Performance rules in the roofing market

When specifying roofing systems, AEC professionals consider a product's performance record first, followed by maintenance requirements and warranty, according to an exclusive survey of BD+C readers.
August 11, 2010

While environmental impact and wind-uplift issues are becoming more important factors in evaluating and specifying roof systems, AEC professionals are most concerned with a product's performance record, according to a recent survey of 332 BD+C readers.

Ninety-five percent of survey respondents said product performance record deserves either a “high” or “very high” level of importance when specifying roof systems, followed by maintenance requirements and warranty (both 83%), and manufacturer's reputation (81%). Wind-related issues, including wind uplift performance and wind warranty provision, were also cited by a majority of respondents (chart A).

Surprisingly, the survey group ranked “cost” rather low on the list of key attributes (70%), while environmental considerations—which ranked at the bottom of the key attribute list when BD+C last queried its readers about roofing (BD+C February 2006, p. 37; www.bdcnetwork.com/university/article/ca6307307.html)—received a relatively high level of attention.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) said environmental attributes deserve a high/very high level of importance, and about half (48%) identified environmental impact as the major issue that will most impact commercial roofing during the next three years (chart B).

When evaluating the environmental features a roof system, respondents said they place the most emphasis on reducing energy consumption. Nearly half of respondents (43%) cited energy conservation as the most important green consideration for a roof system, while one-third said overall sustainability (including durability) is the top environmental feature (chart C). Other green considerations cited include: reflectivity (19%), reduced VOC (2%), recyclability of roofing materials (2%), and zero ozone depletion (1%).

When asked to identify the most-pressing roof-related issue today, more than one-third of respondents (37%) cited codes testing and approvals, followed by material cost (15%), increased material cost (11%), environmental impact/issues (10%), labor cost (5%), labor force availability (3%), and insurance cost and regulations (both 1%) (chart F).

When it comes to specifying R-value of roof insulation, bigger is always better. One-third of respondents said they typically recommend insulation with an R-value of 25 or greater, and 84% push for an R-value of at least 19. Just 16% of those surveyed said they recommend R-values of 15 for less (chart E).

As for length of warranty, the majority of respondents said they specify roof systems that come with a warranty of 15 years or longer, and nearly half (43%) expect a warranty of at least 20 years.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (24%) said they used a roofing consultant on their last roofing project. Owner/developers are more likely to hire a roofing consultant than designers or contractors. Sixty-one percent of owner/developers hired a roofing consultant on their last project, compared to just 17% of architect/engineers and 20% of contractors (chart G).

When gathering general information about roofing products, respondents said they prefer to use product literature, manufacturers' representatives, and manufacturers' websites before all other sources. More than four in 10 respondents (42%) chose product literature as their top source for product information. Forty percent prefer manufacturers' representatives, followed by manufacturers' websites (39%), Web-based product directories, like Reed Construction Data's First Source and McGraw-Hill's Sweets (15%), and word of mouth (14%).