From Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to the historic hail storms of 2016, recent large-scale weather events have heightened the residential building and remodeling industry’s focus on the term “resiliency.” Long considered a word reserved for commercial buildings and code-setting organizations, resiliency is increasingly creeping into the roofing conversation.

What does the term “resiliency” mean, especially when it comes to residential roofs? To some degree, the answer depends on who you ask. The Resilient Design Institute defines ‘resilience’ as the “capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance. It is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption.”

As a manufacturer of residential roofing products, Owens Corning views resiliency through the lens of a roof that delivers consistent performance under challenging conditions. Different components of a home’s roof are tested individually and also evaluated in terms of how they work with other components to seal, defend and help a home breathe. In addition to wind and impact resistance, energy, ventilation and moisture are also viewed as elements critical to a roof’s resiliency when properly installed by a roofing contractor.

What Homeowners Think About Resilience and the Roof

While the building industry is talking about resiliency, is the subject on the minds of homeowners? Derric Stull, president of Ridge Valley Exteriors, an Owens Corning Platinum contractor serving multiple states across the southeastern U.S. says that two factors are influencing his customers’ interest in resilient roofs. “First, homeowners in the southeast expect to see violent storms in the spring and fall, so weather is one factor driving interest in durable roofs that can stand up to storms,” he said. But Stull also sees a shift in how customers think about durability. “Since the Great Recession in 2008, customers are really interested in value and making sure their roofs will stand up to worse case scenarios.”

Stull isn’t the only one to notice an uptick in consumers’ interest in durable building products. The January 2016 issue of the National Association of Realtors’ magazine Realtor predicted that “resilience and sustainability” would be the number one trend influencing homes for the year, attributing much of consumers’ interest in resiliency to weather-related events. The magazine reported, “Mounting climate change pressures mean buildings need to better withstand natural disasters.”

Talking Resilience with Customers

Color and design are topics that can easily engage customers’ interest in roofing. But there is also an opportunity to bring resiliency into the homeowner conversation. The sales team at Ridge Valley Exteriors talks about the roof as a system to help customers understand that a roof is so much more than attractive shingles, and that a properly installed roof plays a big role in protecting their home. Stull says that while roofing might be considered a visual product, his sales team has found that the tactile element is important. “The psychology of touching the materials is huge and customers’ involvement and interest always picks up when they start handling the materials,” said Stull. His team uses a hands-on approach when talking about the materials and how they perform. “As an industry, we need to get homeowners interested in our products. Roofing can be sexy just like any other home product.”

The transition of seasons provides yet another opportunity to discuss resilience and the roof with customers. “NRCA has done an amazing job of helping contractors explain the importance of spring and fall roof inspections to protect the longevity of their roof,” said Stull. During the inspection, his team members walk the roof to inspect for signs of storm damage, while using thermal image cameras to detect heat loss that could compromise energy performance. These inspections provide an opportunity to address not just shingle damage, but to introduce other products, such as insulation. “We approach roof inspections as a check-up as opposed to an emergency,” Stull explained, adding that the inspections can turn into an opportunity to sell other exterior products.

Even highly engineered roofing products won’t deliver optimal performance if improperly installed. As an example, when presenting TruDefinition® Duration® shingles to homeowners, members of the Owens Corning contractor network talk about the SureNail® Technology grip that helps deliver 130-MPH warranty performance but they also talk about the SureNail® woven fabric strip on the face of the shingle informs the installer precisely where the nail should go during the installation process. 

Standards for Resilience

Like many other categories of building products, there are multiple standards and codes mandating roofing product performance, especially when it comes to shingles. In addition to industry-wide standards, regional codes have also been developed to address the unique climate concerns of various regions across North America. Regional-based standards that Owens Corning manufactures particular products for include the CSA A123.5 (Canadian Standard), Florida Product Approval and Miami-Dade County Product Approval, Florida Building Code-TAS 100(a)-95 (Test Procedure for Wind and Wind-Driven Rain Resistance), and UL 2218 Class 4. From a solar perspective Owens Corning has shingle colors that ENERGY STAR® requirements for initial solar reflectance of 0.25 and 3-year aged solar reflectance of 0.15. Owens Corning also has a collection of Cool Colors meet the prescriptive Cool Roof Requirements of California Title 24 and other compliance programs.

Advancing Resilience Through Building Science  

While codes represent a mandated standard for building products, the application of building science presents an opportunity to continually improve the performance of roofing components and how they work together as a system. Owens Corning Roofing’s building science team conducts internal research and also partners with outside stakeholders such as the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association and third-party independent laboratories. This research facilitates new understanding of shingle and component systems on a roof related to various weather and regional environments. In regions with substantial sunlight, development efforts focus on ENERGY STAR® rated products that reflect the sun’s rays and promote cool rooftops. In areas prone to hail, Owens Corning focuses on manufacturing products that meet the industry’s highest classification for hail impact, UL 2218 Class 4.  

Resiliency Goes Beyond the Shingle – Underlayment and Other Products

While shingles are the most visible component of a roof, they serve only as the first layer of defense in a storm. Underlayment is a critical protective element for repelling water and synthetic underlayment provides many benefits over traditional felt products. Synthetic underlayment advantages include speed and efficiency of installation, toughness and moisture resistance. Because many synthetic products come in wider rolls than their felt counterparts, they can deliver more coverage per roll. Their tough, tear-resistant and durable nature also resists stretching and tearing around fasteners. From a moisture perspective, synthetic products such as Titanium® Synthetic Roof Underlayment is inert to mildew and doesn’t buckle when exposed to temperature and moisture fluctuations.

Other components that contribute to a resilient roof include hip and ridge shingles that address specific codes, ventilation products that manage moisture in the attic and support the roof’s longevity and starter shingles at the ends of the roof to protect against high winds.

At the end of the day, shifting weather patterns and evolving building codes are influencing innovations in roofing systems. However, homeowners’ desire for durability and value can help contractors provide resilient roofs that ultimately support resilient businesses through fewer callbacks, customer goodwill and referrals.