LAS VEGAS - The construction industry, along with the national economy, might be showing some weakness, but International Roofing Expo organizers are staying optimistic.


Brian Brillhart of Van Mark Products shows a prototype industrial Trim Master designed for metal roofing and HVAC work. It includes a 20-inch throat and can handle 20-gauge material. Brillhart said it should be available this fall.


LAS VEGAS - The construction industry, along with the national economy, might be showing some weakness, but International Roofing Expo organizers are staying optimistic. Although attendance was flat compared with

2007 - a record year, officials add - just over 9,000 still came to the Las Vegas Convention Center Feb. 21-23 for the event.

The trade show attracted 442 exhibitors, who used 1,060 booths and 106,000 square feet of exhibit space. Organizers were quick to point out that almost 100 exhibitors were new or companies who had not appeared in several years.

“The International Roofing Expo continues to be the ultimate gathering for the industry,” said show director Donna Bellantone. “The show is a great venue for the most influential players to help drive the future direction of our industry.”

Rick McConnell, the vice president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions, which owns and manages the show, had similar comments.

“We’re very pleased with the number of high-quality attendees who come to the International Roofing Expo to make important purchasing decisions,” McConnell said. “We had a phenomenal opening day, followed by a strong second day.”

Jon Lindskoog of Swenson Shear demonstrates the Model No. 24. Designed to cut stone-coated metal shingles, Lindskoog said it also works well on materials used by sheet metal contractors.

Happy

If the number of attendees was flat, it didn’t seem to affect the opinion of many exhibitors, such as officials with Carlisle SynTec and Level Rite.

“Overall I was very pleased with the constant booth traffic of qualified visitors,” said Rob Reale of Carlisle SynTec.

“We were so pleased with the attendance,” said Berle Blehm of Level Rite Ladder Safety Tools. “Orders for our products exceeded our expectations.”

Although the number of attendees may have been about the same as last year, many of those who did travel to Las Vegas said they were quite happy with the expo, including Indianapolis sheet metal and roofing contractor Chris Underwood.

“I attend this show for the seminars and new products which are really beneficial to my business,” said Underwood, who works for Formation Roofing and Sheet Metal.

And this year’s show had plenty of seminars. There were 48 such sessions, including 17 on technical issues, 26 on business issues and five on workplace safety. Ninety percent were new topics. Five sessions were repeated from 2007.

“The contributions of our speakers have been invaluable to the conference program,” said conference manager Brandi McElhaney. “Our compelling educational sessions provide attendees a unique opportunity to learn directly from the experts on a wide variety of topics.”

The number of those attending the seminars was up 10 percent from last year.

Old metal

One seminar that is perennially popular is Rob Haddock’s two-part series on metal roofing. Haddock has been a speaker at the International Roofing Expo for many years and often gives the same presentation at Metalcon, the annual metal construction event.

This year’s session was Feb. 22.

Haddock has traveled to China and the Middle East to look at metal roofs. He’s the head of Colorado’s Metal Roof Advisory Group and is a well-known expert on metal roofing and its history.

He said metal roofing goes back to biblical times - really. To prove the point, he showed a picture of the Dome of the Rock, the scared Islamic site in Jerusalem built in 691. Originally made with gold leaf, today it has an aluminum, gold-colored coating.

“A lot of people think that metal roofing was started in Europe,” Haddock said. “I don’t think so.”

Haddock joked that God was the first specifier of metal roofing. He then showed historic examples of metal roofing from around the world - European churches, Middle East mosques and the home of Britain’s Parliament.

“Metal really has been a traditional way to build in many cases,” he said, adding that in the earliest uses of metal, it was shaped and formed by mallets.



Midnight roofers

Metal roofing’s popularity came to the United States through Paul Revere, who founded a metals company still in business today: Revere Copper Products Inc., Haddock explained.

Haddock estimated that standing-seam roofing, the type done most often by sheet metal contractors, is what most architects ask for when designing commercial and institutional buildings that will use a metal roof.

“Standing seam has always been - probably always will be - the most popular seam profile in the world,” he said.

The cost of the material and the skill it took to attach it to buildings kept it from going on anything except the most important structures.

“People couldn’t afford it,” he said.

That changed with the introduction of roll-forming machines and lower-cost materials such as aluminum and steel, which made it much cheaper to use.

“Roll-forming technology has not only allowed the use of cheaper, harder materials” but it made the use of malleable metals like copper less expensive as well, Haddock said.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail devriesj@bnpmedia.com.