When I first got involved in the roofing industry in the 1980s, one of the most important events for researchers like myself was a series of technical conferences co-sponsored by the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Every other year from the early 1970s through the late 1990s, NRCA and NIST successfully hosted both national and international versions of these conferences, bringing together the best researchers to discuss critical technical issues, which helped advance and improve the entire industry.

Now, the Roof Coating Manufacturers Association (RCMA) is doing the same to advance roofing research.

As a researcher who submitted abstracts for conferences in the past, I can attest that they set a high bar for the best in roofing science and technology. In contrast to many current educational programs that tend to rely on PowerPoint slides, a well-researched paper of academic quality was required for every presentation; and these papers were further peer-reviewed by leading industry professionals. Because they focused on the most important issues using the best available research data, these papers had real staying power, stimulating additional research many years after they were first presented. And because these conferences set a high standard for research and professionalism, they helped elevate the image of the entire roofing industry.

Unfortunately, during a period of funding cutbacks beginning in the late 1990s, NIST was no longer able to co-sponsor these important conferences. The NRCA worked diligently to elevate the image of the entire roofing industry. The NRCA worked to keep the conferences going, but with the removal of government sponsorship — and, most importantly, the individual expertise of NIST scientists — it was very difficult for NRCA to make a go of it alone. As a result, organized peer-reviewed research in roofing tended to drift for almost a decade until the Roof Consultants Institute (RCI) began to use a similar peer review process for the conference portion of its annual convention.

Recently, the RCMA sponsored the International Roof Coating Conference. First launched in 2012, RCMA has now hosted three conferences, with the latest occurring in Philadelphia in July. Although the conference focused on a single aspect of the roofing industry (roof coatings), much of the research presented offers value for every aspect of modern commercial roofing. Topics covered at the 2016 conference that were of interest to all roofing professionals included:

  • New high performance polymers
  • Roof weathering/durability
  • Roof life cycle cost and sustainability
  • Energy-efficient roofing technologies

By initiating the International Roof Coatings Conference and by continuing to support high-quality roofing research, the RCMA is helping advance the image and professionalism of our industry. If your roofing business includes roof coatings, it’s likely that you’ll be a direct beneficiary of RCMA’s work, which should lead to better performing products with clearer benefits for your customers. And even if you’re not involved with roof coatings today, the broad applicability of the research stimulated by RCMA will likely spread into other segments of roofing, including improvements in the durability, energy-efficiency, and the sustainability of almost every modern roofing product and system. So, “hats off” to the RCMA and its ongoing commitment to roofing research!