The Next Step: NRCA Establishes a New Organization Dedicated to Environmental and Energy Issues






By Craig Silvertooth
 
Executive Director

The Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing

 

2006 may be perceived as a watershed year in environmental politics. With a bit of luck, 2007 also will be noted for developments that occurred below the public radar and the year a tipping point was reached. During 2007, a critical momentum of concerted action had been reached by representatives from government, industry and academia. And it punctuated the palpable transformation that has occurred in the construction industry during the past few years. The vocabulary has changed; the market has evolved; and materials have diversified and grown in technological sophistication.

The transformation's rapidity is staggering and demands a coherent response. Consumers expect sustainability to be fully integrated into their environments. Two questions arise. First, is the green building movement irreversible? And second, if so, the question for the roofing industry and all construction sectors is: How do we manage the transformation successfully and prosper in this new environment?

A NEW FORUM

To better position the roofing industry to address these and other issues, the National Roofing Contractor's Association (NRCA) has established the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (The Center), a separate, nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization that will promote the development and use of environmentally responsible, quality roof systems.

Bill Good, NRCA's Executive Vice President, says, "If the change is properly managed, the industry stands to be in an entirely new position: one that contributes to energy management, one that is pro-environment, and one that can begin to attract a new generation of material producers and employees who view the industry in a much different light."

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., The Center's core purpose is to establish a forum that will draw together the entire roofing industry to work for the common cause of promoting and increasing the knowledge base of environmentally friendly, quality roof systems. The organization's objectives include:

  • Serving as a repository for information pertaining to energy, the environment and roofing
  • Serving as a research link between academia and industry and providing a forum for ongoing peer review of such research
  • Coordinating and encouraging research, especially in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Safeguarding jurisdiction to ensure new roofing products, systems and services remain within the roofing industry’s sphere
  • Expanding market opportunities for manufacturers, contractors and design consultants
  • Conducting science-based advocacy on behalf of the industry
  • Identifying emerging issues as new technologies develop
  • Coordinating standards and codes in the U.S. and abroad

This is an ambitious agenda, and time will be required to achieve all the objectives. But each objective is attainable in the long-term, and, ultimately, each will reinforce and strengthen the offerings and benefits of the others.

Driving the center's philosophy are three beliefs.

First, The Center acknowledges the construction industry increasingly will use green building materials. With North American and global expenditures on green building technologies representing an increasingly larger percentage of construction purchases in the public and private sectors, the roofing industry is ripe for an organization that focuses on consensus standards and best available data and practices for quality, energy efficient roof systems.

Second, this endeavor will succeed only with an appreciation for the importance of The Center reflecting a true industry-wide profile. The Center's board of directors will be composed of manufacturers, contractors and other relevant stakeholders in the roofing industry, and initial staffing is composed of personnel from various industry sectors.

And finally, rather than succumbing to the instincts of command-and-control solutions that emphasize limits in the face of environmental challenges, The Center endeavors to advance innovative solutions and proceeds with the belief that the spirit of collaboration is a critical ingredient of innovation.

WHY ROOFING?

Representing the largest source of greenhouse gases and energy consumption in the world, the built environment exerts a profound force on our environment and energy demands.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says buildings account for an estimated 48 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 40 percent of total energy use and 71 percent of electricity consumption in the USA. A vast majority of this energy is produced from nonrenewable, fossil-fuel resources. Consequently, the National Institute of Building Sciences reports buildings generate 35 percent of the carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas associated with climate change), 49 percent of the sulfur dioxide and 25 percent of the nitrogen oxide found in air. And if current trends continue, U.S. annual building energy consumption is projected to increase 37 percent and greenhouse emissions by 36 percent during the next 20 years.

With one foot firmly planted in the renewable energy sector and another in the energy-efficiency camp, roofing occupies a unique position within the built environment - it's the only major building component sector that can save and produce energy.

WHAT'S AHEAD?

The roofing industry's position also brings with it certain challenges, and it is hoped The Center will help the roofing industry as it confronts the hurdles and opportunities that accompany the green movement.

For instance, James Hoff, The Center's director of research and president of Carmel, Ind.-based TEGNOS Research, Inc., an organization focused on advancing research in the building envelope industry, cautions that increasing regulatory risks are looming. "During the next few years, every state will face increased pressures to meet federal pollution standards, and these standards are already "on the books" and require no further legislation," Hoff says.

And for states that fail to meet them, there will be significant risk of federally imposed fines and rules. Hoff's concern is that the roofing industry will be affected dramatically. "To meet urban ozone standards, the industry will be called upon to virtually eliminate volatile organic compound emissions," Hoff says. "To meet clean water regulations, more roofs will be required to hold storm water. And the cost to dispose of roofing waste, which accounts for almost 10 percent of all solid waste in the U.S., will continue to escalate."

Hoff believes individual roofing companies and trade associations cannot effectively address these issues because it will be far too expensive for any single organization to have professional representation at every state capital. He advises the only way to address these issues is through an industry-wide effort. The Center will fill that role as it helps define how the roofing industry responds to the disposal and reuse of construction waste. And by doing so, the industry will be able to attract new employees.

McGraw-Hill Construction's Greening of Corporate America SmartMarket Report released in 2007 confirms that demonstrable sustainability practices offer an opportunity for enhancing a company's reputation and competitive advantage through market differentiation. Further, the scope is awe-inspiring. With a global output of more than $4.6 trillion, construction contributes 10 percent of the global gross domestic product and has a global work force of 100 million employees.

It's unrealistic to believe the market will transform seamlessly, but it's entirely possible it can evolve with a minimal amount of pain for the business community and consumers. To change successfully, business and government must chart complementary courses. And one of The Center's principal objectives is to facilitate that dynamic.

GOVERNMENT ACTIVITY

Another goal of The Center is to serve as the roofing industry's advocate before the government regarding energy and environmental issues. Areas of activity include building codes, investment incentives, work force promotion (what some refer to as green-collar jobs) and public education.

In addition, numerous technical and regulatory challenges from the government already confront us, and others will follow. In short, green building initiatives are taking root across federal, state and local levels of government and a solid, bipartisan shift in the collective mindset of our politicians is under way.

For example, on December 19, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence Security Act of 2007. Although the bill does not contain several significant provisions advocated by The Center and NRCA, it nonetheless is the single most significant energy-efficiency legislation ever enacted. The law is projected to save consumers and businesses $450 million in avoided energy costs by 2030 and will reduce energy consumption by 8 percent and greenhouse gases by 10 percent from the forecast for 2030, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency to promote economic prosperity and environmental protection.

A RESPONSIBLE RESPONSE

Generate power. Conserve Energy. Preserve the environment. These mantras of the environmental movement need not be separate. The Center aims to integrate the three and assist the industry in developing innovative, sustainable solutions for energy efficiency, power generation and environmental stewardship. The three goals are compatible objectives that meet the needs of the industry's customers and communities.