This year represents my 40th year in the roofing industry and I am very encouraged by what I see for the future. I’ve seen our industry embrace emerging technologies that have improved communications and streamlined our operations in everything from estimating and accounting to project administration. We have seen systems evolve from standard built-up asphalt and coal tar pitch roofs to newer and hopefully more durable roof systems that are not so labor-intensive. Our industry has a vibrant national association plus some very strong regional associations that question and test new roof systems and products. And our industry is well represented in Washington, D.C., by professionals that not only understand the inner workings of the political process but understand our industry’s unique concerns.
However, for all the positive things that I see going forward, the one thing that I remain very concerned about is the state of commercial roof design. I have been fortunate to work with some extremely knowledgeable design professionals, but the designs and specifications I see from the roof design community lack even the basic roof system information. No longer is it just the occasional specification that is confusing and poorly written. The architectural community seems content to publish roof specifications that clarify little other than requiring a manufacturer’s NDL warranty, shifting the design responsibility to the roofing contractor vis-à-vis the submittal process. A professional roofing contractor could do in three pages what a design professional appears incapable of doing in twenty-five pages such as providing basic roof design requirements including job specific system attachment. The architectural community appears to care little about learning from roofing contractors or participating in the numerous technical programs that our industry offers, relying instead on roofing manufacturers for fill in the blank specifications.
Maybe it’s time roof material manufacturers look at redesigning their specifications to create a more concise document that assumes the contractor knows how to install a roof. Manufacturers should also look at how they market to designers, providing some type of matrix that would allow the designer to select the proper roof system, but also demand the specifier perform the proper job specific due diligence for system attachment.
Roof consultants, for their part, have a feckless association that refuses to enforce any standards and many roof consultants have adopted the similar attitude that the architectural community has, seeming to care little about roofing contractors, our associations or the wealth of technical research our industry has generated.
As for a possible solution, it seems that attitudes must change and we must all acknowledge that we can learn from each other, understanding that fostering a collaborative relationship is preferable to an adversarial one. When roof system designers begin to work with roofing contractors, considering their input and availing themselves of the roofing contractor’s expertise, as well as the research we have put forth, we will make great strides in improving the state of commercial roofing design.
Rick Birkman, Managing Partner, Texas Roofing Co., LP