Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist, once said, “It’s one thing to feel you are on the right path, but it’s another to think yours is the only path.” In this regard, roof contractors are no different, particularly professional ones with years of experience walking their own particular paths. While such experience has its obvious virtues, it can also blind them to other, potentially more beneficial paths they could be following.
As a leading voice in the roofing industry, the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA) has a mission to educate its members on all the possible options. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult for our members to meet with each other. With that in mind, we’ve been bringing together key stakeholders via panels to ensure that all the efforts that RCMA and its members have made in that time will have the desired impact on the industry, as well as identify areas that RCMA needs to focus on.
RCMA hosted a panel during its 2022 summer meetings in which consultants lent their perspective on several areas of concern. In this article, I will focus on concerns related to the roofing industry from that event, sharing expectations and aspirations for the future.
Many consultants can relate to the experience of being called onto projects where things have not gone ideally. In fact, consultants will often attest that they have seen roof coating installations at their worst. But they are also quick to affirm that this is the case with nearly every roofing material and that observed failures often inform their future decisions on product selection, regardless of category.
To be sure, the roof coatings industry has made progress in a variety of aspects, including product technologies and application methodologies. With regard to observed failures, particularly its primary causes, they lie in either the choice of the application (product selection) or in the application itself (installation).
Training and Education
Related to both of these areas is the need for more training, especially with application errors being a key issue identified in observed failures. Traditionally, training has been conducted either by a contractor company sending its personnel to a location or by field-based personnel from a manufacturer training contractor personnel at the company headquarters or on a jobsite.
A major drawback to these approaches is the lost productivity for the contractor when the crews are off site or at headquarters attending training. Jobsite-specific training typically focuses on a specific product and the conditions on that particular jobsite rather than more general installation information.
In recognition of the current transient nature of the workforce, many contractors express a desire for training and certifications that are tied to individual technicians rather than installation companies. Consultants also want manufacturers to discuss failures with products and what processes were developed to address these issues.
The need within the industry to discuss and resolve failure analyses affirms the need for more virtual training programs. To that end, RCMA and its members have been developing a virtual training program, initially with three modules covering the following areas: Evaluating and Preparing Surfaces for Roof Coatings, Roof Coating Technologies, and Roof Coating Application Best Practices. Each of these modules will be accessed by individuals, with the certifications of completion awards in their names.
Parts of all three modules address failure modes related to their subject matter and general guidance on remediation. RCMA must affirm that instructions on installation and addressing any issues with a specific product should be sought from the product’s specific manufacturer and its literature for detailed guidance.
Accessibility to Sustainability
Another area of opportunity is information about sustainability, specifically information related to a product’s environmental impact in its creation, usage, and disposal or re-entry into another creation process, if applicable. Industry experts are inundated with requests for information on products that are specified, resulting in a huge time commitment to gather and organize this information on their own.
Addressing a need for information among consultants — while not overwhelming the capacity of experts to provide such information — is a foremost concern. This is where RCMA’s upcoming Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and industry average Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for multiple roof coating products may help contractors, manufacturers, and other stakeholders. These documents will be like other roofing segment product averaged documents to serve as a baseline for industry products.
While these are not a full-on substitute for any specific product’s LCA or EPD, they will help bridge the gap for manufacturers who are in the process of creating their individual product documents or have yet to begin the process. These documents should also help contractors and consultants meet submission requirements where necessary. (RCMA is targeting to have the industry average documents completed by the first quarter of 2023.)
These documents are a reaction to requirements, but RCMA and its members also recognized the need to be proactive. RCMA staff is also committed to working with counterparts at the International Institute of Building Envelope Consultants (IIBEC) to create a joint task force to facilitate a continuing dialogue on roof coatings with the consulting community.
While this idea was proposed during the panel discussion, the intent was that each group would identify two to three issues in the industry and then come together to compare lists, collaborate on common issues, and provide a platform for dialogue on other items with the goal of advancing the industry forward. RCMA is also proactively exploring other organizations and entities to expand its participation in these issues early.
Field Data and Formulations
It is always great when our in-development projects meet an expressed need by stakeholders. But there are some areas where we need continued discussion with all stakeholders to clarify the picture from all perspectives.
A prime example is formulation changes. Many industry experts wish to see formulation stability, including field-based, geographic performance data over a minimum of five years. Many formulation changes over the past 15–20 years are a result of the industry’s attempt to meet changing regulatory demands while continuing to formulate to meet stakeholders’ expectations as well as other requirements, such as building code and third-party product specifications. It is clear that the industry needs to work to better communicate these regulatory drivers to industry stakeholders to make sure formulation changes are better understood.
Conversation, Not Chatting
As chef Anne Burrell said, “Part of being successful is about asking questions and listening to the answers.” High-level discussions between industry experts and association members offer a welcomed opportunity for an in-person exchange with consultants, contractors, and other stakeholders. The necessity of hearing from a cross-section of representatives throughout the industry became clear, and RCMA wants to make sure that these discussions are continual — not just sporadic chats that occur only after an issue arises. Such conversations lead to success for not only the association and its members but for everyone in the roof coatings industry.