As I was saying …

Notes from abroad

I made my first trip to Beijing, a city of 20 million people, in 1999. I went because NRCA had been asked to co-sponsor the first trade show conducted by the China National Waterproof Building Industry Materials Association; our arrangement was to help sell exhibit space to companies outside China. At the time, 1 million bicycles were reported to be in the city; a visitor was much more likely to get rammed by a bike than an automobile, and many of the main thoroughfares were largely unpaved.

Fast forward 16 years to the 2015 China trade show. There are virtually no bicycles to be seen; instead, visitors experience gridlock as Audis, BMWs and Lexuses compete for road space. Smog is a continuing problem here as the country figures out how to wean itself from using coal as a primary energy source. An impressive Olympic Village was created to host the 2008 Summer Olympics with an incredible array of brand-new structures. And as the country continues to urbanize, tower cranes are everywhere.

At the trade show this year, there was talk the roofing industry is slowing down. The construction market only is expected to grow 6.5 percent during the next few years rather than the 10 or 11 percent the country has experienced the past few years. The daily newspaper reports the government's new five-year plan is intended to double China's gross domestic product and per capita income during the next decade.

At the first trade show, we saw a lot of coatings that were marketed as roof systems, seemingly well-suited for the ubiquitous concrete buildings there. We also saw 15-mil EPDM sheets and other first-generation Chinese-made materials that had a life expectancy of only a few years.