Roofing in Romania, Part II: Past as Prologue

[Editor’s Note: In May, Thomas W. Hutchinson presented a paper at the 2017 International Conference on Building Envelope Systems and Technologies (ICBEST) in Istanbul, Turkey, as did his good friend, Dr. Ana-Maria Dabija. After the conference, Hutchinson delivered a lecture to the architectural students at the University of Architecture in Bucharest, Romania, and spent several days touring Romania, exploring the country’s historic buildings and new architecture. Convinced that readers in the United States would appreciate information on how other countries treat roofing, he asked Dr. Dabija to report on roof systems in Romania. The first article, “Roofing in Romania: Lessons From the Past,” was published in the July/August issue of Roofing. In this follow-up article, Dr. Dabija continues her exploration of the forces shaping the architecture of Romania.]

A late 19th or early 20th century residential building in Bucharest. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

(Photo 1) A late 19th or early 20th century residential building in Bucharest. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

In buildings as well as in other fields of activity, there are at least three determinant factors in the choice of products:

  1. The technology. A key driving force is the technology that improves a product or system. Some systems are not at all new—the ones that use solar power, for instance—but are periodically forgotten and rediscovered; this is another story. The history of past performance is important here as well, as is the skill of the contractors installing the material or system. Technological advancements can mark important developments in industry, but the field is littered with “new and improved” products that never panned out, failed and are out of the market.
  2. The economy. The state of the economy is directly related to the state of the technology; better efficiency in the use of a type of resource leads to the use of more of that resource, as well as to a change of human behavior that adapts to the specific use of the resource. This dynamic is referred to as “the Jevons paradox” or “the rebound effect.” In a nutshell, William Stanley Jevons observed, in his 1865 book “The Coal Question,” that improvements in the way fuel is used increased the overall quantity of the utilized fuel: “It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.” On the other hand, it seems that innovation is mainly accomplished in periods of crisis, as a crisis obliges one to re-evaluate what one has and to make the best of it.
  3. The political will. As one of the great contemporary architects, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, stated, “Architecture is the will of the epoch translated into space.”

Like many other things, buildings can be read from the perspective of these factors. And so we go back to square one: history.

(Photo 2) Palace of the National Bank of Romania (1883-1900), designed by architects Cassien Bernard, Albert Galleron, Grigore Cerkez, and Constantin Băicoianu. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

Our excursion in the history of the roofing systems in Romania moves from the 19th century to the present. As mentioned in the previous article, the use of metal sheets and tiles began sometime in the late 17th century (although lead hydro-insulation seems to have been used in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the sixth or seventh century, B.C.).

The Industrial Revolution that spread from the late 18th to the mid 19th century included the development of iron production processes, thus leading to the flourishing of a new range of building materials: the roofing products. The surfaces that can be covered with metal elements—tiles or sheets—span from low slopes to vertical. More complicated roofs appeared, sometimes combining different systems: pitched or curved roofs use tiles while low slopes are covered with flat sheets.

Copper, painted or galvanized common metal, zinc or other alloys cut in tiles and sheets, with different shapes or fixings—the metal roofs of the old buildings are a gift to us, from a generation that valued details more than we do, today (Photo 1).

(Photo 3) The Palace of the School of Architecture in Bucharest, designed by architect Grigore Cerchez. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

In the second half of the 19th century, in 1859, two of the historic Romanian provinces—Walachia and Moldova—united under the rule of a single reigning monarch, and, in 1866, a German prince, Karl, from the family of Hohenzollern, became king of the United Principalities. In 1877 the War of Independence set us free from the Turkish Empire and led to the birth of the new kingdom of Romania. The new political situation led to the need of developing administrative institutions as well as cultural institutions, which—in their turn—needed representative buildings to host them. In only a few decades these buildings rose in all the important cities throughout the country.

The influence of the French architecture style is very strong in this period as, in the beginning, architects that worked in Romania were either educated in Paris or came from there. It is the case with the Palace of the National Bank of Romania (Photo 2), designed by two French architects and two Romanian ones.

(Photo 4) A detail of the inner courtyard and roof at the Central School by architect Ion Mincu, 1890. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

The end of the 19th century is marked by the Art Nouveau movement throughout the whole world, with particular features in architecture revealing themselves in different European countries. In Romania, the style reinterprets the features of the architecture of the late 1600s, thus being called (how else?) the Neo-Romanian style. A few fabulous examples of this period that can be seen in Bucharest include the Palace of the School of Architecture (Photo 3), the Central School (Photo 4), the City Hall (Photo 5). Most of the roofs of this period use either clay tiles or metal tiles and metal sheets (Photos 6 and 7).

In parallel with the rise of the Art Nouveau style in Europe, the United States created the Chicago School, mainly in relation to high-rise office buildings. This movement was reinterpreted in the international Modernist period (between the two World Wars).

As a consequence of the Romanian participation in the First World War, in 1918 Basarabia (today a part of the Republic of Moldova, the previous Soviet state of Moldova), Bucovina (today partly in Ukraine) and Transylvania were united with Romania. The state was called Greater Romania. The capital city was Bucharest. Residential buildings as well as administrative buildings spread on both sides of the grand boulevards of the thirties, built in a genuine Romanian Modernist style (Photo 8).

(Photo 5) Bucharest City Hall, by architect Petre Antonescu 1906-1910. Photo Joe Mabel, Creative Commons Attribution.

Influences from the Chicago School are present in the roof types. Flat roofs began to be used, sometimes even provided with roof gardens (although none have survived to our day). It is probable that the hydro-insulation was a “layer cake” of melted bitumen, asphalt fabric and asphalt board, everything topped with a protection against UV and IR radiation. The “recipe” was mostly preserved and used until the mid-90s.

In the second half of the 20th century, the most common roofs were the bitumen membranes, installed layer after layer. Residential buildings and most administrative buildings had flat roofs. Still, in the center of the cities, more elaborate architecture was designed, so next to a church with a metallic roof, you might find a residential block of flats with pitched roofs covered with metal tiles, behind which the lofts are used as apartments (Photo 9).

Most of the urban mass dwellings, however, were provided with flat roofs (Photo 10). Even the famous House of the People (Photo 11)—the world’s second-largest building after the Pentagon—has flat roofs with the hydro-insulation made of bitumen (fabric and board layers).

(Photo 6) Residential buildings built in the late 19th or early 20th century in the center of Bucharest. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

Corrugated steel boards or fiberboards were mainly used in industrial buildings and sometimes in village dwellings, replacing the wooden shingles as a roofing solution that could be easily installed (Photo 12).

After 1989, when the communist block collapsed, products from all over the world entered the market. The residential segment of the market exploded, as wealthy people wanted to own houses and not apartments. Pitched roofs became an interesting option, and the conversion of the loft in living spaces was also promoted. Corrugated steel panels, with traditional or vivid colors, invaded the roofs, serving as a rapid solution both for new and older buildings that needed to be refurbished. Skylights, solar tunnels and solar panels also found their way onto the traditional roofs as the new developments continued (Photo 13).

Today the building design market is mainly divided between the residential market and the office-retail market. Where roofs are concerned, unlike the period that ended in 1989 (with a vast majority of buildings with flat roofs, insulated with bitumen layers), most individual dwellings and collective dwellings with a small number of floors (3-4) are provided with pitched roofs, mainly covered with corrugated steel panels.

(Photo 7) The Minovici Villa, architect Cristofi Cerchez, 1913. Photo: Camil Iamandescu, Creative Commons Attribution.

For the high-rise buildings, the bitumen membranes (APP as well as SBS) are still the most common option, but during the past decade, elastomeric polyurethane and vinyl coatings have also been installed, with varying degrees of success. EPDM membranes, more expensive than the modified bitumen ones, are used on a smaller scale. PVC membranes have also been a choice for architects, as in the case of the “Henry Coandă” Internațional Airport in Bucharest. Bitumen shingles also cover the McDonalds buildings and other steep-slope roofs. In the last few years, green roofs became more interesting so, more such solutions are beginning to grow on our buildings.

The roof is not only the system that protects a building against weathering; today it is an important support for devices that save or produce energy. It will always be the fifth façade of the building, and it will always represent a water leakage-sensitive component of the envelope that should be dealt with professionally and responsibly. To end the article with a witty irony, the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright is supposed to have said, “If the roof doesn’t leak, the architect hasn’t been creative enough.”

(Photo 8) The Magheru Boulevard in Bucharest. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

(Photo 9) Apartment buildings of the late 20th century in Bucharest. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija

(Photo 10) Mass dwelling building of the mid-1980s. Photo: Ana-Maria Dabija.

(Photo 11) The House of the People (today the House of the Parliament) is still unfinished. The main architect is Anca Petrescu. Photo: Mihai Petre, Creative Commons Attricbution CC BY-SA 3.0.

(Photo 12) Corrugated fiberboard on a traditional house in the Northern part of Romania. Photo: Alexandru Stan.

(Photo 13) The roof of the historic building of the Palace of the School of Architecture, with skylights, sun tunnels and BIPV panels. Photo: Silviu Gheorghe.

DRG and GAF Launch App to Manage Reviews

Diversity Resources Group (DRG) and GAF have launched pulseM, an app that allows contractors to obtain and manage reviews from customers and employees. It is available to GAF Master Elite, Certified, Master, Master Select, and Premium Coating System Contractors across the U.S. and Canada. The technology allows customers to leave reviews via speech or text in a 30- to 45-second mobile phone survey. Positive reviews can be posted to social media channels while negative reviews are sent directly to owners. Additionally, pulseM offers a gamified employee accountability solution, providing companies a real-time window into employee performance. For more information about DRG, visit here. GAF factory-certified contractors can contact their local territory manager for information on accessing pulseM.

Grow Your Business with Tech in 2017

In a contractor’s day, there is no such thing as downtime. Therefore, when contractors told us one of their biggest challenges was not being able to access the tools they need to run their businesses anytime day or night we listened. It’s why ABC Supply created the ABC Connect program in 2015. This program makes it easier for contractors to work with us by integrating with trusted business-management systems—AccuLynx Quick Order and EagleView Construct—contractors are already using. ABC Connect helps contractors create estimates and place orders quickly and easily, so they can run their projects more efficiently.

ABC Connect also integrates with our Pictureit software to allow contractors to create virtual photo renderings that can shorten the customer decision cycle. Pictureit provides pre-mapped stock imagery, which includes more than 80 popular North American home styles, or you can upload a photo of your customer’s home.

So far more than 2,700 contractors have used the ABC Connect program. One of those users is Catherine Brenneman, the director of operations at Authority Roofing in Frisco, Texas. Brenneman’s role at the company is to identify business solutions that streamline operations, to save her team time and help the company stand out from competitors.

She recognized the need to bring more tech into her company’s way of doing business, so she turned to the ABC Supply Connect program, which integrates with her software system to provide 24/7 access to ABC Supply’s products and pricing. ABC Connect makes ordering building materials seamless, so Brenneman can place orders faster. The system also ensures the accuracy she expects, so the right product is selected, purchased and delivered.

Here are some ways ABC Connect boosted Authority Roofing’s business:

    Streamlined Ordering
    Authority Roofing’s business serves more than 30 cities across four counties, so new jobs come in constantly and the ordering process never stops. Because ABC Connect integrates with the software Brenneman already uses, she is able to easily turn material lists into orders as she receives them. And because orders are created electronically, the system can flag issues so mishaps are caught before they become problems that impact deliveries.

    Total Product Visibility
    Like any contractor, Brenneman knows what products her supplier offers. But even the most experienced professional needs to occasionally look up items and prices—especially the ones he or she does not frequently order. Instead of having to pick up the phone and talk to her supplier or visit a location, Brenneman has her entire ABC Supply branch’s product line at her fingertips and can search for the information she needs through the ABC Connect integration with her software. This gives her the opportunity to take on other projects during the day.

    Anytime Access
    Brenneman needed a way to place orders 24/7. Whether she’s at the job site, in the office or at home, ABC Connect’s integration with her software lets her turn an estimate into an order with just a few clicks.

By integrating technology like ABC Connect into your workflow, you will immediately see the benefits, from cutting the time it takes to create estimates and place orders to improving job-site safety.

Whether you are considering ABC Connect or another tech program, here are five areas of business that every contractor can improve with the use of technology.

    Managing a Job
    Technology yields two important benefits: you can store information electronically (including placed orders) and you can build material list templates. These benefits enable you to order (and reorder) materials faster. Project management software also enables you to keep every document, photo and/or video pertaining to a job in one place, which helps with organization, makes files more accessible, and makes it easier for you and your team to stay on the same page.

    Another advantage of working with an electronic project management program is that it can decrease costs associated with purchasing and printing paper while freeing up space that you’d otherwise need to store paper files.

    Communicating with the Team
    Your projects often involve many different people and hundreds of details. If one detail is missed, it could mean a project is delayed, costs more or has to be redone. To avoid this, make sure your crew is as connected and informed as possible on the job by embracing mobile apps and devices. Technology helps your crew better communicate with each other by allowing them to track and update jobs from the field so that everyone knows the current status of projects.

    Whether on a job site, in the truck or at the office, technology can help your team retrieve project status updates and communicate with each other and suppliers from anywhere, which can increase overall work production and efficiency.

    Estimating Projects More Accurately
    Accurate estimates can make or break a job. One of the benefits of using an aerial measurement program is that it can provide accurate measurements without requiring a crew member to climb onto a roof. Not only does this make things safer for your crew and reduce the chance of over or underestimating the amount of materials needed for a job, but using measurement programs that integrate with your supplier makes placing orders more accurate.

    Ordering Building Materials
    Contractors rarely have traditional 9-to-5 workdays, so it’s important to have the ability to place orders anytime, anywhere. The ABC Connect program makes ordering building materials seamless, so contractors can place orders online, 24/7. The system also ensures the accuracy contractors need by flagging issues before they impact a job and sending a confirmation notification when materials arrive at a job site.

    As you’re looking to add more tech solutions to your business, know that your supplier is also improving their processes with tech. For example, ABC Supply uses a delivery notification system that confirms when your crew receives the materials for a job.

    Working with Customers
    Not only does tech help improve your workflow, it also makes it easier to work with customers. Leveraging tech tools can help you bid faster and provide digital models of projects before they start. With online product visibility through tools like ABC Connect, you can quickly respond to potential customers by sending accurate information electronically. The ABC Connect program’s partnership with common software platforms also lets you distribute bids and reports that include your company’s customized branding.

    Using digital models of a job can help you amplify sales pitches by accurately showing prospective customers what their finished projects will look like before the job starts. Having the ability to work together with your customers to create digital photo renderings of their homes will also help them feel confident about the remodeling decisions that they are about to make.

    Keeping a Job Site Safe
    Technology can and should be used to improve safety. Here are some ways that it can help:

  • Limit salespeople’s time on elevated surfaces by capturing ultra-accurate images and dimensions from photos, drones and aerial imaging software.
  • Know if a job site is hazardous before you arrive using satellite imagery, and arrive safely using mobile mapping systems.
  • Anticipate structural faults without entering the building by using high-powered thermal cameras. This type of tool can also save you headaches and your customers money by identifying specific issues like punctures or gaps in roofs.

Visit ABC Supply’s blog or talk to an ABC Supply representative to learn how technology and the ABC Connect program can help you do more business, better, by harnessing the power of technology.

Four Ways Technology Boosted My Business

We all know technology can benefit our businesses in many ways. The challenge is selecting the right technology from the hundreds of apps and programs out there.

One area I needed technology to help with was providing a more seamless and efficient way of ordering materials for different jobs. Luckily my tech selection process was made a little easier when I learned my building materials supplier had an online program that could connect with the software I was already using.

After talking with a sales representative, I was able to start working with the online program the very next week.

Here’s how it works:

  • I can take aerial measurements— within 98 percent accuracy—of a roof without getting up there to take manual measurements.
  • The software uses the roof measurements and my distributor’s real-time pricing and products to create a materials list.
  • I turn my materials list into an order I electronically submit to my distributor from anywhere.

After working with hundreds of orders since implementing this program in September 2015, I’ve experienced a 20 percent decrease in the time required to process orders for building materials and have seen more efficiency and accuracy in my projects.

Here’s how this technology helped my business:

Project Visualization

Prior to taking advantage of this program, I placed orders based on information from project hand sketches. This would often lead to time-consuming follow-ups with my team to get more details or confirm information. Now I can electronically enter aerial roof and wall measurements, review and update them if necessary, and create materials lists.

Having all our important information in an electronic tool is great! I no longer have to call my team to confirm handwritten information. This has resulted in my team being more efficient and reduced the number of ordering errors that come from misinterpreting information on a piece of paper.

It’s also helpful to have an electronic tool where I can look up all my orders and see when they were placed and what items were included.

Accessible Products

Having technology that integrates with my supplier gives me the ability to access real-time products and pricing during and outside of business hours. This flexibility is so important. One evening I needed cost information on a skylight and all I had to do was go to my account to get the price through the online program.

Manage Business 24/7

From creating estimates to submitting orders, one of my favorite features of this technology is that it gives me the option to access projects 24/7. This lets me place many of my orders after business hours or on weekends, freeing up my time during the day to focus on other projects. I also no longer need to scan or fax orders, and I can quickly locate order information, like date ordered or materials lists, if I need to.

Seamlessly Work With Business Contacts

My business specializes in storm damage and roof replacement, so my team often works with other parties, such as insurance companies. Not only does the software I use integrate with my supplier’s program, it’s also a tool used by some insurance adjusters to measure and quote roof repairs. Being able to use the same or a similar type of software with different groups of people makes my job easier by streamlining our process.

No matter what project we are working on, we have one goal: make the roof repair and replacement process easy for our customers. But that doesn’t mean things have to be harder for my team. And thanks to the technology we’ve incorporated into our workflow, it isn’t.

It can be tough (and often overwhelming) trying to figure out what technology will be the best fit for your business, especially when so many options claim to help with things like efficiency and accuracy. My advice for finding the best solutions for you? Talk to your team to identify areas you want to improve and then check with your distributor to see if it has any technology solutions for your business. The more you can simplify the steps you need to go through to place orders and get materials, the easier (and more accurate and more efficient) your job will be.

Brian Schaible relies on the ABC Connect program, which integrates with AccuLynx Quick Order and EagleView Construct, to streamline his business. To learn more about ABC Connect, read an “Online Exclusive” about it.

Technology Love-Hate

My husband is addicted to social media. Bart’s not posting; he’s just a voyeur, constantly ob- serving what others are doing and talking about. I don’t think he feels like he’s missing out on
anything. Instead, I think during quiet moments, Facebook and Snapchat help him fill the silence. Apparently, Bart is not the only one. We just celebrated the holidays with our families and, at one point on Christmas, I looked up and saw my father, my two brothers and my husband with their noses buried in their phones. Meanwhile, my two- and six-year-old nieces were squealing with glee over gifts they had opened. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the men in my family were enjoying their moment or someone else’s.

I know my family isn’t the only group of individuals addicted to social media, so this issue is packed full of selfie-worthy venues. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Banff, Alberta, Canada, the Moose Hotel & Suites, our “Cover Story” is Banff’s latest destination hotel. It was designed so visitors wouldn’t feel like they’re in any hotel room anywhere. Ted Darch, owner of Calgary, Alberta-based E.J. Darch Architect Ltd., designed the hotel to resemble a village with a courtyard in the middle. Visitors can experience the drama of the mountains surrounding Banff from nearly any vantage point within the hotel. (They’re already posting about it on TripAdvisor!) And when guests are outside, the hotel itself is photo-worthy with its bright red concrete tile roof. “Other roofing options were nice but they didn’t have the snap that the red tile does,” Darch said when he explained his choice to me. There are many more captivating hospitality and entertainment projects with beautiful, innovative roofs throughout the issue.

A colleague once told me he thought I was afraid of technology. Maybe that’s true when it comes to social media (I rarely personally Facebook or Tweet and all my Pinterest boards are “secret”), but I definitely embrace technology that makes life and work easier. In “On My Mind”, Brian Schaible, operations general manager at Indianapolis-based Hoosier Contractors LLC, explains new technology that provided a more efficient way for him to order materials for different jobs. His building materials supplier offered Schaible an online program that connects with the software he already was using. Learn about Schaible’s experience and then read our “Online Exclusive” that explains more about the program.

In every issue of Roofing, we provide interactive content. On page 8, we show you how to download a free app that will bring our magazine to life. In this issue, open the app with your smartphone or tablet over page 16 and watch the Washington, D.C.- based Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association’s short video about roof algae. In our digital edition, the video will automatically play when you land on page 16. Our Roofing team is pretty proud of this capability. We’d love to hear what you think!

Axalta Distinguished Lecture Series Speaker Discusses Artificial Photosynthesis

Professor Daniel G. Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, was the honored speaker at this year’s Axalta Distinguished Lecture Series. Axalta Coating Systems, a supplier of liquid and powder coatings, sponsored the event which was hosted by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania last week. Professor Nocera’s lecture titled, “A Complete Artificial Photosynthesis,” explained his research that led to the development of an artificial device that converts water and carbon dioxide into biomass and liquid fuels using sunlight.

One of the challenges with using solar energy as a source of electricity is the need for a cost effective method to store the sun’s energy. One example of energy storage is photosynthesis, the process whereby plants and other organisms use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into biomass that can be used later, as needed, as a source of fuel. Professor Nocera has mimicked key aspects of this process by creating an artificial leaf.

“We first invented an artificial leaf that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight,” says Professor Nocera. “We then used a bio-engineered bacterium to convert carbon dioxide along with the hydrogen produced from the artificial leaf into biomass and liquid fuels. The hybrid microbial and artificial leaf operate at solar-to-biomass (10.7 percent) and solar-to-fuels (6.2 percent) yields, exceeding the 1 percent yield of natural photosynthesis,” states Professor Nocera.

“At Axalta, we are committed to delivering innovative coatings solutions that protect our customers’ products,” says Dr. Barry Snyder, Axalta senior vice president and chief technology officer. “Our sustainable coating systems benefit stakeholders, including our customers and the communities in which we operate. Professor Nocera’s research has the potential to have an impact by offering a sustainable source of energy. The translation of fundamental research to practical application, as embodied in Professor Nocera’s research, is an element of the collaboration between Axalta and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.”

“The Axalta Distinguished Lecture Series provides opportunities for our students and faculty members to interact with scholars in the world,” says Gary A. Molander, department chair and Hirschmann-Makineni Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. “This year, we are delighted to have Professor Nocera share his innovations with us. Professor Nocera’s work exemplifies the opportunities that exist to use fundamental science to create technologies that have broad societal benefits. We look forward to continued collaboration with Axalta in the years ahead.”

Past speakers have included world renowned scientists, including Nobel Prize laureates William Moerner (Chemistry 2014), Robert Grubbs (Chemistry 2005), Ahmed Zewail (Chemistry 1999), Steven Chu (Physics 1997), Harold Kroto (Chemistry 1996), Richard Smalley (Chemistry 1996), George Olah (Chemistry 1994), P.G. de Gennes (Physics 1991), Elias Corey (Chemistry 1990), Thomas Cech (Chemistry 1989), Donald Cram (Chemistry 1987), Jean-Marie Lehn (Chemistry 1987), John Polanyi (Chemistry 1986), Yuan Lee (Chemistry 1986), Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry 1981), and Herbert Brown (Chemistry 1979).

Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress Adds Three Members

The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress has announced the addition of three members at the Governor level during 2016’s third quarter, adding $150,000 in funding for progressive research that contributes to the ongoing advancement of the roofing industry.

The alliance’s newest members are:

Through the generosity of its members, the alliance commits to the following:

  • Education and training—Develop programs and projects addressing current and future workplace issues, ensuring a qualified and trained workforce for the roofing industry.
  • Technology—Engage collaborative industry segments to embrace innovation and use technology.
  • Sustainability—Advocate environmentally sustainable design.
  • Philanthropy—Enrich the well-being of the roofing community through scholarships, charitable gifts and endowments.

Alliance membership is reserved to those who commit their pledged amount during a three- to five-year period. All members are entitled to participate in the task forces established to guide the alliance’s agenda and attend the semiannual meeting of the full alliance.

Firm Leaders Reinvest and Expand Businesses as Profitability Increases

U.S. architecture firms have experienced a near complete recovery from the Great Recession, which has allowed firm leaders to reinvest profits back into their businesses. These findings, along with an in depth look at topics such as firm billings, staffing, and international work, are covered in the “The Business of Architecture: 2016 Firm Survey Report”.  The report offers metrics that provide insights into how architecture firms are operating and is available for purchase here.

“More than at any point in recent memory, there has been rise in the amount of renovation projects that architects have led compared to new construction activity over the past decade plus,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “A lot this has to do with green building incentives towards renovations, improved construction methods and products that increase the longevity of buildings, and a slower growing population that reduces the need for new construction.”

Key highlights:

  • Net billings at architecture firms were $28.5 billion at the peak of the market in 2008 and had nearly recovered to $28.4 billion by 2015.
  • Percentage of firms reporting a financial loss declined sharply in recent years from more than 20 percent in 2011 to fewer than 10 percent by 2015.
  • Growing profitability has allowed firms to increase their marketing activities and expand into new geographical areas and building types to diversify their design portfolios.
  • Renovations made up a large portion of design work with 45 percent of building design billings coming from work on existing facilities, including 30 percent from additions to buildings, and the remaining from historic preservation projects.
  • Billings in the residential sector topped $7 billion, more than 30 percent over 2013 levels.
  • Modest gains in diversity of profession with women now comprising 31 percent of architecture staff (up from 28 percent in 2013) and minorities making up 21 percent of staff (up from 20 percent in 2013).
  • Use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software has become standard at larger firms with 96 percent of firms with 50 or more employees report using it for billable work (compared to 72 percent of mid-sized firms and 28 percent of small firms).
  • Newer technologies including 3D printing and 4D/5D modeling are reported being used at only 11 percent and 8 percent of firms respectively.
  • Energy modeling currently has a low adoption rate with 13 percent of firms using it for billable work, although this share jumps to 59 percent for large firms.

“From a practice standpoint, digital modeling is firmly entrenched in the early phase of design work and expanding into subsequent phases, with the potential for more involvement for architects through the construction and facility management processes,” said AIA senior director of research, Michele Russo. “In the coming years we expect firms will be adding technological dimensions to their design work through more utilization of cloud computing, 3D printing and the use of virtual reality software. This should help further efficiencies, minimize waste and project delivery delays, and lead to increased bottom line outcomes for their clients.”

MCA Reports Top Drivers in the Construction Industry

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) has released a report identifying the top 11 drivers in the nonresidential construction industry. The report, based on data analysis, surveys, and interviews with industry leaders, was prepared by FMI, a management consulting and investment banking firm dedicated to engineering and construction, infrastructure, and the built environment. The top trends in the industry trends were identified as follows:

  • Talent Shortages and Management Succession Challenges
    At the height of the recession, 30 percent of the commercial construction industry lost their jobs causing a lack of skilled workers as business picks up. The need to recruit and retain employees is key to attract the next-generation of millennials to the construction business.
  • Use of New Technologies
    With more prefabrication and modularization, use of robotics and 3-D printing, construction is becoming more standardized and computerized. BIM models are playing a role in all aspects of the construction process.
  • Productivity Improvements Needed for Profitability
    While use of BIM, prefabrication, modularization and green construction are necessary in construction manufacturing, at the contractor level, technology and planning are paramount to being profitable.
  • Changes in Construction Delivery Systems
    A slow shift is being seen from the traditional design-bid-build or hard-bid approach to more collaborative or alternative delivery methods that were gaining popularity before the recession.
  • Owner Transition
    As baby boomer leaders are getting to retirement age, the industry is facing a change in ownership among 50 percent of construction firms.
  • International Debt Problems
    Although the U.S. has experienced a resurgent economy, European countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal are struggling. After years of growth, China is also experiencing a slowdown in its economy, threatening the savings and investments made in the last few years.
  • Forming Partnerships with Customers
    A more customer-centric orientation is returning. Manufacturers and suppliers must match their marketing and delivery methods to the needs of the contractor and become partners in the process.
  • Healthier Companies
    In order to survive the recession, companies had to get to positive cash flow (or at least neutral) in the new demand reality of the 2009-2011 period. This focus on efficiency created reduced cost structures.
  • Growth Through Acquisition
    The demand for attractive building product companies to purchase is high. Industry stakeholders are looking to realize overhead efficiencies and maximize nontraditional margin enhancements (risk management, technology, self-perform). Those companies realizing profitability in this way are positioned to prosper as the construction market improves.
  • Consolidation
    On the manufacturing distribution side, 2015 was a year of company consolidation. Market conditions led to unprecedented merger activity among large players. Today, a seller can receive what the company deems a fair price, while a buyer feels there is still enough business ahead to make a return on the investment.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions Activity Benefit Buyers & Sellers
    Pace and scale of activity are both up with both strategic and financial buyers. With demand high and the supply of attractive companies low, one would expect prices to increase, and they have.

These trends are expected to play a role in shaping the nonresidential construction industry in the coming years and are part of considerations as companies make their plans. The full report is available to MCA members at www.metalconstruction.org.

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) promotes and expands the use of metal in construction through marketing, research, technology and education. MCA members include metal roof and wall panel manufacturers. Trade associations serving the metal construction industry partnered with MCA in this study. The participants are The American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI), The Aluminum Association (AA), Metal Roofing Alliance, National Frame Builders Association (NFBA), and the National Coil Coaters Association (NCCA).

Pressure Sensitive Tape Council Opens Calls for Abstracts for TECH 40 Technical Seminar

Pressure Sensitive Tape Council (PSTC) opens Calls for Abstracts to its TECH 40 Technical Seminar, taking place during the 2017 Tape Summit from May 15-19, 2017 at Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas, NV. Submitting an abstract allows participants to share industry expertise and leadership, all while supporting the PSTC event. Chosen abstracts and subsequent final papers will be highlighted at TECH 40 in Las Vegas.

Topics include ideas on processes, materials, technology, test methods, applications, environmental issues and more – all related to advancing the science of pressure sensitive adhesive tapes in the building construction, alternative energy, packaging, transportation, medical/healthcare industries.

The abstract submission process has been upgraded with a more user-friendly interface. Those interested in participating can visit www.pstc.org/TECH40Papers to submit an abstract. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 29, and applicants will be notified if their work has been selected in late fall 2016. In the event that applicants should require deadline flexibility for submission, contact PSTC directly at info@pstc.org.

The Pressure Sensitive Tape Council is an organization of pressure sensitive tape companies, complying with manufacturing standards in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.