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Hurricane damage highlights shortage of skilled building envelope consultants

Written by: Kayleigh Regan
Date: 26 July 2018

In 2017, the United States was hammered by hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria—the first time on record the country had experienced three category four storms in a single year. The $265 billion in damages estimated to have been caused by the three hurricanes made 2017 the most expensive year on record for weather and climate disasters in the U.S.[1]

Thousands of homes were destroyed in these storms, but hundreds of thousands more were damaged. Any building that has survived a storm of such magnitude will almost certainly bear scars, and sometimes the damage caused by the hurricane can only become evident months or even years later. High winds and heavy rains can force water into the smallest cracks of the building envelope. Unchecked moisture problems and mold growth can eventually result in building failure.

Unsurprisingly, demand for roof inspections typically surges following a hurricane. Building owners want to ensure there are no lingering leaks or other unseen problems caused by the storm. At the same time, owners of buildings that failed to survive the hurricane may need a forensic roofing consultant to help pinpoint the cause of structural failure.

In short, last year’s storms have set the stage for this year’s shortage of skilled building envelope consultants. Kayleigh Regan, Head of Forensic Engineering—Recruitment Specialist, at LVI Associates, sees demand for workers with expertise in roofing and waterproofing growing to help tackle the impact of extreme weather on the built environment.

In particular, many employers are looking for consultants with a Registered Roof Observer (RRO) certification. Administered by RCI, the RRO certification is a valued professional designation for anyone working in the field of roofing, exterior wall, and waterproofing specification and design.

Unfortunately, consultants sometimes neglect to seek RRO designation. In addition to passing a lengthy, challenging test, the certification requires completion of continuing education, five references, and two to four years of experience depending on the job type. Yet it is exactly this rigor that makes the designation so attractive to potential employers, Kayleigh notes.

“A lot of our clients express that people with RRO certification are the hardest to find. They would pay more for it,” she says.

Having a certified building envelope consultant on staff is an attractive prospect for many employers. Anyone who has successfully gone through the certification process has been referenced and recommended by other industry experts, and membership in RCI ensures access to various events specific to the roofing industry.

There is also another potential plus to RRO certification. These consultants sometimes have an advantage when it comes working with certain lucrative clients. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), one of the largest property owners in the country, mentions RROs in its facilities criteria.[2] The DoD requires quality assurance observation on all of its roofing and reroofing projects. According to RCI, other major clients, such as Wal-Mart, the U.S. Postal Service, and Lockheed Martin, share this preference.

The high demand for skilled building envelope consultants is also tied to the recent building boom seen across the country, Kayleigh says. The construction industry had been hit particularly hard by the 2008 recession. By 2016, it had nearly returned to its giddy pre-crash heights, contributing $650 billion to the U.S. economy that year for the first time since 2008.[3] A new boom had begun.

But construction quality can suffer when there aren’t enough skilled architects and engineers to keep up with demand. Instead, owners find themselves forced to turn to inspectors and repair experts after the fact to find and fix problems that arose from careless work.

As a result, the shortage of skilled building envelope consultants is being felt across the country. Unsurprisingly, demand is currently most acute in hurricane-hit states like Texas and Florida, but other states like California, Colorado, and Illinois are also hungry for talent, Kayleigh notes.

“Not a lot of people know that there is such a demand for building envelope consultants,” she says. “I think if more people knew, they would move into the sector.”

 


[1] https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/beyond-data/2017-us-billion-dollar-weather-and-climate-disasters-historic-year

[2] https://www.roofingcontractor.com/articles/89146-observe-and-report

[3] http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/08/30/a-building-boom-is-driving-economic-growth-in-most-states