Photo courtesy of Butler Manufacturing
MCN conducted exclusive interviews with Bill Hippard, president of the Metal Roofing Alliance and vice president of sales for Precoat Metals; Butler Manufacturing’s National Roof Sales Manager Ray Heisey, PE, RCC, LEED AP; and Mike Petersen, president of Petersen Aluminum Corp., to gather their insights on the where the metal roofing market is right now, and where it’s going:
The health of the construction industry may finally be at least going in the right direction. A recent study from IHS Global Insight showed a steady but very modest increase in construction spending. According to the study, however, private nonresidential spending is still in decline, although the pace is moderating, while additional spending on infrastructure, which was behind the recent surge in public spending, is petering out.
What does this mean for the current state of the metal roofing market?
“We’re not hearing nearly the amount of pessimism that we’ve heard the last 18 months to 2 years,” said Bill Hippard, president of the Metal Roofing Alliance, which aims to educate consumers on the many benefits of metal roofing. Hippard is also on the board of directors of the Metal Construction Association, and vice president of sales for St. Louis-based Precoat Metals, a leading supplier of coil coating services.
Hippard said people are starting to feel more optimistic and the demand for metal roofing is coming back.
“The agricultural market has continued to be fairly strong even during bad economic conditions,” he said. “The industrial and commercial side has slowed significantly and the pre-engineered building market has really slowed in the last couple of years.”
At Kansas City, Mo.-based Butler Manufacturing, a building-solutions company providing the design, manufacture and marketing of metal building systems for commercial construction, low-slope and steep-slope retrofits gained last year versus 2009 but did not recover to sales levels of previous years. While the performance and life-cycle advantages of standing-seam metal roofs are now widely recognized in the construction industry, the growth remains influenced by resistance to the higher first-cost versus life-cycle benefits.
Butler’s National Roof Sales Manager Ray Heisey, PE, RCC, LEED AP, had the following take on the condition of the metal roofing market: “The market for metal roof systems has evolved not only in the primary segments-new construction and retrofit roofing-but into the sub-segments of low-slope and steep-slope (2:12-plus) applications. The low-slope and steep-slope opportunities on new projects remain down like the general building construction economy but appear to be improving as owners seek to extend the life of their current facilities or acquire existing vacant structures needing upgrades rather than building new, and higher-cost, replacements.”
Mike Petersen, president of Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Petersen Aluminum Corp., a manufacturer of high-quality architectural metal products, sees the metal roofing market as looking much the same as it did around this time last year. The long-term trend is probably positive for the market, but there are too many budget constraints in both the private and public sectors to be completely optimistic about the year ahead.
“We are shipping orders. We’re seeing a fair amount of military work, we’re seeing some government work depending on the region. The Southwest is relatively strong,” Petersen said. “I would call the recovery patchy and regional.”
Photo courtesy of Petersen Aluminum Corp.
Trends and Innovations
Hippard referred to cool roofs, photovoltaics (PVs) and rainwater collection when talking about the emerging trends in metal roofing.
“The coil coaters and the people who make the metal roofing products have all worked together to make the products heat reflective and meet the Energy Star standards to keep the roofs cool during summer months,” he said. “Other materials can’t provide that kind of reflectivity. We’re seeing more market share gains in that area.
“Cool roof paints are continuing to be more popular. A number of colors have very dark colors that qualify for a cool roof. You can have a black roof that has the reflectivity to qualify.”
When it comes to PV installations, metal is by far the most stable platform, according to Hippard. The seams on a standing-seam metal roof can be used to attach the PVs without making penetrations into the roof. Newer PVs that are thin and pliable can be placed between the seams.
There is also a tremendous amount of interest in rainwater runoff and collection, Hippard continued. He said there is a significant amount of research being done in these areas and that metal roofing should be one of the best options because of its resistance to mold and chemical residues.
Metal roofing also continues to be a growing option for projects that previously used asphalt shingles and other conventional roof options, according to Heisey.
“Color paint finishes, the ability to create different geometric rooflines and elements, as well as inherently higher definition standing-seam metal roofs instill curb appeal in many building projects,” Heisey said. “Beyond aesthetics, an owner can gain proven energy efficiency and overall longevity. These combine as primary factors in the decision to use a metal roof versus a conventional roof on new construction.
“As a retrofit solution, standing-seam metal roofing also offers the advantage of a lightweight method for reroofing over the top of existing, deteriorated roofs with only minimal or no disruption of the facility’s ongoing operations and occupancy. Standing-seam metal roofs also are more immune to temperature conditions that can delay applications of built-up, membrane and coating systems.”
Heisey said rooftop PV collection seems to be growing in popularity and interest as a sustainable supplement to traditional electric utility energy. However, the high initial cost of PV influences long-term return on investment, as do regional climate factors and varying financial incentives. Therefore, the growth of PV’s integration with standing-seam metal roofs, thus far, remains limited.
Petersen agrees that while the interest in PV is there, aside from some government-mandated work, there hasn’t been a significant amount of projects to come from it.
“In terms of the overarching trend, we’ve seen a bigger movement toward solar reflective color trends,” Petersen added.
Petersen has lingering concerns about the year ahead. As value investors swoop in to buy up properties in foreclosure, the market for new construction just isn’t there.
“You’ve got a strip mall, for example,” Petersen said. “Someone picked it up off the street for 60 cents on the dollar. Why should we be optimistic? They may decide a new metal awning would make that strip mall more attractive. There’s some potential for the renovation side, but I’m not that optimistic on the new construction side. I’m open to being pleasantly surprised.”
Still, despite the current troubles, Petersen said metal roofing has as great a position now as it ever has.
“It’s a very easy product to sell,” he said. “Just take a look at any architectural magazine. You open a page to a picture of a project with a metal roof, and by and large it’s attractive looking, stunning and good for [high quality] architecture.”
Heisey sees slow, but steady growth due to the high cost of metal roofs versus conventional construction, and Hippard said, believe it or not, there are still people who aren’t aware of the benefits of metal roofing.
“I’m always surprised,” Hippard said. “You would think everybody would know all the great attributes of having a metal roof and you sit down with architects, project managers, etc. and there is a dearth of knowledge. There’s still a long way to go, which is good. There’s a lot of opportunity.”
For more information on metal roofing from our contributors, visit the following websites:
Butler Manufacturing, www.butlermfg.com
Metal Roofing Alliance, www.metalroofing.com
Petersen Aluminum Corp., www.pac-clad.com
Precoat Metals, www.precoatmetals.com