Part III – Transparency plus consensus: A win-win for everyone

Part III transparency plus consensusIt has been a long time since my last blog on this subject. This is not only because I’ve been busy but also because the landscape of green building programs in general has changed significantly since Part II, and I wanted to wait to see how things shook out before I wrote something that might be immediately outdated. If you remember, we left off in Part II talking about how LEED, the most popular green building program in the US, has not been developed through an ANSI accredited consensus process. Furthermore, the resulting lack of transparency was dubiously ironic given that LEED demands a high level of transparency from building product manufacturers in the latest version of their program, LEED v4.

We also discussed the related but more general movement for manufacturers to fully disclose all of the ingredients in their products to a third party who then compares that list to lists of known hazardous substances and disclose any matches on a product label or public disclosure for all to see. This movement has been fueled by several large architecture firms sending letters to building product manufacturers threatening to stop specifying their products unless they participate. Although most manufactures agree that there is merit to disclosure and are anxious to participate in a fair program, they have not been privy to discussions regarding the logistics of such a program nor have they been allowed to participate in any kind of a standard development governing the disclosure process. This makes manufacturers reluctant to participate, given their vulnerability in such a situation. This risk is leveraged by the fact that currently the only standards that dictate the rules of such a program are under the control of consortiums who have little to no scientific expertise and, frankly, have not been friendly to the building products industry in the past.

I also mentioned that there are alternative programs to LEED that have been developed through a valid consensus process. Specifically, the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), ASHRAE 189.1 and Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings (also known as Green Globes) are ANSI standards that outline the relevant requirements for anyone to view. However, the USGBC marketing machine and resulting popularity of LEED prevented wide use of these standards. Thus, they remained largely unutilized. That is until this year, when the USGBC, IgCC and ASHRAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding, promising to work together and create a favorable consensus by eliminating duplication of provisions and assigning an area of responsibility for each group to maintain separately.

Although no documents have yet to be created, it appears that the administration and enforcement provisions of the new standard will come from the IgCC, and the technical content will come from ASHRAE 189.1, both of which are consensus based. Meanwhile, LEED will require compliance with 189.1 as a prerequisite to an upcoming interim version of LEED. This approach allows an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to adopt the IgCC as a minimum standard of construction; dropping any reference to LEED they might currently have as minimum project requirements for all buildings. This leaves LEED to evolve as a completely voluntary program going forward and push the envelope of green building, which is their core mission. Meanwhile, Green Globes remains ANSI accredited and still exists as a commercial competitor to LEED. This environment should result in a more user friendly application process, the lack of which been a ubiquitous criticism of LEED for years, because Green Globes is much more user-oriented.

So, it appears that the most popular green building programs are poised to move in the
direction of a true consensus, which is fantastic news for everyone involved. However, the creation and development of disclosure programs, which will not be in the initial technical requirements provided by ASHRAE 189.1, remains largely a one-sided affair with no seat for manufacturers at the table. Besides the contentious nature of the subject in general, there are major philosophical questions that have to be addressed before Health Product Declarations (HPDs), or any type of disclosure in general, can be brought into the main stream. That subject is beyond the scope of this blog, but I encourage you to read a very good article on the trappings of HPDs called “Disclosure: The Newest Dimension of Green Building” by Jim Hoff.

The good news is that there may be a viable alternative to HPDs on the horizon. ASTM has a current open work item to develop a true consensus based standard guiding the issuance of a Product Transparency Declaration (PTD), which has much the same intent as an HPD. As discussed in Part I, the development of ASTM standards is a highly transparent process that allows everyone, including manufacturers, to come to the table. I encourage every designer to join ASTM and get involved in this process, especially those firms who participated in the letter writing campaign, and forgo HPDs until PTDs are available.

Yes, it will take a little longer; the reality that the development of consensus based standards takes time. But just like the development of the laws that govern this country, there is far too much risk involved in getting it wrong. Instead, having these standards developed by a consensus-based process is the only way the finished product will be truly useful and meaningful.

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Top four reasons to attend trade shows

Trade Show BoothWith phone calls and emails growingly replacing client visits, I think it’s important not to lose sight of the benefits of face-to-face interactions in the business space. With METALCON, a trade show for metal construction products, technologies and solutions, less than a month away (October 14-16 to be exact), I thought it’d be relevant to discuss the top reasons why trade shows are productive for businesses and, specifically, why you should attend METALCON in Tampa, Florida, this year.

Not to jeopardize our audience, I would like to be forthcoming; as a title sponsor at METALCON we have vested interest in driving traffic to the show. That being said, we would not invest in a title sponsorship if we did not wholly support and value meeting and seeing our colleagues and customers in this forum.

  1. Educational opportunities. Although trade shows are widely known as a space for companies to display and educate audiences on their product line, they also provide additional educational offerings on industry challenges and trends. At METALCON, for instance, they offer an entire lineup of relevant courses taught by industry experts to help strengthen your business and two free Learning Zones that host brief, 15-minute sessions that cover topics on roofing details, field techniques and product applications. To view METALCON’s full course schedule, click here.
  1. Putting a face with a name. Trade shows are a forum for customers and sales representatives to interact directly and learn about one another. According to David Brock of Partners in Excellence, “When you know who the customer–the individual—is, what she looks like, what he’s responsible for, how our products help her do her job, the relationship changes.  It’s not a faceless entity, but an individual trying to do his or her job, trying to achieve their goals, trying to reach their dreams–and they need our products to do this.” This personalization deepens the business relationship and improves future communications.
  1. Network and exchange ideas. Aside from interacting with potential and current suppliers, trade shows welcome engagement between colleagues and business peers beyond the show floor. Receptions, such as METALCON’s 25th Anniversary event, frequently follow exhibiting hours daily and give attendees a more relaxed environment to meet others, exchange ideas and form business contacts. In a room full of individuals with shared interests, who knows what brilliant ideas might be born on the back of a cocktail napkin?
  1. Informed purchasing. 81 percent of trade show attendees have buying authority, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Trade shows bring the latest in product developments, technology advancements and industry trends to you. Housed in one location, attendees can compare the competition directly and formulate educated purchasing decisions based on their findings. With four out of five attendees seeking products or services, the takeaway could save time and provide clarity when selecting suppliers. Click here to view the full list of 252 exhibitors at METALCON.

If the above peaked your interest and you would like to attend METALCON for FREE as our guest click here to register and be automatically entered to win a prize at the show.

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Storms and safety: Metal building systems, standing strong


Brester Construction features eco-FICIENT Royal panels

Welcome to hurricane season, says NOAA! Erika was a near miss, and Henri went off to sea, but with multiple storms stirring up the Pacific and a major El Niño threatening severe weather this year, building teams are focused on resilient, high-performance envelope and roofing assemblies.

Resiliency is the watchword, and the stringent Miami-Dade County code language or similar standards are being adopted in many communities. The Florida Building Commission as well as FEMA and NIST have done studies of building performance during severe storms, and metal buildings were shown to perform exceptionally well. According to MBMA reports, insulated metal panels (IMPs) perform well under stresses of high winds and projectiles such as hail and wind-borne debris.

The post-storm studies everywhere from Texas to New Jersey confirmed the durability and resistance to driving rain and severe pressure differentials, too. Standing-seam roof systems and IMP façades remained intact during Katrina even as winds hit 120 mph. According to Metal Roofing Alliance, “metal roofing can have a 140-mph wind rating, meaning it can withstand wind gusts up to 140 miles per hour.” MBCI, which has achieved these ratings, has also pointed to another critical standard: wind uplift testing in accordance with Underwriters Laboratories’ UL 580, Standard for Tests for Uplift Resistance of Roof Assemblies.

Detailing of the roof-wall interface is essential to protecting against uplift. To reduce damage from wind-driven rain, manufacturers like MBCI use test protocols from Miami-Dade or the ICC (TAS No. 100-95). These standards show the security and integrity of the seams in IMP and metal roof systems. For hail and wind-driven projectiles, the metal systems often are able to absorb impact and remain functional and retain their protective metal layers intact even if they may suffer cosmetic damage, as forums have shown. Last, IMPs and metal roofing systems perform very well during lightning strikes — a fact that is counter intuitive but proven. In fact, use of metal roofs does not increase the chance of a lightning strike, as scientific studies show and the Metal Construction Association reported in BD+C, and as you can read more about in our blog post.

Similar to the three pigs of fable, some buildings will do well through hurricane season, while others nearby will suffer from softer connections, more porous materials and less stringent assembly designs. Many building owners will do well with metal roofing and vertical assemblies: with rugged embossed metal sandwiches over high-R-value, rigid insulation, held firmly in place with interlocking joints or lapping seams.

Best of all, the systems are complete assemblies that install as weather-tight barriers without coordinating various components and trades. They also have higher rated values than, for example, EIFS planks or fiberglass panels, some of which may suffer lost R-value when wet. With these benefits – and following the damage and disruptions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in the United States – metal is an attractive roofing choice for weather resistance.

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Students from NCSU Design/Build program complete animal husbandry facility

NCSU Design Build 2015 Summer Studio's team

NCSU Design Build 2015 Summer Studio’s team.

The North Carolina State University Design/Build program’s 2015 Summer Studio project constructed a 400 square foot animal husbandry facility for the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. The new building, called the Wild Carnivore Facility, provides veterinary students with greater efficiency and opportunities to serve university animals, specifically wolves and bobcats. In addition to pens for the wildlife, the facility includes a toolshed and space for day-to-day operations.

NCSU Wild Carnivore Facility

The NCSU Design Build team’s 2015 Summer program built a Wild Carnivore Facility.

A group of 18 undergraduate and graduate students from the Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Veterinary Medicine programs collaborated with BuildSense Architecture of Durham, N.C., to design and build the entire project. This was the first time since the Design/Build program started in 2010 students from the College of Design and the College of Veterinary Medicine worked together.

The new husbandry facility features MBCI’s PBC metal roof panels in Galvalume® Plus. The PBC panels are attached to the structure with exposed fasteners, and the soffit panels and roof beam were made from recycled mill flooring. The students impressively handcrafted the steel brackets and roof beam end caps. They also attentively landscaped the area to provide an abundant water supply and functional design elements including sitting boulders.

To learn more about the project and NCSU’s Design/Build program visit Professor of Wildlife and Aquatic Medicine, Dr. Michael Stoskpf’s blog. To view other projects with metal panels, visit

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Design to your client’s mindset

Spring Fire Department Station 78

As an architect, when did you last hear your client say, “Money is no object?”  This happens … almost never!  More likely what you hear is “I want high quality for low cost.”  The challenge of the architect is to provide your client with high quality at a reasonable and appropriate price.  A large part of finding that balance is determining the values, goals and long-term perspective of your client.

If a building owner wants a metal roof, it’s likely they already have a reason why.  Perhaps their existing roof didn’t provide the service life they expected it to, or it was damaged disproportionately.  Or the building owner understands that a metal roof can last a really long time.  Or they like the look of a metal panel or metal shingle roof, with all the colors and shapes available.  As an architect, it is important to determine your client’s mindset.  In the end, the question comes down to, “How long will you own this building (or home)?”  And, although less common, a building owner may just want to build a high-end, long-lasting building no matter their desired length of ownership.

The large part of the cost of a metal roof, similar to other roof types, is the labor to remove the existing roof and install the new one.   Upgrading from a 24-gauge metal to 22-gauge metal is a minimal increase in material costs that is easily justifiable for the long term.  Metal thickness, coating type and thickness, and penetration and edge details are the areas where upgrades and enhancements occur.

Argue against value engineering.  Roofs certainly can be out of sight, out of mind to most owners, but building owners who are considering metal roof systems understand the concept of life-cycle analysis, whether they know it or not.  Overtly reinforce their long-term outlook to help ensure that high-end penetration details and edge details are designed and installed.  Look to the industry standards—SMACNA, NRCA—for details that will last the life of the metal panels.  Realize that metal panels don’t leak; joinery and flashings are the potential leak locations.  Upgrade the details to be of the highest quality.

Understanding the mindset of your client is critical to determining the level of design.  This is definitely a cost issue.  The “university” client thinks long term; the “developer” client thinks short term.  However, there is much middle ground that requires inquisitive discussion with an owner to determine his/her goals.  Ask the questions, and design a metal roof based on your client’s mindset.

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Demand for roofing: Something to be happy about


With the economic troubles of Greece and now China filling our news feeds, it’s nice to come across good news.  And let’s face it—over the last several years, particularly since 2009, there hasn’t been a whole lot of good news for roofers or the construction industry overall.

Roofing demand fell between 2009 and 2014 as nonresidential building construction spending and residential reroofing activity declined due to the recession, according to an article recently published on But this same article says U.S. demand for roofing is projected to rise 3.9 percent annually to 252 million squares in 2019, valued at $21.4 billion, according to a new Freedonia Group study.

In particular, metal roofing will see above-average demand gains through 2019. The article goes on to say metal roofing demand will be helped by its durability and ability to support solar panels used to generate electricity.  Building Products also sites metal roofing systems provide additional insulation as a boost to energy savings.

New building construction activity is expected to account for increased demand for roofing through 2019. New non-residential demand will come in the areas of office and commercial construction. Demand in the institutional and industrial segments will also increase as more schools, hospitals and manufacturing sites are built, correlating to an increased demand for such low slope products as metal roofing.

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Rooftop solar energy

Solar panels on metal roof

The “Sustainability begets resilience” blog ended with a nod to rooftop energy production. So, how will you respond when, not if, a building owner asks you about rooftop solar energy? An appropriate and accurate answer is, “The combination of a metal roof and solar energy is a recipe for a long-term, high-performance roof system,” or something like that. The fact is a metal panel roof is an ideal substrate for a solar energy system.

Solar energy is the broad term for two sub-categories: photovoltaic (PV) systems (electricity) and solar thermal (hot water) systems. Besides the obvious differences, the rooftop attachment concepts for both systems are quite similar. PV panels and solar thermal panels are commonly rigid with metal frames. Attachment to metal roof panels can be direct or include rails. Both methods use a customized clip that attaches to the metal roof panel seam; then, metal-framed PV panels or rails are attached. The need for rails (think “purlins”) depends on the seam spacing and layout of the roof panels relative to the size and layout of the PV or solar thermal panels. Overall roof slope matters, too. Directly attached solar energy systems match the slope of the roof, which is not necessarily the optimum slope for energy production.

Other considerations include the structural load, fire resistance, wind resistance and the use of code-approved materials and components. A solar energy system adds weight to the roof. Does the structure need updating to carry the gravity load as well as any increased wind uplift loads? Adding panels to the roof will increase the sliding load (i.e., drag load) on the clips holding the roof panels to the substructure. And let’s not forget about the potential for snow retention or increased snowdrifts that will add weight.

Fire and wind resistance should be discussed with the manufacturer or designer of the PV or solar thermal system. Fire and wind design are incredibly important, and there are very specific code requirements to meet.

Rooftop layout of solar systems, especially PV, should not block drainage or impede roof maintenance. Also, clearance at roof perimeters and access to critical roof areas (e.g., drains, rooftop units) is necessary. Last but certainly not least, check with the metal panel roof system manufacturer about warranty issues regarding a rooftop solar energy installation.

While there are many things to consider when installing solar energy systems on roofs, the long service life of metal panels and the ease of installation certainly make metal roofs and solar energy a great combination!

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Sustainability begets resiliency…in practice

McMahaon Centennial Complex, Cameron University

Sustainability is the buzzword started by USGBC that is pushing us to design and build environmentally friendly buildings.  And that’s a good thing.  However, from a practical—and roofing—standpoint, what we can most readily do with roofs is design them to be resilient.  Roof system resiliency is the tangible aspect of sustainability that the “regular” population can get their heads around.  Resiliency—the ability to bounce back—is understandable.

Loosely speaking, a resilient building can withstand an extreme weather event and remain habitable and useful.  It follows that a resilient roof system is one that can withstand an extreme weather event and continue to perform and provide shelter.

What makes a metal roof system resilient?  It needs to be tough and durable, wind and impact resistant, highly insulated and appropriately reflective, and perhaps be a location for energy production.

An extreme weather event typically means high winds.  A resilient metal roof system needs to withstand above-code wind events.  Remember, codes are minimum design requirements; there is nothing stopping us from designing metal panel roofs above code requirements!  If a building is located in a 120 mph wind zone, increase the design/increase the attachment as if it were in a 140 mph wind zone.  And, very importantly, increasing the wind resistance of the edge details is critical to the wind resistance of a roof system.

Toughness is important.  Increasing the thickness of a metal panel roof system increases resistance to impacts and very likely increases service life (of the metal panel, at least).  Tough and durable seams are important, too.  A double-lock standing seam is one of the best seam types for metal roofs.  A little bit of extra effort at the seam can go a long way for durability, weatherproofing, and longevity.

Highly insulated and appropriately reflective are also traits of resiliency.  High R-value means less thermal transfer across the roof assembly.  Two layers, staggered or crisscrossed, provide a thermally efficient insulation layer.  Using thermal breaks between the metal panels and the metal substructure adds to the thermal efficiency.  Reflective roofs help reduce heat transfer through the roof assembly.  The effectiveness of a roof’s color and reflectivity to save energy depends on many items, such as location, stories, and building type.

Enhanced wind resistance, improved impact resistance and toughness, high R-value, and reflectivity and color are passive design elements that increase the resiliency of a building’s rooftop.  And let’s not forget that rooftop energy production can provide electricity to critical components of a building, such as a freezer section of a grocery store.  Hurricane Sandy put resiliency on the public radar; resilient buildings are here to stay.

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Haiti orphanage adds an additional story

House of Love and Hope Orphanage

House of Love and Hope Orphanage in Haiti

Writing project features about breathtaking structures and buildings has its appeal, but having the chance to write about buildings with purpose is far superior. That being said, I introduce you to the House of Love and Hope Orphanage in Croix des Bouquets, Port au Prince, Haiti. Founded by a single mother of two, the House of Love and Hope is home to over twenty children. This summer, through charitable donations, the orphanage expanded its facilities to include a second story.

The Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, by way of Dick Beuthe, invited Quentin and Janel Lange, of Kearney, Neb., to visit their project locations. When visiting the orphanage, the owner Josie Antoine expressed her dream of completing the second story and the need of a roof.  They then formed a list of objectives, which included the orphanage’s roof, and measured the addition by walking it off by foot.

The two of them, through Green Steel Buildings, supplied a 26-gauge PBR metal roof, ridge cap and fasteners from MBCI. Metal roofs, especially R-panel, are standard throughout Haiti due to their inclement weather.

House of Love and Hope Orphanage's new second story

House of Love and Hope Orphanage’s new second story

Quentin Lange of Green Steel Buildings said, “MBCI in Omaha, with the leadership of Kelly Danker and Mark Van Saun, expedited delivery to ensure it made it onto the Orphan Grain Train cargo container on time.”

The PBR metal roof installed on the orphanage

The PBR metal roof installed on the orphanage

The Orphan Grain Train shipped the materials to Haiti, along with 2,000 books collected by Kathryn Holland. Simultaneously, the Messiah Lutheran Church of Lincoln, Neb, raised funds to hire local labor for construction, guided by a team led by Pastor Kunze, Kenny Blair, Mark Miller and Jim Schmersal. The second level and new roof took roughly two weeks to complete.

To learn more about the Haiti Luther Mission Society and ways to help, please visit

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Fall maintenance for metal roofs

Yes, it is still summer, but it is not too early to start thinking about fall maintenance.  The sooner you contact your network of building owners, the sooner you’ll be able to schedule and get paid for performing maintenance this fall. MBCI's Stormproof Panel

But let’s take a step back. Why don’t you have a maintenance agreement in place for every roof you’ve installed?  Think “car dealer” for a minute.  When you buy a brand new car at a dealership, you’re basically expected to get it serviced there for the life of the car, or at least while the warranty is in effect.  Car dealers have the knowledge and expertise, and car owners rely on that expertise.  It’s the same idea for metal panel roofs.  As the installer (and perhaps designer) of a complex, highly engineered metal panel roof system, you are uniquely qualified with the knowledge and experience to provide semi-annual maintenance and inspection.

The roofing industry continues to extol the virtues of semi-annual maintenance.  Even though roofs don’t have moving parts (like an elevator or an AC unit), a roof moves because it expands and contracts with temperature changes.  This movement puts stresses on all seams and joints.  High winds induce significant stresses at seams and fasteners, too.  Debris can collect on the rooftop and in gutters.  Fasteners and seams can become loose or damaged.  Regular maintenance can correct these minor issues before they become major issues.  Regular maintenance can also find potential warranty issues, such as a paint or coating issue.

Because fall is around the corner, it’s time to start contacting your network of building owners to set up a service contract.  Some companies may take a couple months to approve a service agreement, so an early start matters.  A service agreement should define the parties involved, the services included, and the fees.  Fees can be based on the square footage of the rooftop, and perhaps can include travel time and mileage expenses.  Service agreements can be a one-time contract, or, preferably, a multi-year contract, with annual increases included.  To help sell a service agreement, let your clients know that most, if not all, manufacturers’ roof warranties require annual maintenance.  If you don’t have a service agreement form for your company, many examples of “roof system service contract” can be found with a Google search.

There may not always be opportunities to install new metal roofs, but there will always be opportunities to service existing metal roofs—twice a year for every metal roof.

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