.

The first keynote speech was given by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who called out roofing as “low hanging-fruit” in efforts to conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions and stem the tide of climate change. He cited former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative a few years ago that sent college students out to paint black roofs white. You may argue the merits of Clinton’s comments or Bloomberg’s plan, but the point is, roofing is part of the dialog among a broad range of constituencies. And it’s good to be center stage in the world of planning, design and architecture.

As you might expect, architects are interested in all things to do with LEED, sustainability, energy and water conservation. The building envelope, and roofing in particular, plays a starring role when considering all of these topics together.

Many of the roofing manufacturers who showed off their wares at the AIA Convention rolled out their latest in cool, green and solar products. While still far from the mainstream, garden roofing continues to grow in interest, particularly in densely populated urban locations.

Two key takeaways from the AIA Convention 2015 are: first, commercial roofing contractors must engage in garden roofing. It may not be in every market for a while, but it’s not a fad. Be prepared to talk about it, and don’t be surprised the first time, after you have talked about it for years, when an owner says “yes” to your proposal for a garden-roof upgrade.

Second, there’s more to the building envelope than the roof. Some commercial roofing contractors we know have been installing metal wall-panel systems for years, and it strikes me as a great opportunity for many more. If you’re equipped with a sophisticated sheet-metal operation, as many roofing contractors are, it may make sense to look into adding this line of work to your repertoire.

Actually, make that three takeaways: it’s good to be us.