Editor’s Note: Gauging the pulse of the roofing industry annually continues to be a challenge as roofers adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace. In addition to the survey circulated last fall that laid the foundation for the 2024 Roofing Report, RC also sought out the opinions of leaders from all segments of the industry.

As part of RC’s continuing coverage, here’s what Justin Koscher, president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) shared with us.

RC: How would you characterize the current state of the roofing industry? 

JK: If you're in the roofing industry, you're in the right place to make a difference moving forward on how our homes and buildings perform. It's an exciting time. There's a lot of information and a lot of things changing at the moment which can present some opportunities, but also some challenges.

And I know we're kind of slowly putting the (COVID-19) pandemic era behind us with those challenges, and our industry is really looking to get to work on implementing some of the policies on how roofing, and specifically, polyiso can improve the performance of both new buildings, as well as the many existing buildings that we work on every day.

RC: Can you explain what makes polyiso so effective for commercial roofing contractors? 

JK: As a quick background introduction, polyiso is a rigid foam board. It's a closed cell board, which means it has a captive blowing agent, and one of its key characteristics is that it has a high R-value per inch. Polyiso boards are manufactured with several different types of facers to serve a variety of functions, such as aluminum foil facer and coated glass facer, so it's a very versatile product. 

RC: How does the roof help that high-performing building envelope? 

JK: When it comes to building performance, it starts with insulation. You're primarily installing insulation to keep the conditioned air in and the outside air out of a building. Insulation does a lot more, too, for that building’s performance. It also helps eliminate air and moisture movement through the roof assembly, as well as the wall assemblies which all lead to that high performance that that we that we aspire to.

RC: Something all roofers grapple with is water. How does polyiso perform when exposed to moisture?

JK: I think Polyiso serves a number of different functions. First, kind of assisting with the overall roof system’s design and performance. You know, many roofers are going to be familiar with tapered insulation, tapered polyiso installation. So there you're installing that to create adequate slope on that roof to make sure what roof? What water lands on the roof is drained as quickly as possible.

Ponding water probably ranks up there, if not the top reason for roof failure. It's got to be in the top three. So getting the water off the roof as quickly as possible, and tapered insulation can be a critical tool.

RC: How key is the role roofing contractors can play in influencing building owners to take a more sustainable approach to the rooftop for energy efficiency?

JK: I think a contractor’s role on a roofing project might vary from project to project. If it's new construction, that contractor’s contribution may come in the form of quality install. So they’re making sure that they're taking the design that they're given from the architect or building designer and implementing it and installing it correctly to achieve that desired level of performance.

I think when you're talking facility managers in existing buildings, that contractor is going to wear a lot of hat. They’re probably going to be assisting that facility owner with evaluating that existing roof system, determining whether it's in need of repair replacement or recover. Once those decisions are made, that roofing contractors probably being leaned on for guidance on what materials to use.

“I think you kind of layer on top some of the economic conditions and uncertainty, it presents a challenging environment to do these projects. But there's a lot of tools and resources available, and hopefully, we as the roofing industry can do our part to make sure that these building owners take advantage of the opportunities related to the roof.”

RC: Is there data available that illustrates the benefits for upgrading existing roof systems that contractors can get their hands on?

JK: PIMA has done some research over the past couple of years to better understand both the state of existing buildings as well as to identify how we may be able to increase the performance of those existing buildings. So PIMA, working with a third party energy analyzer looked at buildings in both the U.S. and Canada. We saw buildings saving 6, 7, 8, even 10% on their annual energy use just by updating the roof. So it clearly has the potential to have an outsized impact.

RC: Can roofing contractors find out more on building codes through PIMA? 

JK: Codes are going to vary by jurisdiction a lot of times. PIMA does have several resources on our website, and a fact sheet library for roof insulation requirements. You can find a state-by-state fact sheet that breaks down what the installation requirements for roofing are in your jurisdiction.

RC: What new codes or regulatory initiatives are you keeping an eye on?

JK: One unique policy that I think we see spreading throughout the country — and it presents opportunities, but along with it some challenges for building owners are building performance standards.

Adopting these standards actually requires building owners of a certain size to be proactive over a period of time reducing the energy use of those buildings. It's certainly an opportunity for our industry to play a part. I think the challenge is going to be for contractors and others that work directly with building owners is understanding what requirements apply to your building.

RC: Does the current economic climate make that more difficult?

JK: I think you kind of layer some of the economic conditions and uncertainty, it presents a challenging environment to do these projects. But there's a lot of tools and resources available, and hopefully, we as the roofing industry can do our part to make sure that building owners take advantage of the opportunities related to the roof.