Leaving your business to attend an industry event for multiple days is always risky — what if something happens back home? What if you don’t come away with anything useful? And yet, 15,000 roofing professionals took that gamble and won at the International Roofing Expo.

Attendees had a lot to see and — do spanning over 200,000 square feet of exhibition and show floor educational space, IRE hosted close to 600 leading international and domestic suppliers and manufacturers — with 167 companies making a debut appearance at the 2024 IRE in Las Vegas.

With Super Bowl LVIII serving as the show's undercurrent, those vendors treated attendees to everything from football throwing contests to hardhats branded with NFL team logos. In between, contractors networked and maximized the seating space of educational sessions.

"This year's expo was nothing short of exceptional, exceeding our expectations in every way. With packed exhibit halls, standing-room-only keynote sessions, and an overwhelming enthusiasm to learn and connect, IRE has solidified itself as the most impactful event in the roofing and exteriors industries," said Rich Russo, show director of the International Roofing Expo.

Between attendee enthusiasm, positive attitudes toward technology, and increased support for Latino and Hispanic roofing professionals, a sense of optimism permeated the show, making it a safe bet that roofing has a bright future.

"The consistent growth in attendance and engagement year after year is a testament to the industry's dedication and our commitment to delivering indispensable tools that drive progress and cultivate skill development,” Russo said.

Artificial Intelligence on the Roof

Josey Parks, the International Roofing Expo’s Day 1 Keynote Speaker, girded the standing-room-only crowd at the Las Vegas Convention Center for what he called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Parks, CEO of Total Home Roofing and J. Wales Enterprises, addressed using technology in roofing, specifically artificial intelligence, and how it’s already begun to disrupt, innovate, and change how roofing contractors operate their businesses and, more broadly, life.

“A lot of customers are gonna buy [a roof] without anyone ever coming to their home, especially millennials; they want that, [not] the friction of someone in their home trying to sell them something,” Parks said during his address. “They'd rather just buy online like they buy everything else, so they're conditioned, and COVID just sped that up.”

Parks explained that the most critical element for contractors was using and leveraging data, a mantra known by social media platforms since their invention but has since moved into nearly every realm of purchasing. Using data to understand customer purchasing habits through AI is set to change how companies operate.

“I want to tell everyone how to use technology and really teach people how to leverage it for good,” Parks said, adding later in his talk, “I've been looking at it for many years, and it's just blown my mind what's coming, smart cities with fiber optics and … the speed of information.”

The keynote set the tone for the expo, with attendees sitting in on tech-based educational sessions and speaking with vendors who could offer them a boost to their business with CRMs and AI-backed services.

Among those vendors was Roof Hawk AI, a software company that automates roof inspections by having AI examine photos and videos sent by customers. Craig Brinkerhoff, co-founder and director of sales at Roof Hawk AI, said he gained at least three prospects after they heard Parks’ speech. He said that having attended the IRE for three years, this one was shaping up to be one of the best for his company.

“It’s been non-stop,” Brinkerhoff said of traffic at his booth. “I haven’t had a chance to sit down. Everyone has either heard about [us] or wants to know more. It’s better than we expected … it’s been as simple as [most] people walking up to say, ‘What do you do? What is AI?’”

Another repeat vendor in the Business & Tech Pavilion was Renovate Robotics. The New York-based startup created Rufus, a robot that can automatically install asphalt shingles. A video of the robot in action caught the eye of attendees, showing it taking shingles from a built-in storage compartment and using AI and cameras to line them up before nailing them in place.

Andy Stulc, CEO and founder of Renovate Robotics, said the team is already working on a lighter and faster model than the current Rufus. He said the goal is to create tools that help contractors work safer, quicker and cheaper, with pilot projects beginning this spring using Rufus.

“We’re focused on a new tool that helps roofers increase productivity and use AI for good,” he said. “People have been really excited, and I think it’s been met with the right amount of skepticism — roofers tend to be a little skeptical about these things — but it’s fun to have our video playing behind us, and seeing is really believing.”

Celebrating Latino Roofers

The future of roofing isn’t solely dependent on technology. As many often repeated during the show, it is a people-based business, and this year’s IRE emphasized one of the most important groups of people in the roofing industry: the Latino and Hispanic roofing community.

The community has always played a crucial role in the industry, but this year, the IRE made significant efforts to recognize them. 

During the 2023 IRE in Dallas, in addition to SRS Distribution’s Para Latinos Lounge, only one breakout session was geared toward Latino roofing professionals. This year’s IRE had three, including a GAF-sponsored workshop presented in Spanish. Other efforts included on-site bilingual registration personnel, signage, and ribbons or buttons worn to identify Spanish speakers.

The IRE also partnered with or hosted multiple Latino-based organizations, including the National Association of Hispanic Contractors, Latinos en Roofing, and the Latinos in Roofing Association. A dedicated party, “EmpowerAll Together,” was partnered with National Women in Roofing and the National Roofing Contractors Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

“We put a lot of work with the NRCA in creating a space that promotes diversity and underrepresented groups,” said Erica Jackson, chairperson of the NRCA’s Diversity + Inclusion Committee, to a packed room of EmpowerAll attendees. 

“We’re just very excited about the work that’s ahead of us, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re up for the challenge,” Jackson continued. “There [are] so many amazing people in this room representing contractors, consultants, suppliers, and the amount of value we add as a group is amazing.”

Amparo Sancen, founder of Latinos en Roofing, said she was happy to see extra efforts and dedicated sessions dedicated to Latinos and encouraged anyone in roofing to participate if they’re interested.

“Having created a space for Latinos, that’s like a dream, not only for me but for everyone that speaks Spanish,” she said. “Everyone who speaks Spanish here is bilingual; they speak English, but they want to [have] their own space, and having Latino space at this event is amazing.”

Paying it Forward

Aside from trying their luck at the casinos or exploring a plethora of restaurants, the roofing community gave to Las Vegas in a tangible and meaningful way. As with previous IREs, volunteers went into the surrounding community the Monday before the show for Community Service Day.

Despite a rainy start to the day, dozens of volunteers showed up for the 15th annual event to help make much-needed repairs to homes belonging to low-income seniors living in Henderson, a city southwest of the Vegas Strip. Event organizers partnered with Rebuilding Together of Southern Nevada to determine which homes to visit.

Chief sponsor Sika Sarnafil brought 11 volunteers and presented RTSNV with a check for $15,000. 

“We’re very excited to act as the main sponsor again for the community service day at the IRE,” said Bill Bellico, Sika’s vice president of marketing and inside sales. “This will be the 14th year doing so, and it has really become one of our favorite traditions … to work side-by-side with contractors and fellow suppliers to give back to the local community.”

Day 1’s keynote presentation about artificial intelligence resulted in standing room only, with attendees eager to hear how AI can improve their operations.

Day 1’s keynote presentation about artificial intelligence resulted in standing room only, with attendees eager to hear how AI can improve their operations.

The Winner is…

The IRE serves as one of the most significant events for networking and learning more about roofing products and practices. It also serves as a stage for recognizing outstanding companies and individuals.

National Women in Roofing presented its annual Woman of Outstanding Roofing Leadership Distinction (WORLD) Awards to two of its members during NWiR Days on Feb. 4. The WORLD Award Veteran went to Devri Pieratt, director of marketing and organizational development at Integrity Insurance & Bonding Inc. in Happy Valley, Ore., while the Rising Star Award went to Amanda Veinott, owner and founder of Maven Roofing & Exteriors in Roxbury, N.J.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees and to all of you who have [chosen] to join this amazing organization,” Pieratt said in a written statement. “It is a true honor to be recognized by some of the women I respect most in the industry.”

The NRCA held its 137th annual convention and award ceremony during the IRE, where it recognized this year’s recipients of numerous awards. The John Bradford Volunteer Award went to Hap Esbenshade of The Mountain Co. in West Virginia, while the Charlie Raymond Award went to GAF. 

Meanwhile, the grand prize winner of the CNA/NRCA Community Involvement Award, which honors charitable works completed by NRCA members, went to Turner Roofing Services, Broken Arrow, Okla., for its work with Green Country Habitat for Humanity in Tulsa, Okla.

The Roofing Alliance, the nonprofit arm of the NRCA, presented its new Bennett Award to Dennis Conway, principal and vice president of Commercial Roofers Inc. in Las Vegas. Most Valuable Player Awards were also handed out to honor individuals at roofing companies who go above and beyond in performance and giving back to others.

The NRCA also awarded its most prestigious honor, the J.A. Piper Award. This recognizes roofing professionals who devote constant service to the NRCA and the roofing industry. Jim Barr, president of Barr Roofing in Abilene, Texas, was named the 2024 recipient of its J.A. Piper Award.

Along with serving on multiple NRCA committees and as its chairman, Barr’s work with training programs is credited with the basis for the NRCA's ProCertification program, which offers national certification in nearly a dozen roofing systems.

“What he did was the start of something really special that is transforming how the nation sees roofing as a professional career,” said Robert “Bob” Daly Jr., the 2023 J.A. Piper recipient, in presenting the award.

Roofing’s bright future was displayed during the IRE with the Roofing Alliance’s 10th annual Construction Management Student Competition. Like the IRE itself, it saw new records and firsts — two teams tied for third place due to the students’ exceptional performances. But in the end, the University of Florida took home the gold.

“As we celebrate the competition’s 10th anniversary, our mission has remained steadfast … to promote careers in roofing management by exposing students to the roofing world in which we all live,” said Greg Bloom, president of the Roofing Alliance.

RC Editor-in-Chief Art Aisner and Managing Editor Bryan Gottlieb contributed to this report.