MetalCon showroom floor.

ATLANTA - Great fall weather and optimism about the metal construction industry made the 10th annual METALCON International conference and exhibition a huge success, according to show organizers and participants.

Officials estimate that from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, almost 8,000 builders, developers, design professionals and even government representatives from around the world converged on the Georgia World Congress Center for the three-day event.

For many attendees, a highlight was the exhibition and product showcase, featuring more than 600 booths. Everything from metal roofing panels to building patch tape was represented.

Both exhibitors and attendees said they were pleased with this year's show. " I like it," said first-time attendee Douglas Lawson, a metal roofing contractor from Wilmington, N.C. "(There's) a lot of new stuff, new products I haven't even heard of yet."

Working a booth was Dan Stocker, a branch manager with Englert Inc., a maker of specialty metal products. Stocker said he always finds MetalCon draws a good crowd. "We go to a lot of shows, but this is one of the better shows I've seen."

For the seventh straight year, a light gauge, steel-framed house was constructed in the middle of the exhibit hall floor. Materials, tools, labor and other resources were all donated by industry associations and exhibitors, including: the Light Gauge Steel Engineers Association (LGSEA), Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA), North American Steel Framing Alliance (NASFA), Steel Stud Manufacturers Association (SSMA), Steel Truss and Component Association (STCA), The American Tool Cos., ATTEXOR Inc., Environmentally Safe Products (ESP), Purdue University, Simplified Structural Systems, TrusSteel, Atas International, Dietrich Industries Inc., Pacesetter Steel Services, SAMCO, Simpson Strong-Tie and Unimast Inc.

Manager for the project was Bruce Ward of Western Partitions in Tigard, Ore., an expert in the field of steel-framed housing. He worked with a team of construction professionals from Purdue University to design and build the home. Ward and other members of the design staff held daily question-and-answer sessions about the construction process. Almost 80% of the home's infrastructure was open to view by attendees.

This year's steel house was named "The Carmen House," in memory of Carmen Gravley, a steel industry advocate who died in March. After the convention, the home was donated to the Atlanta-based WinShape Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides a secure, nurturing home for children in need.

Steel framing to metal roofs

MetalCon organizers always try to bring together experts from the metal roofing industry and related fields to offer seminars and educational programs. This year's seminars covered everything from steel framing to reducing uplift in permeable metal roof systems.

Once again the Internet and e-commerce was a hot topic at this year's show. Two seminars addressed the issue. "eBusiness is Your Business" was hosted by Paul Doherty, AIA and principal partner with the digit group, a global management consulting and information technology services firm. Doherty said that the Internet is changing. It's no longer just about traditional web sites - which Doherty said are really just online brochures anyway - and businesses that haven't gone online by now are really in danger of getting left behind.

The future, he said, is Intranets and Extranets, which will allow suppliers, contractors, managers, architects and more to link together and utilize the same databases. However, the transition to an online world will not be a smooth one, he added. The plunge in the stock prices of many Internet-based companies such as and Priceline is proof of that, Doherty said.

Explaining the Internet as it relates to suppliers, distributors, producers and end users was Craig Kirsch of E-Market Concepts. Kirsch said the business to business market for metal construction products is still in its infancy. "With all the hype, there isn't a lot going through these (sites) yet," he said. And profitability remains a factor, as it is throughout the online world.

David Bratcher, regional marketing director and sales training manager for Classic Products, one of the largest siding and home improvement companies in the greater Dallas area, hosted "Residential Metal Roofing: Making Friends and Building Value," a seminar sponsored by the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA).

Selling consumers on the unique benefits of a metal roof requires special skills, Bratcher said. You have to know what to ask - and how to ask it - if you want to be successful. Some of the tips Bratcher offered:

  • Talk to both spouses. You don't want to think you've secured a sale only to have it vetoed later on by a husband or wife.

  • Ask the homeowners if they have any plans to sell the home in a few years. Metal roofs last far longer than conventional shingles and can add value and make a home sell faster in many markets.

  • Point out that despite higher initial installation costs, a typical homeowner can save up to $20,000 during a 30-year span, since metal roofs don't require regular upkeep and replacement.

  • Bratcher said to make the point that "only the rich can afford to buy cheap." Most people want to stretch their hard-earned dollars.

  • Mention that metal roofing is noncombustible, something that will make a home less prone to fire damage and may decrease insurance costs.

The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association (SMACNA) sponsored "Nineteenth Century Technique in the 21st Century: An Update of Architectural Sheet Metal Restoration," presented by historical restoration contractors Lawrence Plevy, president of Schtiller & Plevy Inc. and Harold Munder, vice president of The New York Roofing Co.

The growing movement to preserve and restore historic buildings has led to a booming business for people such as Plevy and Munder. Their work has been featured at places such as Ellis Island, Carnegie Hall and New York City's Grand Central Terminal.

Plevy and Munder gave their presentation surrounded by a variety of metal gutters, animals' heads, legs, arms and other adornments from their restoration projects.

When restoring an historic structure, several factors come into play, they said. You may be limited in your choice of materials or may have to meet a strict deadline in time for a building's grand reopening. In many cases, the blueprints or records of what was originally used on the structure are missing.

"Sometimes on an historic project, you have to do some fact-finding or digging to find something to use," Plevy said. Taking material samples from the buildings and creating mock-ups are essential in completing authentic restorations, he said.

And beware: it's not always possible to restore a building to its original condition. "A lot of architects get lost in wanting it exactly the way it was before," Munder added. In those cases, they have to find materials that will look the same but maybe cost less or last longer. Plevy held up a weather-beaten lion's head that originally adorned one of his firm's projects. He then showed the replica they successfully created, using materials easily available today.

Next year's show will be Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas, and organizers say they hope to recreate the success they had this year in Atlanta. "This was one of our best shows, based on feedback from exhibitors," said show manager Claire Kilcoyne, adding that more than 500 booths have already been reserved for the 2001 show. "(Exhibitors) say they always come back to MetalCon because we always draw a high level of qualified leads."