Detailing for Resilience, Part 3

The Resilient Parapet Roof Edge

Photo 1. Installing roof edge blocking over existing roofing and the unknown conditions below comes with risk. Note the wood blocking and sheet metal lifted off the roof. Nothing you see here is good practice. Images: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

Experts cite — and codes and standards reflect — that most roof damage done by winds starts at the roof edge. From coping blow-offs, which often take the wood blocking on top the parapet wall with it, to removal of the membrane and more, evidence shows the roof edge is a key element in attaining a high-performance, resilient roof edge. (See Photo 1.)

When I was president of RCI (now IIBEC), Reid Ribble was the president of NRCA (he is now its CEO). He and I felt that the parapet was the way to go in regard to providing safety on the roof for roofing crews, HVAC crews, and maintenance crews alike. Great idea, right? You won’t believe the fight we received, and you wouldn’t believe the greatest argument came from the firefighters who might have to drop over a 42-inch parapet. When was the last time you saw a fire where the firefighters accessed the roof? I only see them pouring water on it from a hose from a lift. But I digress. Despite this argument, more and more parapets are gaining height.

What Makes a Parapet Resilient?

A parapet whose height deflects some of the straight-line winds is a great start. For our discussion, let’s start by defining what we mean by parapet: roof edge, part of the perimeter exterior wall system that extends above the roof. For this article, we will concern ourselves with those rising to a height of 30 inches or more above the roof, where the roof membrane/base flashing extends up and over the top of the parapet.

Photo 2. It is always a precarious situation when the roof membrane is left flapping in the wind. This structural steel and metal decking with IMP panels is a wind event waiting to happen.

Well, since we are talking roofing, it’s the combination of parapet wall construction and the integration of the roof cover that is crucial. Let’s take a quick look at what the parameters might be. Types of parapet construction include:

· Precast panels

· Brick – concrete masonry units

· Brick on structural metal studs (Egh — I hate this type of construction.)

· Metal panels on structural metal studs (Egh — see Photo 2. Point proven.)

· Anything on structural metal studs (Egh.)

The parapet height places several outward forces on the roofing (base flashing) that are not experienced by lower roof edges, and thus certain enhancements need to be considered:

· Proper substrate. (OK you roofers, how often do you see a wall substrate board specified where membrane will be adhered?)

Sealing the roof base flashing to the exterior wall face prevents wind from moving up behind the membrane, where I have observed coping “popping off.” A specific detail like this should be included in the drawing so that there can be no confusion as to what is required.

· For metal stud walls, heavy gauge metal plate to secure the roof base anchor attachment. (See The Hutchinson Files article “The Stud Wall and the Roof” in the January/February 2019 issue of Roofing.)

· Stoppage of air transport into the parapet construction. (This topic requires its own article on the requirements and detailing.)

· Proper anchorage of any wood blocking on top of the parapet.

Photo 3. A litany of design errors resulted in this roof failure, requiring replacement. I make no secret of my disgust with stud wall parapet construction, as I have seen way too many failures.

· Enhanced membrane anchorage.

· Membrane peel stops.

· Mid-wall securement: wall peel stops.

· Base flashing that extends up and over the parapet and adheres to the exterior cladding. (Under no circumstances should the base flashing be installed loose; it must always be adhered.)

· And for those designers out there, a positive securement of the air barrier to the roof vapor barrier or membrane.

· ANSI-ES1-compliant copings

These enhancements will also protect delaminating base flashing from pulling off the parapet wall and taking with it the roof cover. This condition is the result of poor roof edge design, air transport and condensation.

Detail Drawings

The resilient parapet should incorporate several enhancements and be specifically detailed and specified. Shop drawings and mockups are required.

Below are five examples of the types of enhancements that I suggest would help make the parapet more resilient. Details that I suggest being incorporated into the drawings include:

Photo 4. Four-foot parapet wall on metal studs run up the exterior outside the concrete floor. We were asked to observe the construction and advised to install a wall peel stop over a 16-gauge steel plate, but only this anchor strip was funded. Note the superior anchoring of the anchor strip into the 1/2-inch substrate board and a few studs.

1. Wood Blocking atop the parapet: If wood is incorporated atop the parapet (and it’s nice if you can detail it without it), it needs to be adequately anchored to the building structure. Nails are never used, and drive-in and Tapcon anchors are not sufficient. For masonry walls and pre-cast walls, I suggest expansion anchors. I like them at least at 2 feet on center (O.C.), staggered to prevent warping. Atop structural metal stud walls, first the top plate needs to be secured, the wood installed with self-tapping screws at 1 foot O.C. and then the wood blocking strapped to the studs with heavy-gauge metal —20 gauge or heavier. Joints should be scarfed at 45 degrees and screwed. If a second layer of wood is required, shim it for taper to the interior and secure with coated wood screws at 1 foot O.C. staggered, and stagger the joints. The strapping then would go over both layers.

2. Seal the membrane to the exterior edge: The roof base flashing should be extended up and over the parapet, fully adhered to both the back and top of the parapet, down and onto the face of the exterior wall. It should be adhered and nailed. (See Photo 2 and Figure 1.)

Photo 5. This shot was taken during a punch list inspection. All the base flashing is loose and required removal and replacement.

3. Wall peel stop: Due to a variety of issues (lack of air seal, condensation, inadequate adhesive application, weight of the material, and air pressure, to name a few), the base flashing can delaminate. Delaminated base flashing create a condition that I like to refer to as “pulling tape off the floor.” With each flutter of the membrane, a little bit more is detached until the force is great enough to pull the membrane anchorage out of the plates through the membrane. Thus, a wall peel stop is required: A batten bar installed on the wall and flashed in. The location of the batten bar is dependent on the parapet height and construction; I like to start out with the mid-point and no more than 3 feet from the coping and the base anchor. (See Photos 3-5 and Figure 2 for an example of a wall peel stop.)

4. Enhanced membrane base anchorage: Manufacturers (whose requirements are often market-driven minimums) require a base anchor (for single plies) of 12 inches O.C. Not good enough. We enhance that spacing to 6 inches or 9 inches O.C., depending on the location. Very seldom do we specify 12 inches. (See Figure 2.)

Including a wall peel stop as part of the roof edge design is both prudent and, on metal stud walls of good height, a standard of care design.

5. Roof peel stop: Like the wall peel stop, I suggest a roof peel stop so that in the chance that the roof cover detaches, only a small portion of the perimeter is in jeopardy. This peel stop should be located along the perimeters. Depending on the construction, I like to locate them every 2 feet (half an insulation board). The insulation is stopped at this location and the membrane taken down to the vapor retarder/roof deck, sealed with water block, and anchored with a batten bar and screw fasteners. The remaining insulation is then set, the void spray foamed with insulation, and the new membrane taken over and adhered/welded to the main roof cover. (See Figure 3.)

A roof peel stop is another quality assurance detail that should be included as part of your resilient roof system design.

Included here are several examples of enhanced and resilient parapet roof edge detailing. (See Figures 4 and 5.) Showing the detail in depth or by exploded location will help you as the designer to know what is going on and will communicate to the contractor what is required. While the design of roof edge parapets will more often than not be different from project to project, I hope the concepts here provide the impetus for enhanced detailing.

Parapets that are tall and hollow can be particularly difficult to properly detail, given consideration of air transport, potential condensation, and membrane delamination. Including wall and roof peel stops and enhanced perimeter anchoring will at least allow a failed condition to not result in losing your roof.

It All Starts at the Edge

Resilient roof system design is needed for our clients, whether they know it or not. The survival of the roof system during enhanced climatic events starts at the roof edge, and thoughtful design and detailing of the parapet will help protect the roof — and help you sleep at night.

Noting and detailing the enhancement is required to properly communicate to the contractor what is required on masonry/precast parapets. Noting a second coat of adhesive on such porous surfaces is always a good idea.

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, Fellow-IIBEC, RRC, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit www.hutchinsondesigngroup.com.

Focused on Proper Residential Attic Ventilation, Roofing Contractors Documented These Mistakes

Since 1998 our best practices in residential attic ventilation seminars have featured the real-world situations roofing contractors are seeing. Here we cover a handful of attic ventilation mistakes contractors found in the field. (Note: Some photos show multiple mistakes but were chosen to highlight one.)

Problem: Bagged Wind Turbines Suffocate the Attic Airflow

Solution: Unbag the wind turbines.

Photo: Jake Jacobson, SF5 Construction, LLC, Little Elm, Texas

It’s impossible for a covered attic exhaust vent to work if it’s smothered under a bag. Attic ventilation is supposed to provide year-round benefits, fighting heat buildup in the warmer weather and moisture buildup in the colder weather. It’s sometimes forgotten (and maybe never known) that occupants of a house generate water vapor daily through activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, breathing, etc. It amounts to 2-4 gallons per day for the average family of four. That warm, moist air can make its way into the colder attic in the winter months, where it can condense and cause trouble as water droplets and frost.

Problem: Bath Fan Ductwork Terminating in the Attic Damages Roof

Solution: Run the bath fan ductwork either vertically through the roof or out the side gable wall.

Photo: Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exterior Services, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina

Even a perfectly balanced attic ventilation system cannot handle the quantity of moisture dumped into the attic by the bath fan. It overwhelms the system. That moisture should be vented directly to the outdoors without any pitstops into the attic. In the home pictured here, Trevor Atwell found three bathroom fans venting directly into the attic. He also found a lot of rotted sheathing.

Problem: Painted Soffit Vents Result in Reduced Intake Airflow

Solution: Buy pre-painted soffits, or paint them more carefully, or replace them with new vents.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Soffit vents have a specified amount of Net Free Area (airflow capability) when they are manufactured. For example, 9 square inches of NFA per linear foot. That amount, by the way, would balance nicely with a ridge vent (exhaust vent) that is capable of 18 square inches of Net Free Area per linear foot (9 NFA at the soffit on the left of the ridge vent + 9 NFA at the soffit on the ridge of the ridge vent = 18 NFA at the peak of the roof). But the airflow capability of the soffit is reduced if the vent openings become clogged or blocked because of a careless paint job. While house exterior colors are important, don’t sacrifice attic ventilation performance. It’s possible to have both a nicely painted soffit and it’s full, intended net free area (airflow capability).

Problem: Two Rows of Box Vents = One Path of Inefficient Airflow

Solution: Always keep attic exhaust vents in one row.

Photo: Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Let’s cut to the chase. If it takes two rows of attic exhaust vents to meet the attic’s exhaust ventilation needs, it’s time to find another category of exhaust (maybe horizontal ridge vent; or diagonal hip ridge vent; or a combination of horizontal and diagonal ridge vent; or a power fan). But when attic exhaust vents are aligned in two rows, the primary path of the airflow will be from one row to the next because air will allows follow the path of least resistance seeking the closest exit point from its entry point. The intake vents in the soffit or low on the roof’s edge are supposed to be the intake vents. The pictured scenario here is producing inefficient attic airflow and could cause one row of box vents to ingest weather.

Problem: Mixed Types of Attic Exhaust Vents = Problematic Airflow

Solution: Only use one type of attic exhaust vent on the same roof above a common attic.

Daniel White, Roof Life of Oregon, Tigard, Oregon

Regardless what combination of two or more different types of attic exhaust vents either the homeowner demands (we’ve heard the stories) or a well-intended but misguided roofing contractor recommends (it’s happening), do not mix two different types of attic exhaust vents on the same roof above a common attic. Pictured here are wind turbines with ridge vents; box vents with ridge vents; solar powered fans with box vents; and traditional electric power fans with ridge vents. Now shown is the all-time classic: Gable-end louvers with any other type of attic exhaust.

When attic exhaust types are mixed, it short-circuits the airflow system because air always follows the path of least resistance. The air is looking for the easiest, least difficult exit path. That path is inevitably the distance between the two types of attic exhaust vents because they are closest to each other. That means the airflow will be concentrated in that area of the attic; which leaves significant areas of the attic incorrectly vented. The intake vents low on the roof’s edge or in the soffit/overhang have been pretty much bypassed. Furthermore, if one of the exhaust vents is suddenly an intake vent, does than mean it’s ingesting weather along with the air? You do not want to find out.

Trevor Atwell, Atwell Exteriors, LLC, Greenville, North Carolina.

About the author: Paul Scelsi is marketing communications manager at Air Vent Inc., the leader of its Attic Ventilation: Ask the Expert in-person seminars, and the host of the podcast “Airing it out with Air Vent.” He’s also chairman the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association Ventilation Task Force and the author of the book Grab and Hold Their Attention: Creating and Delivering Presentations that Move Your Audience to Action. For more information about the company, visit www.airvent.com.

Industry Q&A: Ryan Estis Shares Business Insights Tailored to Roofing Contractors

Ryan Estis

As an executive and consultant to some of the world’s most esteemed brands, Ryan Estis has enjoyed an insider’s view of what the world’s best companies do differently. During the Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Conference, March 9-11, 2020, in Marco Island, Florida, Ryan inspired Platinum members of the Owens Corning Roofing Contractor Network to consider their business in context with the “experience economy” driving today’s marketplace. He shared insights from global brands success that can be leveraged in local markets and offered advice on how stepping back to reflect and renew can drive an even higher level of performance.

Below are some highlights from the conversation with Ryan.

Q: What similarities do you see between running a roofing company and managing a global brand?

A: In 2020, the experience economy is driving both big brands and small businesses, including roofing companies. Today, your brand is no longer what you say it is, but how your customers define their experience with the brand. Small businesses are leveraging the strategies global companies use to create advantages in their local market and in their categories.

Q: Can you share an example of a small business applying global marketing strategies to gain an advantage?

Ryan Estis shared his insights on the world’s best companies during the Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Conference. Photos: Owens Corning

A: Sure; big brands have learned that customers do not buy on price, but only default to price in the absence of value and a consistent, high-quality product. Starbucks is a good example of a little coffee shop that evolved into a global brand based on a consistent commitment to customer excellence. Although Starbucks serves a commodity product (coffee), its customers are willing to pay a significant premium for the consistent experience of quality. This concept of consistent excellence can be codified by any small business owner and leveraged as a key point of differentiation. I think it’s actually easier for small businesses to be remarkable than for their larger counterparts to be remarkable.

Q: How do you define a “remarkable business”?

A: Remarkable is an important word in the experience economy. It means, you’re worthy of being remarked upon. You are creating an experience that is so good, so consistent, and so valuable that you’ve created a sense of urgency where customers can’t wait to tell others about their experience with your business. Applying the experience model to business growth, success arrives from growing the business through referrals and relationships.

Q: What are some challenges when it comes to being remarkable?

A: Customers have higher service expectations today. Amazon and Alexa have created an expectation that service will be more urgent, more efficient and more responsive to customers’ needs. Yet, the high-tech approach doesn’t always allow for the human element and connectivity that drive customer excellence and distinguish businesses. Looking a customer in the eye is powerful and the in-home experience of working with a customer to present roofing options provides a powerful opportunity to differentiate. And of course, attitude is critical.

Q: How does attitude drive a contractor’s success?

A: Mindset is huge. Every day, contractors — and all of us — have a chance to choose how we will show up. The choice is much less about our external circumstances and more about our resolve; determining how we want to show up. How will we treat people? How will we navigate the problems that arise each day? Customers tend to remember how we react to a problem more than the problem itself. Problems are some of the best opportunities we have to deepen the relationship and build trust. When a problem arises, we have an opportunity to insert ourselves into the problem and do something remarkable that the customer will remember and tell others about. When something goes wrong and a contractor has an opportunity to over-deliver and show up even better than expected — that’s powerful.

Q: As a former ad executive, what are some practical ways contractors can be more creative?

A: Contractors need to put time on their calendars to work not just in their business but on their business. Schedule time to think about your business and keep that appointment like you would any other important commitment. Morning is my best time to read, journal and reflect. I don’t take phone calls or meetings before 10 a.m. — I call it the 10 o’clock rule. It’s about being intentional and setting aside time to stimulate creativity. Most people are in a constant “respond and react” mode versus being in an intentional mode.

I’m a huge fan of the digital detox. Scheduling two or three hours of white space — where you shut the phone or e-mail off for a few hours every week or two — should not shut down your business. It’s critical to be surrounded by team members who can lend support and allow you to renew. You simply cannot do it alone, so it’s important to hire smart and then invest in that talent. Culture is critical. Your business needs to be a place where people want to come to work.

Meditation and mindfulness are important personal practices for me, along with yoga. If you can get quiet and be mindful of the present moment, there is a treasure trove of creative inspiration just waiting to be tapped.

Risk-taking and a curious mindset are also critical. At a time of such rapid change, it is critical that you learn how to become comfortable being uncomfortable. Try to stay in a state of continuous learning and reinvention. Ask what you’ve learned lately and make it a point to be curious.

Q: Change isn’t always easy. How can contractors be more receptive to change?

A: Think about what your future state might be if you make the desired change. Will you be healthier in five years? What other positive benefits of making a change will you reap? And think about the consequences of not making the change – what could happen if you don’t change?

Q: As a former ad executive, what headline would you write to inspire contractors in 2020?

“Be prepared for impact.” That simply means it’s important to develop an action plan that you can deploy. It’s all about creating momentum that drives you toward your dreams.

The Resilient Roof Curb

Photo 1: Roof damage after a storm. Thank goodness the conduit is still attached to the RTU so it didn’t blow off the roof. Images: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

Resiliency is the buzzword for this decade. Designing resilient roof systems, in my estimation, will become a standard and make its way into the codes by 2030 or before. This is the second in a series of articles based on experience and observations following extreme climatic events on how I have designed resilient roofs and/or how I would suggest various components of the roof be designed for resiliency. In this article we will look at roof exhaust curbs, typically used to support mechanical equipment. The goal is to prevent the units and/or curb from being blown out of place and across the roof. (See Photos 1 and 2.)

What are the qualities that make a resilient roof curb? This is the first question you are now thinking, so I will tell you. Resilient roof curbs should:

  • Be tall enough to be at least 4 inches above the top of the highest point of overflow drainage.
  • Be of solid and robust construction.
  • Be anchored to the roof structure.
  • Secure the unit to the curb.

There you go, go to it.

For those of you who wish a little more information, let explain.

Appropriate Height

The reason for the height is based on experience. The best way to explain this is by example. A client remained in the building during Hurricane Maria. During the storm, she opened the roof hatch and took a photo of the roof, which she sent to me. Upon viewing the photo, I thought it was the ocean. There was water as far as I could see, and there were waves and whitecaps. The drains and small roof edge scuppers had clogged with palm fronds and other debris. The water was over 10 inches in depth. Seeing that visual, I couldn’t believe the roof structure didn’t collapse. (The building was designed for Class 5 hurricanes and was very robust.) Perhaps it would have collapsed had it not been for the low roof curb height and the fact that all the curbs acted as drains once the water gained enough height. The water damaged high-value products in the building’s interior.

Photo 2: Units that leave the curb not only allow water into the interior, but units cartwheeling across the roof will damage the roof with every corner.

The scuppers should have been much larger to prevent blockage, but if the curbs had been higher than the roof edge, the millions of dollars of destroyed goods could have been saved.

Note: With so much damage to surrounding buildings, there is some thought that the water depth on this particular roof provided ballast weight to the roof and prevented wind-related roof damage from occurring. Something to ponder as a defensive option to storms with high winds.

Robust Construction

The construction of the curb is important, in that it not only needs to support the equipment on top but also to take the loads imposed on it by wind, water, snow, sliding ice, etc. The curb is recommended to be of 16-gauge metal, of fully welded construction. It should be insulated and have a metal liner of the same gauge as the exterior of the curb. For long curbs, internal reinforcing is recommended. We recently stopped specifying curbs with wood blocking at the top, an apparent holdover from BUR that needed to be nailed off. The advancement in self-tapping screws make deleting this weak link possible.

Anchorage to the Roof Structure

Keeping the curb attached to the building during storms seems like an obvious goal. The height of the equipment on the curb will determine its overturning potential; the taller the unit, the greater the overturning moment. Thus, I suggest that the curb opening be framed in steel (on steel roof structure with steel decks) as designed by the structural engineer. Coordination with other professionals involved with the building’s design is critical. The curb should be bolted to the steel framing and nuts and washers used; I suggest 16 inches on center. If a linear void exists between the steel framing and the steel deck, it should be infilled with solid dimensional lumber and sandwiched when bolted.

Securing the Unit to the Curb

Rooftop equipment blows off curbs all the time, and often part of the units, typically hoods, blow off. Sharp metal objects blowing across the roof possess a threat to the integrity of the roof and those who may be on the roof. When it is carried over the roof edge, it becomes a life safety threat!

To prevent these failures, the units need to be well secured to the curb and often strapped down. This is a major reason for the robust curb. Exhaust fans typically arrive at the construction site with predrilled pilot holes in the side flanges — often only one per side. When the curbs are 2 feet or greater in length, additional pilot holes should be drilled so that the fasteners are approximately 10 inches on center. The screws should be self–tapping stainless steel, 1/4 inch with stainless steel-clad EPDM washers.

In very high wind conditions such as hurricane-prone regions, it might also be prudent to strap the unit with 1/4-inch stainless steel stranded/twisted aircraft control cable and secure to the unit and curb with stainless steel through bolts, lock washers and bolts with the interior threads deformed to prevent harmonic vibration from loosening the nuts. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1: At a minimum, roof curbs should be bolted to structural steel and the units above strapped to the heavy-gauge metal curb.

It is hoped that in the near future, manufacturers of the curbs will have these additional support items available as an option.

Achieving Resiliency

Roofs are holistic and their surface is the sum of all their parts. Keeping the roof equipment in place during climatic events is needed to prevent the roof’s failure and interior damage. Roof system designers are encouraged to detail roof curbs and unit attachment — and then specify the correct materials and execution.

This is one more step as we build the resilient roof.

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, Fellow-IIBEC, RRC, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit www.hutchinsondesigngroup.com.

Social Media for Roofing Industry Professionals

Social media is everywhere — from TikTok videos to Instagram posts to LinkedIn professional updates. Consider these social media statistics:

  • At the end of 2019 the total worldwide population was 7.8 billion people.
  • The internet had 4.54 billion users.
  • There were 3.725 billion social media users, just under 50 percent of the world’s population.

The average person has 7.6 social media accounts and spends a staggering 142 minutes a day on social media, according to Brandwatch.com. Eighty-one percent of small and medium-sized businesses are on social media, and 91 percent of retail brands have two or more social media channels.

If you work in the roofing industry either as a contractor, employee, architect, construction materials manufacturer or consultant, why does social media matter and what platforms are right for you?

Audience

To use social media effectively, you must first understand who you are trying to reach — customers, potential employees, or both. Once you figure out who you want to reach, determine which social media platforms they use. This will tell you where you want to be active. Start with the basics: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (you don’t want to spread yourself too thin). If you have the resources, YouTube and Instagram visuals broaden your potential to reach an even larger audience. According to the construction marketing association, 50 percent of construction marketers say LinkedIn and Facebook are the two most effective channels to reach members of the industry.

Facebook

Facebook is a very dynamic platform, allowing you to highlight your customers, tagging them in your posts and they in turn can engage with your posts (sharing with their friends or asking your company questions, for instance). On Facebook you can also easily include contact information about your firm. (e.g., blogs, e-books).

Twitter

Twitter allows organizations to talk with audiences in a way that other social networks do not. Companies use Twitter to connect with users in real time, answering questions, posting updates, and replying to other posts. You can engage on Twitter by simply “liking” or retweeting content. You can also share short tips and exercise thought-leadership as well as easily connect with other influencers. It’s also a great platform to engage in real time with people live at events.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site which is primarily used for professional networking. LinkedIn currently has more than 575 million registered users and 260 million active users. It is a strong platform for business development. Here, you can connect with like-minded roofing companies and suppliers, list jobs opportunities within your company, network for new projects and share news updates.

Share-Worthy Content

Once you get started, assess your content frequently. A good way to tell whether or not you’re sharing great social media content is to ask yourself this: If I didn’t work for this company, would I look at this post? If the answer is no, it’s a sign you need to revamp your content. Make social media about your audience, not just your business. That way, even if you’re in a highly specialized industry, you can still deliver share-worthy content on social media and continue to build your audience.

Finally, be sure to add visuals — photos, charts or other graphics. Humans are visual creatures, and the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” particularly holds true with social media. Adding a photo that shows your team at work on a roof or a recently completed project will certainly appeal to your audience. You can also consider unique imagery that gives your followers an inside look at your company. Using photos in your posts has been proven to significantly boost engagement.

About the authors: Louisa Hart of Precision Public Relations Inc. provides expertise in media outreach and internal communications for a wide variety of clients in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Hart has taught on the university level, at The American University in Washington, DC, and at the EW Scripps School of Communication at Ohio University.

Mittie Rooney, Principal, Axiom Communications, has expertise in the development and execution of media, relationship marketing, social marketing and public education campaigns for and providing strategic counsel to corporations, technology start-ups, trade associations and the federal government.

Social Media Tips

The following tips should be helpful, whether you are just starting out, or have years of experience navigating the social mediasphere.

1. First, can you describe the “voice” of your social media outreach? This is not necessarily a real person — it probably isn’t — but an ideal representative who can appeal to your audience, using language that they understand and referencing issues or values they share. Is this the voice of your corporate leadership? An employee? What age and gender are they? Are they a friend of the reader? Do they have a good sense of humor? You should be able to define this individual very well and know why he or she will appeal to the audience you are trying to reach. A conversational approach is usually the best way to engage your audience. Humanize your feed, and remember that you are connecting with people, one person at a time.

2. Plan before you start. And if you have already started, assess your social media strategy at least every six months. It’s tempting to let your social media accounts take on a life of their own, but they need the same attention that you give to your other communications outreach tactics. A good place to start: define three actionable, measurable objectives that clearly support your business goals.

3. Decide what constitutes success, and be ruthless about judging your results. You may have a lot of Twitter followers, but if they are not the right people to help you grow your business, then it is wasted effort. Don’t focus on “vanity” metrics. Aggregate numbers mean something, but they don’t tell you everything you need to know about the impact of your social media efforts.

4. Continue to invest in social media and make sure it is absolutely current. Set a minimum of how often you will add new content. And clearly define staff responsibilities for your social media efforts.

5. Don’t forget about video content. This doesn’t need to be complicated. Your smart phone can capture the excitement of a new product launch, or the expertise of your employees in the field. A live feed on Facebook can generate multiple times the engagement of a recorded feed.

6. Cross-promote your social media feeds. You should think of your online presence as an interrelated whole. The “voice” of each platform does not have to be the same, but these voices should talk to each other. Take one piece of content and make it work across all of your social media platforms.

7. Pay attention to hashtags. Identify a set of up to 50 that you will use repeatedly to clarify your brand identity.

8. Publish, and then republish. Most likely much of the material you will generate will be “evergreen” so don’t feel you have to come up with something new every day. In fact, material that repeats your key messages should be used several times.

Construction Contracts and Coronavirus Complications

As a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many construction projects around the United States have been, and are being, significantly delayed or curtailed. In many instances, the delays have arisen from supply chain disruptions, state or local government stay-at-home orders, new safety protocols, and workforce disruptions on every level of the construction project — design, field construction, manufacturing, and inspection.

One thing certain to change in the post-COVID-19 world will be protection clauses in construction contracts. Boilerplate legal terms typically couched in fine print, such as “force majeure” and “frustration,” will be closely reviewed by contractors, owners, and their attorneys in the future.

Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the construction contract, the effects of COVID-19 may allow a party to invoke different rights to relief and compensation, or otherwise excuse delays or non-performance. Whether a party to a construction contract will be relieved, compensated, or excused from performance will depend on, among other factors, the language of the force majeure clause, the facts at issue, and the law governing the contract.

Construction businesses should consider the following with regard to current and future contracts:

  • Does the COVID-19 disruption constitute a force majeure event under the contract?
  • Is epidemic, pandemic, or illness specifically identified in the force majeure clause?
  • If not, does COVID-19 fall under some other event often referenced in force majeure clauses, such as an “act of God,” a “natural disaster,” or something beyond the contractors’ control?
  • Does the force majeure clause entitle parties to extensions, termination, or some other form of relief or modification?
  • Does the law that controls the contract — federal, state, or international — reinforce or limit how the force majeure clause is applied?
  • Are there alternate avenues for relief outside of the force majeure clause, such as commercial impracticability or impossibility?
  • How should parties impacted by COVID-19 reserve their rights or document their position?

Force Majeure Clauses: Events and Interpretation

Force majeure clauses set forth certain conditions under which a party is permitted to extend, suspend, or terminate a contract as a result of unexpected and unavoidable events. Under U.S. common and civil law, force majeure protection generally extends to natural and unavoidable catastrophes that impact the parties’ ability to perform their contractual obligations and allocates the risk in such events.

So, what constitutes a force majeure event? Generally, a force majeure event exists where said event is unforeseeable and outside of the contractor’s control. In addition to the specific facts at issue, determining whether a force majeure clause offers relief for such an event will likely depend on three factors: (1) whether the language in the force majeure clause specifically references the event as beyond the parties’ control; (2) whether the force majeure event was unforeseeable; and (3) whether the force majeure event caused the party’s non-performance.

In analyzing the contract language, look to see if the force majeure clause specifically references events like “epidemic,” “pandemic,” or “outbreak of disease.” If so, then COVID-19 is almost certainly covered by that cause. Courts will generally construe the precise language of the force majeure clause to exclude events that are not specifically identified. To that end, if the force majeure clause limits covered events to those involving nature, such as “severe floods,” “hurricanes,” or “earthquakes,” the court may be less likely to find that the parties intended to cover the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of specific language used in construction contracts is critical. Standard form contracts, such as AIA and ConsensusDocs, do not have specific force majeure clauses but do, however, contain excusable delay clauses that could likely be applied to COVID-19 delays. For example, AIA forms generally contain language concerning excusable delays, termination, and suspension of work while ConsensusDocs expressly provide relief for “epidemics” as well as termination and suspension of work.

In some instances, the force majeure clause may contain both specific and broad forms of events and include a catchall provision intended to cover potential scenarios other than specific events. Some courts have deferred to common law principles such as unforeseeability to determine whether the event in question is covered by the contract. There, the determination would ultimately depend on what the parties contemplated and if the parties voluntarily assumed the risk of COVID-19, or, more likely, a general pandemic.

Finally, the force majeure clause may reference “acts of God” as an excusable delay or grounds for suspension or termination of the contract. Whether COVID-19 falls under the definition of “acts of God” is dependent on the state where the contract was entered into or where the contract will be performed. Where a state defines an “act of God” to include wars, riots, floods, epidemics, and natural disasters, COVID-19 would likely be covered. However, where a state more narrowly defines “acts of God” as something caused by nature, COVID-19 may not be covered and the court will likely defer to what the parties contemplated with regard to risk allocation.

Other Force Majeure Considerations

A construction business seeking to invoke a force majeure clause must follow the contractual requirements for doing so. A party should pay particular attention to the form and substance of any required notice as well as time limits to provide such notice as required by the contract. Many states demand strict adherence and compliance with the notice requirements, and failure to adhere to even one aspect could render a claim or request for extension void or result in a waiver of entitlements to relief. Parties should keep in mind that a force majeure event that is continuing in nature, or otherwise evolving, such as COVID-19, the contract may require regular updates and reporting of extra costs in order to obtain relief.

COVID-19 will likely not be interpreted as an event that completely relieves a party from its contractual obligations. As such, the general principal of construction contracts that all parties to the contract must mitigate and minimize the impact of adverse events, will apply. Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the contract, the duty to mitigate could include incurring extra costs as the affected party or serve as a condition to relief.

Generally, a force majeure event will only temporarily excuse performance of those obligations impacted by the event, meaning both the affected party and unaffected party must continue to perform contractual obligation not impacted by the event. Upon the occurrence of a force majeure event, an affected party may, however, claim extension of time for performance based on the impact of the event or as long as the event prevents performance, provided that the contract permits such extension. In drastic situations, the contract may also permit termination of the contract should the event continue for a certain extended period of time. Such clauses may require that all or substantially all of a party’s obligations be affected for a specific period of time before termination is permitted. In these situations, parties generally agree to share the costs of the delay.

Planning for the Future

Contractors entering into construction contracts in the future should take necessary steps to minimize the likelihood of disputes, claims, and litigation resulting from the occurrence of force majeure events. When seeking to limit exposure, contractors must be specific and clear in their contract language when defining the scope and effect of a force majeure clause to protect themselves from unexpected liabilities. Moving forward, parties to a construction contract should address future concerns by drafting more precise force majeure definitions, develop flexibility in supply chains to reduce risk of disruption, maintain appropriate records of cost increases, and consider the inclusion of a well-drafted termination clause.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh, North Carolina, a law firm with attorneys licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. For more information or questions about this article, please email him at kboyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.

Creative Ways to Fill the Roofing Labor Gap

Ever since business rebounded following the 2008 housing bust, the roofing industry has experienced significant workforce shortages. These shortages have persisted even as the global landscape has shifted due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted almost every industry, including the home improvement sector. Millions of people are unemployed, largely due to the virus. However, many contractors and businesses have been deemed essential businesses.

With the growing need for essential workers, roofing contractors have an advantage finding skilled laborers during this challenging time. Here are a few creative ways to attract talent to your workforce.

Differentiate

It is evergreen advice that to attract top talent you need to offer a competitive edge or angle.

In marketing, that’s called strategic differentiation. Your differentiator could be offering a superior wage to attract workers. Consider some of these cost-effective methods and perks to have your company stand out as a place that skilled workers want to work.

· Training. Companies with a long-term view can differentiate themselves by offering informal or formal apprenticeship or mentoring programs. This helps a potential employee see that you’re willing to invest in their future. This strategy can be pulled off by having one or more knowledgeable and communicative senior employees step up to guide junior-level employees. Another avenue is to offer workers subsidies or rebates for continuing education at local community colleges.

· Flexible work hours. Potential workers can be attracted by offering the opportunity to shift off of a regular 9 to 5, five days per week schedule. Such flexibility can bring people into the labor force who otherwise can’t due to child care, elder care, or the need for a second job.

Diversify Your Labor Force

Another way around the tight market is to diversify the composition of your labor force. Women are increasingly filling historically male roles — why not in roofing? And, consider workers who have been displaced by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, such as those coming from retail, manufacturing, or agriculture. While they won’t arrive with the exact skill set you’d most hope for, these employees can come up to speed quickly to fill their gaps. Make sure your job postings make it clear you will consider people of all types, and especially those not traditionally in the roofing space. A diversified workforce can also bring your business new ideas that can help in unexpected ways.

Expand Your Radius

Consider recruiting further outside the city. Rural areas typically have fewer employment opportunities, thus there are more workers looking for jobs. You can also look to neighborhoods adjacent to industrial areas where workers have been displaced. This strategy depends on geo-targeting those potential employees as well as adjusting your employment offer to meet their needs.

Increase Referrals

Like many small businesses, roofing contractors often rely heavily on getting new employees through referrals from employees, family, and friends. Think about systematically increasing this referral stream. One of my favorite resources on this topic is from Tim Templeton’s book The Referral Of A Lifetime. At the risk of oversimplifying his approach, here’s a summary of the key takeaways:

· Be clear on why you’re a great employer. It’s crucial to have your own clarity on why you are a different and better employer. If you can crystalize that differentiation, and communicate it, you will attract interest from talented individuals from varying backgrounds.

· Ask. This is hard for many people, but it’s essential to let trusted contacts in your network know that you are looking for employees and to ask them to help you. If you don’t ask, they won’t know that they can help.

· Thank them. When your network contacts refer employees to you, an evergreen recommendation is to take the time to thank them for the help. It’s surprising how many people forget this. Your thank you might be a simple handwritten note or a heartfelt personal email. Even more effective is a shared beverage or treating them to lunch. Explicit thank-yous encourage repeat good behavior by your network. Even closer to home, when an employee refers a friend to come work for you, that’s the time for a good, hard cash bonus.

Get Digital

For new employee recruiting, specific resources like Construction Jobs provide online job forums for people specifically looking for your type of career. Also consider Craigslist, which has become the classified ads of our day. And, for the strategy of recruiting outside of the expected demographics, you might try recruiting sites like Indeed to set up your listings and profile to accept a broader range of applicants.

Automating ancillary tasks with digital tools can also help you adapt to the worker shortage. Services like JobNimbus make it easy to track your roofing projects, recruitment efforts, and most routine tasks. These tools keep tabs on your current workforce, plan, and track what they should be doing and are actually doing on an hourly and daily basis. It can keep all of your ongoing roofing work organized.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting new talent can be essential for sustaining your business. Use this time to recruit digitally and set up for success tomorrow— and well into the future.

About the author: Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Polka has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities within the contractor referral market. For more information, visit www.modernize.com/pros.

Roofing Industry Unites to Form ‘Back to Work’ Coalition

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the buzzwords we keep hearing seem to be “unprecedented” and “uncertain.” However, some things are still certain even during the current calamity: every building needs a strong, reliable roof, and the work that the roofing industry does is essential.

These facts are the essence of the Back to Work on America’s Roofs coalition, which formed in March in response to the pandemic’s impact on the roofing industry and is comprised of the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), Chemical Fabrics & Film Association (CFFA), EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC), Metal Construction Association (MCA), National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), National Women in Roofing (NWiR), Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA), Single Ply Roofing Industry (SPRI), Slate Roofing Contractors Association (SRCA), Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA) and the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance (TRI).

Most construction was brought to a halt by state orders enacted early in the pandemic that closed or restricted all non-essential businesses. Recognizing the long-term harm this would cause, these 13 associations came together to advocate that the roofing industry be recognized for its essential role in ensuring home and business safety. The coalition sent letters to the White House, Congressional leaders and the National Governors Association that detailed why the roofing industry was crucial during this public health crisis and asked that any updates to state orders allow roofing work to resume.

As states began allowing construction to resume, our priorities shifted to focus on recovery. The roofing industry was already struggling with a backlog of work due to the ongoing labor shortage, which now has been exacerbated by the pandemic. As the unemployment rate hovers in the double digits, the Back to Work on America’s Roofs coalition is promoting four key policies to create jobs, support homeowner investments and encourage business owners to invest in capital improvement projects.

1. Recognize the importance of roofs for protecting homes and businesses.

Physical infrastructure investments made by Congress as part of COVID-19 response and recovery should reflect the protections that roofs offer to new and existing buildings.

2. Address skills gaps and provide opportunities to expand hiring.

The federal government should support efforts to expand career and technical education and address skills gaps in the roofing industry. Congress should provide incentives to businesses that increase their workforce above where it was before the pandemic by hiring unemployed individuals.

3. Provide short-term relief in order to enable long-term success.

Provide additional funding for programs created under the CARES Act, which have been a lifeline for small businesses in many industries, including roofing. Enable entrepreneurs to serve as the economic engine of the recovery by improving access to critical programs.

4. Adopt tax policies that incentivize improvements to existing homes and buildings.

Expand small business tax credits to allow for immediate expensing of capital improvement projects and accelerated depreciation for resilient, energy-efficient roof replacements. Provide targeted tax relief to homeowners to make home improvement projects more affordable, similar to what was successfully implemented after the 2008 financial crisis.

To advance these policies, the coalition has distributed a press release to publications in the broader building and construction industries and developed a media kit for all roofing industry professionals to participate in this advocacy. We encourage you to download the media kit and get involved in our outreach efforts by utilizing these resources, including social media collateral, the coalition’s position paper, a copy of the press release and an infographic that provides a visual overview of our policies.

A common rallying cry has emerged since the pandemic began: we are “all in this together.” The coalition is the embodiment of this statement. We are working together to navigate these unprecedented, uncertain times and overcome the challenges that lie ahead, starting by helping the individuals employed in our industry — more than 1.1 million Americans — get back to work on America’s roofs.

The coalition’s advocacy efforts are only part of the work that is currently being done. Keep reading to learn how these associations are supporting their members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA)

When states and local jurisdictions started issuing “stay at home” orders and other mandates in response to COVID-19, ARMA began providing members with regular comprehensive updates on local, state and federal regulations and initiatives regarding roofing as an essential industry, sometimes multiple times in a single day. ARMA’s Spring Committee Meetings shifted from an in-person event to a virtual format, ensuring that members were able to participate in key meetings from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Reed Hitchcock

ARMA also held two town hall meetings for members to share practices for keeping asphalt roofing plant employees healthy and safe during the pandemic. Members discussed their experiences on a variety of topics, including increasing personal and professional sanitizing, ensuring social distancing, implementing procedures for bringing employees safely back to work and developing enhanced measures for maintaining cleanliness. During both events, tools and resources were shared to help members comply with local, state and federal guidelines related to COVID-19.

– Reed Hitchcock, Executive Vice President

EPDM Roofing Association (ERA)

ERA dedicated a prominent portion of its website to information about the pandemic, focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the roofing industry and potential legislative and regulatory sources of help for our members and their customers. Additionally, ERA joined other industry leaders to send a letter to the White House urging the Trump administration to “issue guidance that clarifies essential businesses, services and workers, and that this guidance recognize the role of the roofing industry in protecting U.S. families and employers.”

Ellen Thorp

ERA closely followed the status of the construction industry as an essential business and urged the passage of federal legislation to provide financial relief to families and businesses. Further, we worked through a range of industry outlets to publicize our efforts and linked our website to other industry sites to provide a broad spectrum of information about the pandemic and its impact on our industry.

– Ellen Thorp, CAE, Executive Director

International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC)

IIBEC’s primary focus has been pivoting our International Convention and Trade Show to a virtual format. Our virtual meeting was held June 12-14, and featured 24 education sessions, a trade show with 65 exhibitors, and two live general sessions, including a roundtable of building industry association CEOs that is available for viewing on our website. We have also been adding new educational offerings to our online learning portal, including an eight-week course, Exterior Wall and Technology Science.

Brian Pallasch

IIBEC has joined with other roofing industry associations to advocate on a variety of COVID-19 public policy issues. Letters were delivered to governors in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington underscoring the ability of the industry to operate safely in the face of the pandemic and the significant role the construction industry will play in leading the nation’s economic recovery.

– Brian Pallasch, CAE, CEO/EVP

Metal Construction Association (MCA)

Jeff Henry

MCA is committed to providing updated and relevant information to its members and the public via our COVID-19 resource hub. We also transformed the 2020 MCA Summer Meeting (June 15-18) into a virtual learning experience. This was a unique and cost-free opportunity for everyone in the metal construction industry to hear the latest industry updates and connect with association leaders.

– Jeff Henry, Executive Director

National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA)

NRCA has offered valuable information and resources to members and the overall roofing industry during the COVID-19 crisis via our website, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), legal and insurance guidance. We are actively lobbying for federal legislation to help small business owners survive the crisis and also sent a letter to President Trump urging the administration to recognize roofing as an essential business.

Reid Ribble

NRCA issued surveys to gauge the experiences of roofing contractors during the pandemic to provide better assistance to members and the industry. We also hosted informative webinars, including “How to navigate crisis management in an ever-changing world,” which featured NRCA General Counsel Trent Cotney sharing steps employers can take to prepare and help their businesses thrive during and after modern crises. NRCA is committed to carrying on its mission to support and advocate for roofing professionals, address member questions and concerns, and keep the industry moving forward.

– Reid Ribble, CEO

National Women in Roofing (NWiR)

Renae Bales

While several industries have slowed down, resulting in unemployment for many American workers, the roofing industry is looking for employees. NWiR has partnered with RoofersCoffeeShop to launch a recruiting website for the roofing industry that will attract new talent and offer opportunities for companies to increase visibility for their job postings. NWiR also launched a series of online-based meetings focused on providing knowledge and supporting other women in roofing as we navigate this new normal. There are 1-2 webinars/virtual meetups each week, which alternate between substantive educational content and light-hearted chatting about common issues. Topics range from transitioning to working from home, to building your business through self-empowerment, to understanding federal legislation designed to help small and medium-sized contractors. These webinars and meetups are publicized on the NWiR calendar, sent to members via email and shared on social media.

– Renae Bales, Chair and Ellen Thorp, CAE, Executive Director

Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA)

PIMA plays a critical role in the ongoing monitoring, analysis, and dissemination of key information about the responses to the COIVID-19 pandemic at the local, state, and federal levels. Since March, PIMA’s Board of Directors has been holding weekly meetings to track the impacts of the pandemic on manufacturing operations and construction activities across Canada and the United States. Board members are sent daily updates about pertinent stay-at-home orders and provided with health and safety resources to help evolve existing practices to address the potential risk of COVID-19 infections.

Justin Koscher

PIMA is collaborating with allied roofing and insulation industry organizations while also transforming planned in-person association gatherings, such as its annual Mid-Year Meeting, into virtual events that are designed to deliver critical updates and offer valuable perspectives about the impact of current events on the building industry.

– Justin Koscher, President

Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA)

At the start of the pandemic, RCMA staff was on the front lines of an ever-changing landscape of policies designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. As the pandemic continued, we remain committed to mitigating the impact these policies had on the roofing industry and providing continued, uninterrupted support for our members. Staff provided remote support for advocacy initiatives that were unaffected by the pandemic and provided updates related to decision making at local, state, and federal levels.

Dan Quinonez

Our membership in the Back to Work on America’s Roofs coalition is an opportunity to foster consumer confidence in the roofing industry and advance our goal of safely providing uninterrupted service to roofs, the first line of defense against the elements. We will continue to serve the needs of our members as we move forward in the economic restart of the United States.

– Dan Quinonez, Executive Director

Single Ply Roofing Industry (SPRI)

Linda King

The SPRI office has remained open to support our members. Quarterly meetings were changed to WebEx meetings that membership felt were very effective, and committees have continued to have conference calls and online meetings to advance the association’s work. SPRI hosted a conference call for members where Tom Saeli, CEO of Duro-Last, shared how his company pivoted a manufacturing facility to produce PPE gowns and masks, which provided ideas and inspiration for other manufacturers to explore how they may also be able to assist in the ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts. Through the SPRI website and its e-newsletter, we continue to share information as our members head back to work under drastically different conditions then what they left a few months ago.

– Linda King, Managing Director

Tile Roofing Industry Alliance (TRI)

In addition to collaborating with the Back to Work on America’s Roofs coalition, TRI has provided real-time information on COVID-19 legislation and administrative actions to our members. This has been done through special reports on new paid leave requirements, Paycheck Protection Program loans, tax breaks, federal augmentation of state unemployment insurance program benefits, and guidelines and enforcement memos from OSHA on dealing with COVID-19 in construction.

Rick Olson

In addition, TRI belongs to the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), which produced a COVID-19 Exposure Preparedness and Response Plan. TRI also voiced concerns to Congress with other CISC members that forcing OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 would not help workers and would hurt the economic recovery. TRI continues to develop best practices for installation that prioritize worker safety.

– Rick Olson, President

New Restrictions May Affect Products Contractors Commonly Stock and Install

The roofing industry is familiar with changes brought on decades ago by international treaties that limited and then banned the use of products containing substances with measurable ozone depletion potential (ODP) — a relative measure of a substance’s contribution to the degradation of the ozone layer. The global effort to reduce emissions of ODP substances required manufacturers in the United States and Canada to phase out the use of CFCs and HCFCs in various products (example: polyisocyanurate insulation) and replace them with non-ODP alternatives. In certain instances, ODP substances were replaced by alternatives that had measurably high contributions to global warming, measured as global warming potential (GWP).

Today, under renewed efforts to combat the climate change impacts associated with the manufacture and use of products from insulation to refrigeration, U.S. state governments as well as the Government of Canada have implemented restrictions on the use of products containing certain high-GWP substances. For the roofing industry, familiar products that can contain high-GWP substances include foam adhesives, spray polyurethane foam (SPF), and extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam. In jurisdictions that restrict the use of high-GWP substances, contractors should be aware of the potential impacts that these new restrictions may have on products they commonly stock and install.

U.S and Canada: Development of HFC Policies

The effort to restrict the use of HFCs in formulations used by building material manufacturers (as well as other sectors) started in the mid-2010s as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed regulations under the Clean Air Act’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. EPA banned the use of HFCs in the affected roofing products, as well as other common end uses, by issuing SNAP Rule 20 in 2015 and Rule 21 in 2016. However, both rules were challenged and partially vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit.

As a result of the Court’s decision on SNAP Rules 20 and 21, there is no federal requirement for manufacturers to transition away from HFC-based formulations for roofing products. Instead, states are leading the transition to the use of low-GWP blowing agent substitutes to formulate roofing products. The states have organized the U.S. Climate Alliance to coordinate on a broad set of climate related issues – including restricting the use of HFCs. (Information on the U.S. Climate Alliance is available at http://www.usclimatealliance.org/.) The Alliance has developed a model rule to guide the development of HFC restrictions at the state the level. This model rule has helped states move quickly to adopt rules to restrict HFC uses.

For example, California, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington have enacted legislation similar to what the EPA originally promulgated prohibiting the use of HFC substances in roofing products, such as foam insulation and foam adhesives and sealants. As of mid-March, at least 10 other states are considering legislation or regulations to restrict the use of HFCs.

For the Canadian roofing market, Environment and Climate Change Canada have enacted nation-wide restrictions on the use of HFC substances. As of January 1, 2021, no plastic or rigid foam product can use an HFC substance or HFC blend with a GWP greater than 150. The effect of these restrictions is that manufacturers using common HFCs will need to reformulate with new technologies or blends.

Which Products Are Impacted?

Certain roofing products like foam adhesives, one-component foam sealants, and insulation are formulated using blowing agent technologies. Blowing agents provide the final product with specific physical properties such as thermal performance or are necessary to facilitate the application process for the product. A good example of the benefits that blowing agent technologies provide is closed-cell foam insulation. In closed-cell insulation products, the blowing agents are retained within the cell structure to provide increased and long-term thermal performance.

However, different products use various technologies and not all products will be impacted by the restrictions described above. For example, polyisocyanurate insulation is manufactured with pentane (or pentane blends) as its blowing agent. Pentane is a non-ODP, low-GWP substance. Therefore, polyisocyanurate insulation is not impacted by the restrictions and roofing contractors should not expect to see changes in these products as a result of any HFC regulations. (More information on polyisocyanurate insulation products is available at https://www.polyiso.org/page/Low-GWPBlowingAgentSolution.)

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) roofing insulation is typically manufactured with HFC blends. Most SPF manufacturers have introduced new, low-GWP formulations using HFO technologies in the past several years. Roofing contractors working in states that prohibit the use of HFC-based products will need to be familiar with the available HFO-based SPF products. Similarly, low-rise foam adhesives and other foam products and sealants will be subject to the same restrictions as HFCs. (More information on spray polyurethane foam products is available at https://www.whysprayfoam.org/.)

Another common building insulation product impacted by the HFC regulations is XPS insulation, which is traditionally manufactured with HFCs. Projects that specify XPS insulation and are located within a jurisdiction that prohibits the use of HFC-based foam products will need to consult with product manufacturers to discuss the availability of low-GWP options.  

How Should Roofing Contractors Prepare?

The HFC regulations generally ban the use, sale, and installation of products that do not comply with the HFC restrictions as well as the ability to place such products into commerce. These restrictions essentially require manufacturers and product distributors to sell low-GWP formulations and require roofing contractors to ensure they are using and installing compliant products. In certain circumstances, the regulations have required some manufacturers to reformulate HFC-based products to low-GWP technology.

Roofing contractors should learn to identify products that utilize low-GWP technologies in order to ensure they are stocking and installing compliant roofing products in states with active restrictions. This will require roofing contractors to determine the answers to questions including: Where is the product being installed, and does the jurisdiction have HFC restrictions? Does the product contain HFCs? And, if yes, when was the product manufactured?

1. Install Low-GWP Products. Compliant roofing products are already available. These products include polyisocyanurate insulation as well as SPF roofing and insulation that is formulated with low-GWP technologies like HFOs. Other product manufacturers are still transitioning their product portfolios to low-GWP formulations. For the next several years, there may be SPF or foam adhesive and sealant products available in the marketplace that contain HFCs. For these products, roofing contractors should determine how to differentiate between low-GWP and HFC formulations. Product may be branded as “low-GWP” and some products will carry labels stating the product is compliant with state HFC restrictions.

2. Check Date of Manufacture. Thus far, each state with effective restrictions has included sell-through provisions that allow product manufactured prior to the restriction date to remain in commerce until they are used. Roofing contractors may still have products that use an HFC-based formulation in their supply chain. Roofing contractors that are planning to install these products in states with active restrictions should determine when the products were manufactured to ensure they can be used and installed.

3. Do Not “Import” Non-Compliant Product. Roofing contractors should closely track HFC restrictions in neighboring states. Roofing contractors that conduct business in multiple states should ensure they do not “import” non-compliant products that contain HFCs into states where their import and use is restricted.

The regulatory landscape is changing quickly. Currently, 10 states have pending legislation or regulation. The most practical recommendation for roofing contractors is to engage with their product suppliers to ensure they are aware of restrictions in the areas they conduct business.

About the authors: Justin Koscher is the president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), a trade association that serves as the voice of the rigid polyisocyanurate insulation industry and a proactive advocate for safe, cost-effective, sustainable and energy-efficient construction. Stephen Wieroniey is the director at the American Chemistry Council’s Center for the Polyurethanes Industry. In his role at CPI, he also serves as the director of the Spray Foam Coalition.

Good News For Businesses: The New Joint-Employer Standard

For the first time in more than 60 years, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) updated and revised its regulations for determining joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs federal minimum wage, overtime, hours worked, and recordkeeping obligations.

Over time, federal circuit courts have developed a number of different approaches for determining joint employer status, resulting in uncertainty for employers and workers, as well as increased compliance and litigation costs. The final rule issued by the DOL is intended to reduce uncertainty over joint employer status, promote greater uniformity among court decisions, reduce litigation, and encourage innovation in the economy.

The DOL’s Joint Employer Rule

The new rule, which took effect on March 16, 2020, limits the situations under which employers, such as contractors and subcontractors, are considered to jointly employ a group of workers under the FLSA. Under the FLSA, entities or individuals may be considered a “joint employer,” and therefore jointly and severally liable for the FLSA obligations, if it exercises sufficient control over the terms and conditions of another’s employer’s workers. But what exactly does that mean?

The DOL’s final rule sets forth a four-factor balancing test, replacing the previously applicable “not completely dissociated” standard, to assist employers with determining whether it will share liability for FLSA violations. To determine whether a second individual or entity is a joint employer of a worker, the DOL will examine whether the putative joint employer:

  • Hires or fires the employee;
  • Supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment to a substantial degree;
  • Determines the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
  • Maintains the employee’s employment records.

The new rule makes clear that no single factor is dispositive in determining joint employer status, and the weight of each of the factors may vary based on the facts of each case.

Most notably, the new rule rejects the degree of “economic dependence” between the two putative joint employers and identifies additional factors which, standing alone, are insufficient to establish joint employer status:

  • Operating as a franchisor.
  • Maintenance of an employee’s employment records.
  • Unexercised ability to control an employee’s conditions of employment.
  • Contractual agreements related to compliance with legal obligations or standards.
  • Contractual requirements related to quality control standards.
  • Provision of a sample employee handbook.
  • Allowing an employer to operate a business on its premises.
  • Offering an association health plan or association retirement plan.

According to the DOL, “[t]o make joint-employer status more or less likely, the potential joint employer would have to not only provide such resources but would also have to somehow exercise control over the employees in relation to those resources.” In other words, a second employer must go beyond simply making resources available and must, instead, actually exercise control — directly or indirectly — over the various aspects of employment. For purposes of this rule, an employer exercises indirect control over an employee through mandatory directions to another employer that directly controls the employee. Merely reserving the right to control the employee’s working conditions or acting in a way that incidentally impacts the employee, however, does not indicate joint employer status.

The final rule provides a number of examples illustrating the application of the four-factor test to these and other business-to-business scenarios, intended to provide more practical guidance to employers with potential joint employment concerns.

Joint employers under the new DOL rule may be held jointly and severally liable for FLSA wage and hour obligations, including minimum wage or overtime. Joint employers may also be liable for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII and other employment discrimination laws, and workers compensation laws.

The NLRB’s Joint Employer Rule

The new rule above applies only to the DOL’s interpretation of the FLSA. As such, it does not address “joint employer” status under other federal employment laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Like the DOL, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued its final rule interpreting joint-employer status under the NLRA, which went into effect on April 27, 2020.

Under the final rule, a business will be deemed a joint employer only if it “shares and codetermines” one or more of the essential terms and conditions of employment of another employer’s employees. The essential terms subject to NLRB scrutiny include wages, benefits, work hours, hiring, discharge, supervision, and direction. In other words, an employer shares and codetermines such essential terms if it possesses and exercises substantial control over the employer’s employees such that the putative employer “meaningfully affects matters relating to the employment relationship with those employees.”

Importantly, evidence of indirect or contractually reserved control over essential employment terms and conditions may be a consideration for finding joint employer status, but is not, by itself, sufficient without further evidence of direct or immediate control over the employees in questions. The NLRB’s rule distinguishes between exercising indirect control and exerting control or influence over setting contractual objectives, expectations, or ground rules. The determination of whether an employer exercises indirect control over essential work terms or exerts control over conditions or expectations as to how a contract is to be performed “is an issue of fact to be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

Practically speaking, the NLRB’s joint-employer standard is significant to businesses because it determines whether a business: (1) has an obligation to bargain with labor unions representing workers employed by another entity; (2) is subject to union picketing or other labor dispute-related activities involving another entity’s employees; and (3) is jointly and severally liable for any unfair labor practices committed by another entity against its employees.

Shifting the Burden of Joint Employment Liability

While contract provisions regarding joint employment will not be determinative under either the DOL or NLRB rules, careful drafting can shift the costs of a joint employment determination. Construction companies acquiring labor from a third party, particularly staffing companies, should include contractual protections such as indemnification provisions, duty to defend clauses, and hold harmless clauses.

When drafted properly, these contract provisions would require the actual employer to defend the prospective joint employer against an adverse ruling on joint employment status and reimburse its costs in the event of a joint employment determination. Employers assessing their potential status as a joint employer should consult with counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable standards.

Summary

The final rules issued by the DOL and the NLRB effectively narrows the definition of “joint employer,” providing employers with much-needed clarity and encouraging greater uniformity in application.

It should be noted, however, that the new rules are not binding authority on the federal courts, nor do the new rules modify interpretations of joint employer status under state wage and hour laws.

For employers, particularly in those situations where an employee performs work for an employer and that work simultaneously benefits another employer, the new rules make it easier to comply with and understand the various obligations under the FLSA and the NLRA. Close adherence to the new rules, and making a conscious effort to mitigate potential liability, will certainly reduce compliance and litigation costs and give employers greater certainty in structuring their business relationships.

About the author: Keith A. Boyette is an attorney with Anderson Jones, PLLC. His practice areas include general civil litigation, commercial and construction litigation, lien and bond claims, and real property litigation. Questions about this article can be directed to him at KBoyette@andersonandjones.com.

Author’s note: This article is intended only for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice.