LAS VEGAS - It’s not a race, but Metalcon seems to keep winning. The most recent show, Oct. 3-5 in Las Vegas, was no exception, pulling in over 8,000 attendees. Show organizers report that the 2007 event at the Las Vegas Convention Center was the most well attended in Metalcon’s 17-year history.

Not only did attendance grow, but so did the number of show exhibitors and featured educational seminars.

Over 320 exhibiting companies showcased their products and services, which included 59 new exhibiting companies. There were also 29 new educational sessions added to the roster of 42 available sessions.

So what does Metalcon contribute to the growth? Possibly a growing marketplace.“We’re opening up to new market segments,” said Claire Kilcoyne, show director and vice president of PSMJ Resources, producers of the show. “It’s a move that reflects what’s happening in the marketplace. Metal is being used in many different applications and continues to expand into new areas, especially in green building.

Tony Cosentino (left) and Jeff Roberts discussed their LEED- certified projects during “Is Green Building for You?” Oct. 3.

Going green

Green building was definitely evident in the educational sessions presented during Metalcon.

For example, “Is Green Building For You?” was held Oct. 3. Presented by Tony Cosentino of Perini Building Co. and Jeff Roberts of Lucchesi Galati Architects, they attempted to answer the common question.

Cosentino said that environmental issues are always a factor on each project his company takes on.

“Anything we touch is a green building,” he said.

But contractors must remember that there is a difference between “green” building and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, Cosentino added.

“Green building and LEED are not necessarily the same,” he said. “LEED was created to define green building by establishing a common standard measurement.”

He further explained that LEED offers many benefits, including more healthy environments and tax breaks. But if contractors are not ready to take on LEED, they should be finding ways to make their building projects more environmentally friendly and provide customers with better efficiency.

For Cosentino and Roberts, a LEED rating is definitely desirable. Both Perini Building Co. and Lucchesi Galatia Architects have been working for the last 10 years on the Springs Preserve, a 180-acre historical and cultural attraction.

The preserve is just outside Las Vegas, and was once the source of bubbling springs that served as a water source for Native Americans and settlers heading west. Today, the preserve is a cultural center providing information on the area’s rich history.

It also includes a Desert Living Center, a five-building campus with interactive exhibits. The center provides information on protecting the deserts and how people will live in a sustainable future.

The five buildings that make up the Desert Living Center have all earned a LEED-platinum rating. Many of them use metal roofs.

Cosentino explained that many customers are seeking green buildings and LEED ratings.

Metal solutions?

But is a metal roof really the solution to environmental issues? That was the question Scott Kriner tried to answer during an Oct. 3 presentation of “Can Metal Roofing Prevent Global Climate Change?”

Many people worry about rising gas prices and utility bills, as well as a clean environment. So renewable energy must be the answer, right?

According to Kriner, the president of Green Metal Consulting in Macungie, Pa., green building and sustainability needs to be put into perspective.

“From a national point of view, renewable energy will only make 10 percent of our needs by 2030. It’s not a silver bullet,” he said.

With this in mind, Kriner said he believes that the cheapest, most reliable source of energy is saved energy, and an energy-efficient, “cool” metal roof can provide this.

These roofs are gaining in popularity, not just with customers, but with utility companies.

“Utilities are interested because it would help the whole grid to prevent rolling blackouts,” said Kriner, referring to times when regional electricity demands exceed capacity, causing a chain reaction of cities and states going dark. California suffered many during the late 1990s and a large one shut much of the U.S. Midwest, East Coast and Canada in August 2003.

Cool roofs are an incentive because the utilities do not want to build more power plants, he explained. To encourage the use of more cool metal roofing, some utility companies are providing rebates to home and building owners. States such as California, Florida and Utah are already providing rebates to customers who install cool metal roofs.

“People don’t equate the building sector with global warming,” said Kriner. “(But) buildings use 39 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. each year.”

A metal roof can help to change this by reducing carbon emissions. With a typical metal roof, paired with appropriate ventilation equipment, a building can reduce its carbon output by 5,500 pounds each year, he estimated.

Kriner told attendees that metal roofing is not going to “stop global warming, but it will buy us time. Cool metal roofs can help by reducing energy demand.”

And as Kriner calls it, this is one component toward the industry’s “Holy Grail,” which is a net-zero energy- use building.

Marcus Plowright explained to attendees how to sell metal roof systems during “Residential Metal Roofing: Making the Sale.”

Selling up

Selling a metal roof can be hard, especially to homeowners used to asphalt roofing and its cheaper price. That was why one of the Metalcon sessions was titled “Residential Metal Roofing: Making the Sale.”

Led by Marcus Plowright, president of the building consulting firm Big Sky Construction Corp. in Sunnyvale, Texas, the session provided attendees with the knowledge to successfully up-sell to a metal roof.

Not every residential customer needs a metal roof, said Plowright, but every sales call is an opportunity to sell one.

“The key to remember is you’re there to solve (the customer’s) problems, not sell a roof,” he said. “You gain trust if you are there to fix a problem.”

While on the sales call, the contractor not only needs to find out what is wrong with the roof, but also find out some important information. Contractors need to ask customers how long they plan on staying in the present home, how long they have been in the home, how old is the present roof, what kind of roof they currently have, and what kind of roofing products the homeowners are familiar with.

According to Plowright, more customers are educating themselves on what kind of products are on the market. Some customers are already familiar with metal roofing.

If a customer needs a new roof and they are planning on staying in the home for some time, there is an opportunity to sell a metal roof. Even if homeowners may sell in the next few years, a metal roof could provide value to the house.

“It’s a permanent solution,” said Plowright. “It will last over 50 years, keep the home cool, reduce energy bills and the property value goes up.”

He explained that when a customer goes to sell a home and the roof has problems, the buyer will oftentimes request a deduction to fix the asphalt roof.

For some contractors, the price of a metal roof is sometimes high enough to make the contractor not bother to offer the product. Some believe that customers will not want to pay the price.

But Plowright says that price needs to be put into perspective for customers. He explained that a metal roof will long outlast an asphalt roof. Sometimes, an asphalt roof needs to be replaced more than once by the same homeowner. Two asphalt roofs could cost $22,000, while one metal roof might run about $15,000, depending on the home.

“It’s less than the cost of this roof plus the next one,” said Plowright.

When it comes to pricing a metal roof, Plowright believes that this should not be the first thing presented to homeowners. While some contractors like to get the “sticker shock” out of the way, Plowright said that customers need to be sold on the product and the application, not scared away by a price. Once the customer sees that a metal roof would be beneficial, the price is easier to handle.

Before getting to price, Plowright told attendees to meet face-to-face with the customers and educate them. Not just about the metal roof - give them all of the information they need on your company.

“Sell yourself, before trying to sell the product, to give people context,” he said.

Customers want to know that you are a reputable company. Plowright recommends putting a binder together and presenting it to the homeowners. This binder can contain letters of recommendation, service awards, even photos and information on other projects that the customer might be familiar with.

Finally, be confident in metal as a solution. Explain to customers that “you wouldn’t jeopardize your reputation with a bad product.”

Chuck Howard led a session on the “5 Keys to Successful Metal Roof Contracting” during the Metalcon show.

Roofing success

Not only do you need to know how to sell to customers, but you need to know what’s going on inside your business. That was the message during “Five Keys to Successful Metal Roof Contracting,” offered Oct. 4 and led by Chuck Howard, P.E., president of Metal Roof Consultants in Cary, N.C.

Howard told the crowd of attendees that there could be 20 or 50 keys to running a successful metal roofing company, but his presentation would focus on what he thought were the five most important.

The No. 1 key, Howard said, is people. More specifically, it is the people in your business.

“You’ve got to be able to deal with people,” said Howard. This means respecting your workers and helping them to grow within the company.

“These people aren’t monkeys,” he said. “They have bills (and) problems like anyone else. They are there to work for us all day and we need to treat them like human beings.”

It also means helping them achieve their career goals.

“Businesses are successful when people are motivated and want to come to work,” Howard continued.

Next on the list of keys to success is proper design.

“You need to understand the basics of metal roofing engineering to be a successful metal roof contractor,” said Howard.

This includes understanding the basics of codes and calculations. If you are not the best at calculations, Howard recommends employing an engineer who will not only understand them, but knows about light-gauge material.

Estimates and buy-outs were presented as key No. 3 during Howard’s presentation. He explained that many contractors do not adequately bid their jobs. Sometimes contractors underestimate to get the job, but in the end they lose profit.

Howard said owners need to make a thorough list of everything that will be needed on a project and price it correctly. Also, make sure the information is correct and that labor is calculated. To correctly calculate the labor, find out from the contractor exactly how long the project will take.

And get everything in writing.

Coming in at No. 4 on Howard’s list is financial and field management.

“I think there are two different management aspects,” he said. This includes managing the finances and managing what goes on in the field.

With finances, Howard said owners need to keep track of their job costs, and be aware of profit-and-loss statements, as well as financial statements.

Profit-and-loss statements should be created on a monthly basis and analyzed to find out what is working for the company and what is setting it back.

In the field, owners must keep track of labor reports to make sure that they match with the estimated reports before a project started. Equipment costs are also important. Miscellaneous costs must also be tracked, such as travel time, room and board if the job is out of town, permits and tools, etc. Owners should make sure that these miscellaneous costs are necessary.

No. 5 on Howard’s list is marketing.

However, “Marketing is not sales,” said Howard.

He explained that metal roofing companies need to do a better job of educating consumers and the industry about what they offer. This not only means advertising, but getting out and speaking to people. This could mean attending industry conventions or speaking at seminars and special engagements.

Howard said that allowing more people to know the benefits of a metal roof is what marketing is all about.

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