I was blessed in 2001 to make a trip to South Korea to volunteer for a week with the Jimmy Carter Work Project and Habitat for Humanty International. I managed to toss in a side trip to Hong Kong which was definitely worth the additional time and resources. As happens when you visit a new continent for the first time, some of the mystery dissolves and you suddenly become curious about things you did not know existed. The more you learn, the more you want to learn.
My next visit to Asia was on a study tour to China with the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) in 2006. We were hosted by the China Building Waterproofing Industry Association (CBWIA) visited a couple of roofing manufacturers and attended the CBWIA Expo. This was my first visit to mainland China and my first exposure to the roofing (building waterproofing) industry there.
From this study tour I developed contacts with the CBWIA and an affiliate publication, China Building Waterproofing Magazine (CBW). Thus began a journey of a learning and new relationships in China that is in full swing this week. As this is being written I am on a bullet train (300 km/h) from Xi’an to Suzhou with my wife, traveling partner, and editorial assistant, Micki. This is our second trip to China together and my fifth.
Our travel to China was listed as “leisure travel”, which is true since we are not engaging in any kind of trade. And I am not here as a journalist, but my affiliations here are mostly people engaged in the roofing and building waterproofing industry here. So we always talk some shop when I’m in the country. And it is always fun to share what is happening in the industry here. Also, I delivered a brief report on the roofing trade in the U.S.
We started this trip a few days ago when we landed in Beijing. The first meeting was with Chen XinGuo, an import/export trader from Wuhan. Chen exported roofing slate to the U.S. from Wuhan until two years ago when the government shut down the quarry. The blasting operations were too close to an emerging water project and added to the air pollution. Smaller stone products are still taken from the site for manufacture of other products, but it is anticipated that the roofing days are over for good.
Over the years I have heard some complaints on roofing from Chinese slate. Complaints such as, “too soft”, or “too sandy”. On the other hand, I have been amazed at the beautiful array of colors and textures from slate quarried in China. Not sure what grade and quality of roofing slate was quarried in Wuhan, but for future reference it really does not matter.
Chen tells me that a new quarry in the southwestern area of China is set to begin operations this month. He promised to share ASTM testing soon. If the color(s) and grade meet muster there is sure to be a market for it in the U.S. and Europe. Look for a report on that in an upcoming issue of Roofing Contractor or online at http://www.roofingcontractor.com.
While in Beijing we had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Zhu Dongqing, CEO of the CBWIA, along with the editor of the association’s publication, China Building Waterproofing Information (CBWI) and several industry experts. More on that meeting in my next report.