As part of the “Canstruction” competition, groups of architectural and engineering students built sculptures out of food cans. The cans used in the contest were donated to a Tampa, Fla., area food bank.

TAMPA, Fla. - Florida seems to be a very good location for Metalcon International.

Maybe it’s because the state has long been one of the hot spots for metal roofing, which seems to better handle the hurricanes that occasionally batter the Sunshine State’s coasts.

The Copper Development Association’s Larry Peters gave a presentation Oct. 3 on the use of copper in architecture.

Regardless of the reasons, the Oct. 3-5 event at Tampa’s convention center attracted more than 7,300, not far from the pre-show prediction of 8,000. Attendance was about 700 more than the 2003 Tampa event and 800 more than last year’s Las Vegas show.

During its trade show, there were 715 booths taking up 80,000 square feet of exhibit space, and 38 educational sessions, which made show director Claire Kilcoyne happy.

“This show is always upbeat because that’s how this industry is - lively and innovative,” Kilcoyne said. “But this show was particularly invigorating. There were more attendees, more new exhibitors and a host of new conference programs than at any of our previous shows.”

Show sales manager Paula Parker explained why she believes the show is so popular.

“There will always be other trade shows, some smaller others larger, but when companies want to rub elbows with industry kingpins, get insider information on bid lists and sell products, unquestionably they choose Metalcon,” Parker said.

Chuck Howard warned contractors how to avoid lawsuits on metal-roofing projects.

‘Can' do

One of the new events at this year’s show was “Canstruction,” a charity competition of architectural, vocational and engineering students created by the Society for Design Administration and the American Institute of Architects. Chicago’s Coated Steel Corp. sponsored the event.

Students spent a day erecting sculptures made entirely of food cans outside conference center meeting rooms. One team made a sculpture that looked like R2D2 from the “Star Wars” films; another made a pirate ship.

The 5,189 cans used in the event were later distributed by the Salvation Army to families in Hillsborough County, Fla.

Metalcon officials also used the trade show to present injured Iraq war Army veteran Paul Russell Marks with $25,000 and a steel-framed house built for the convention. Through the Homes for Our Troops program of Tauton, Mass., the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant house was moved from the hall and rebuilt in Marks’ Florida community.

“The dedication of the house on the first day and the willingness of so many people to contribute to it set a very positive mood that permeated Metalcon and the whole convention center,” Kilcoyne said.

Officials with Metalcon International estimate 7,300 people attended the Oct. 3-5 event in Tampa, Fla.

‘Hot' copper

That included many of the educational sessions at the convention, where presenters were bullish on metal’s prospects, even copper, which has become a favorite target of thieves in recent months.

With its current record prices, copper may be a hot metal for thieves, but that hasn’t cooled its allure for architects.

Judging from the attendance at an Oct. 3 seminar, copper’s future is as bright as ever.

The Copper Development Association, a New York-based trade group, sponsored “Copper in Architecture: Installation Techniques and Soldering Procedures.” Larry Peters, a regional manager with the group, led the presentation.

With the growing public focus on sustainable or “green” building, Peters pointed out that copper has always been a renewable material. Up to 75 percent of copper today contains recycled content, he said.

And with its malleability, copper is great for creating architectural details.

But to use copper most effectively, he added, you have to perform soldering properly. Soldering refers to joining metal parts using a lower melting temperature than done with brazing or welding.

“A lot of people are scared of soldering, but there is actually a great benefit to it,” Peters said.

He gave some tips on soldering copper:
  • Do not try to re-solder contaminated joints. You must take it apart and reassemble it first. “You’re just wasting your time trying to do it,” Peters said.
  • Rivets must be set properly.
  • Avoid vertical soldering. It is much more labor-intensive and challenging.

Kris Kennedy (right) of Engage Machinery explains the VTC 12014 Vector folder to a trade show attendee.

Courting trouble

Lawsuit. Say it and many people get nervous. Chuck Howard has been there. However, he’s quick to add that in 30 years of working with metal roofing, he has never been sued.

Metalcon officials thought that made the licensed professional engineer and owner of Metal Roof Consultants in Cary, N.C., qualified to offer advice on “Metal Roof Lawsuits: How to Avoid Them.”

He suggested the Oct. 4 session could have been called “How to Avoid Faulty Metal Roofs,” since leaks and similar problems are the cause of most legal troubles.

“We have the best products in the world with our metal roofs,” he told the contractor audience. “There aren’t a lot of lawsuits on metal roofs - and if there are, they’re always problems on installations.”

Lawsuits, Howard said, have the potential to impact everyone involved with the roof - from the manufacturer and contractor to the building owner. However, he added, the liability for some groups (contractors) is greater than others (manufacturers).

In fact, Howard has the strongest warning for metal-roofing contractors.

“The large majority of metal-roof conflicts are solved with the contractor’s money,” he said. That makes a close inspection of all work even more critical.

At the Metalcon trade show, Kenneth Frick of Roto-Die shows the company’s 30-inch open-end cleat bender.

Who pays?

“If you don’t inspect, you’re going to be writing a lot of big checks” to settle claims, he told them. Also make sure estimates are in-depth and include all supporting documentation.

“If you don’t have the documentation, you don’t have anything.”

But that doesn’t mean building owners escape responsibility, Howard said. Owners need to inspect the roof and work closely with the contractor to ensure it satisfies their needs. That includes “more than just driving by an existing metal roof and falling in love with the color.” Howard said neglecting those duties does not entitle owners to money from others involved in the design and construction process.

The former metal roofing contractor had advice for specifiers and manufacturers as well. Specifiers must go over the different types of metal roofs and select the best one for each application. They also must inspect the project as it continues. Focus on details, Howard advised.

“The only places where a metal roof will leak is where you start and stop,” he said, specifically mentioning dormers and flashings. “The worst roof leaks I’ve ever had have been around dormers.” And don’t just use caulk and sealants.

“Figure out what the problem is and fix it.”

Manufacturers, which typically warranty their products when installed according to recommendations, would do well to inspect projects to ensure instructions are being followed. At a minimum, manufacturers should stay in close contact with the contractor during a project.

When they do occur, lawsuits can be costly, as demonstrated by several images Howard showed. He showed the warped gymnasium floor of a metal-roof-covered school. The clips had been improperly placed, causing water to flood the surface.

He told about a Tennessee school district that spent $200,000 in attorney fees suing over damage caused by an improperly installed $135,000 roof.

Faced with such situations, “The best way to prevail in a lawsuit is to avoid it in the first place,” Howard said. “If you get in a lawsuit, you’re going to lose. Nobody ‘wins’ in a lawsuit.”

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail