Rick Cook is a partner in ADC Engineering in Charleston, S.C., and the current president of RCI, Inc. He’s been a consultant since 1984, when he took a civil service job with the U.S. Navy after graduating from the Citadel with a degree in civil engineering.

Rick Cook is a partner in ADC Engineering in Charleston, S.C., and the current president of RCI, Inc. He’s been a consultant since 1984, when he took a civil service job with the U.S. Navy after graduating from the Citadel with a degree in civil engineering. He worked as the Navy’s roofing and waterproofing consultant until 1991, when he teamed up with two of his college roommates to form ADC Engineering, a consulting firm which now employs 50 people.

“We’re probably more oriented to design side of facilities - the design and implementation of roofing and waterproofing projects,” he said. “We do the design for roof replacements, exterior renovations and waterproofing projects for existing facilities, and for new construction projects we work on the design team with the architect as the lead.”

It’s true that the tough economy is bringing increased attention to maintenance, said Cook, who has seen these economic swings before. “Any time the economy goes down, our workload picks up,” he said. “Owners are not just putting a new roof on. They are looking to maintain the roof, and contractors are more willing to do maintenance work.”

However, Cook notes that extending the life of roof systems has a built-in benefit for everyone: it helps the environment. “I teach a course which I titled ‘Saving our Facilities and Saving the World’ - a title that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek,” he said. “The point is the key word in our industry is ‘sustainability.’ With roofing and waterproofing, what is the one thing we can do to sustain our environment? It’s to save the roof. A typical roof should last 20 years - let’s use that as a benchmark. If the majority of roofs last 15 years, we’ve lost 25 percent of the life of those roofs. If we get into maintenance and extend the life, you see the value in it. There is a lot of talk about sustainability in new construction. With roofing and exterior walls of existing facilities, the focus is really on maintenance. In my PowerPoint presentation, I include the motto, ‘To sustain, you must endure, and to endure, you must maintain.’”

Cook uses an analogy everyone can understand by comparing the roof to the family car, which needs oil changes, tire rotation and other routine maintenance to run smoothly and last longer. In a way, increased attention to roof maintenance is a bit of a silver lining in tough economic times. “As the economy gets worse, we gain ground,” he said. “We’re getting closer to the life we should get out of our roofs.”

Cook sees another major trend in the roofing industry: more and more contractors and consultants are going beyond the roof to handle things like exterior walls and below-grade waterproofing projects. “It’s not just roofing - it’s the entire building envelope,” he said. “It’s evolved in that sense in individual projects, with specific clients, and the industry as a whole.”

It’s part of a natural progression from fixing roof leaks to fixing problems that might look like roof leaks at first but actually involve some other part of the building envelope. “Typically, ninety percent of leaks are at penetrations and terminations,” Cook said. “We started out providing predominately roof consulting services and in the evolution of the last 20 years we’ve performed just as much with exterior walls. It’s that way throughout the industry. If you look at the major manufacturers, they don’t just have roofing products. Contractors are handling more building envelope issues. The industry is evolving. With consultants, it’s the same way - often the word ‘roofing’ was part of a company’s name, and now it’s becoming ‘building envelope.’”

“It’s the same thing with RCI, Inc.” he continued. “We used to be known as the Roof Consultants Institute, but on our website we now refer to ourselves as ‘an international association of professional consultants, architects, and engineers who specialize in the specification and design of roofing, waterproofing and exterior wall systems.’ Our cornerstone, our backbone, is still roofing. At RCI, that’s the way it is with most of our members, but we do see the evolution - the change - occurring.”

The expansion into other parts of the building envelope is evident in RCI’s registration programs, which now designate professionals not only as a Registered Roof Consultant (RRC), but a Registered Waterproofing Consultant (RWC), and a Registered Exterior Wall Consultant (REWC) as well. “For individuals who achieve all three of those, you become a Registered Building Envelope Consultant (RBEC) - that’s the pinnacle,” said Cook.

As president of RCI, Cook sees the association’s mission as two-fold: to help its members and to bolster the industry as a whole. “RCI’s focus is on our members,” he said. “We’re trying to provide better education for them and better exposure for the industry.”

There are a number of excellent educational opportunities offered by RCI, noted Cook, especially at the association’s annual convention and its Building Envelope Symposium, which will be held this year in Charlotte, N.C., Oct 10-11.

“We support our membership - that’s why we exist,” he said. “In the industry, there are a lot of great contractors and great manufacturers, and together we can do great things. That’s what we’re trying to do.”