As most of us realize, we live in a global economy. Major events around the world, such as Brexit and reports of terrorism, affect the U.S. economy. Information seems to have platinum global entry status to all countries. Distance and time zones no longer are viewed as barriers to business.
Recognizing collaboration with like-minded individuals around the world provides opportunities to build mutually satisfying personal and professional relationships, NRCA continues to widen its international outreach to be a worldwide leading authority in the roofing industry for information, education, technology and advocacy.
A macro view
In March 2016, I traveled to Cuba as a chaperone for my son's high school orchestra trip. It was my first return trip to the island after emigrating to the U.S. in 1966. Later in October, I was invited to visit Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), as a guest of the Dubai Association Centre and representative of NRCA's International Relations Committee.
Both countries are similar in size and population, have warm climates, and are in desperate need of roofing expertise. However, that is about where their similarities end.
While in La Habana, Cuba, I stayed at the Habana Riviera. Nothing has changed in this hotel since it lost the "Riviera Casino" designation in 1959 as dictated by the Castro regime. As I looked out my hotel room window, I saw ocean waves hitting a sea wall and a roofing crew working on a lobby roof. The 10 men on the lobby's roof were working with oval rolls of a Chinese polymer-modified bitumen membrane on a concrete roof deck with primer, a base ply and a granulated modified cap sheet. The base ply and cap sheet were being installed with no stagger, so the buildup of material at the seams was significant.
The rest of my observations in Cuba can be summarized in two words: time capsule. Untouched 50-year-old structures in varying degrees of disrepair were everywhere—the definition of deferred maintenance.
The opposite of Cuba, Dubai is experiencing a second building boom after rebounding from the 2008 financial crisis. Upon first seeing the city, it almost seems as though straight lines have gone the way of the slide rule and T-square. Arcs, curves, twists and swirls seem requisite in the futuristic and sleek building designs. The desire to be the most cutting-edge and innovative in building design is evident and impressive. This desire to innovate only can be matched by the speed at which these complex buildings are completed. Jacob Jody Varghese, director of development for SP International Property Developers LLC, Dubai, estimates 20 percent of the world's tower cranes are operating in Dubai.
Vegetative and photovoltaic roof systems are common in the UAE; however, flashing details are not well-studied, and materials and installation tools often are questionable and without standards. In addition, because of the speed of construction in the country, roof system installation defects may not be evident upon completion.
Fundamentally, roof systems are expected to be leak-free, long-lasting, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. They must be installed safely and carefully, keeping the expectations of a building owner in mind even when aesthetics come into play.
Obviously, governments, politics and geography play a big role in the building practice differences between these two countries, but whether countries are big, small, poor or rich, there is not a global shortage of roofing problems. The basic human need for shelter in the form of a watertight roof system is global.
As a purveyor of roofing best practices, NRCA has been approached by international stakeholders to provide everything from basic hands-on roofing training to complex roof system design. NRCA has numerous training programs that address proper methods for installing all types of roof systems that can be delivered to international constituents.
Many NRCA-developed training programs already have been delivered in China (Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai); India (Chennai and Mumbai); and Mexico City. The classes have been overwhelmingly well-received, and NRCA currently is working with representatives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai to finalize details about delivering training. NRCA also is planning to host study-abroad programs in China, France and Germany.
NRCA's international efforts are in good company. The influence of U.S. construction standards is evident throughout the world. ASTM International has contributing members from more than 100 countries. The American Institute of Architects has numerous international chapters, including the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Europe and the Middle East, to name just a few.
By comparison, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) also has seen the benefits of an international presence. International members include several national and provincial trade organizations and individual firms around the globe. According to NECA: "International members are electrical contractors working to improve their industry in different countries. NECA supports their efforts with training, tools, special international networking programs, and online resources."
NRCA currently has members in more than 50 countries and is affiliated with 97 local, state, regional and international roofing contractor associations. NRCA routinely participates in international forums and meetings, including the upcoming 2017 International Waterproofing Forum May 22 hosted by the International Roofing Alliance (jointly established by NRCA, the Central Association of German Roofing Contractors and the China National Building Waterproof Association) and the 15th China International Roofing & Waterproofing Expo May 23-25 in Shenzen, China.
Under one roof
As NRCA assumes an increasing leadership role in the international roofing community, we must increase our partnerships with other stakeholders who share our commitment to advancing the industry. These partnerships strengthen the industry overall, and the relationships NRCA creates help provide the vehicle we need to go beyond what we can achieve with our domestic resources.
As we move forward, customers, suppliers, investors, civil society organizations, academics and concerned citizens will be called upon to create an environment that is supportive of this international effort. By working together, it is possible for NRCA to be the global voice for the roofing community.
Alex Hernandez is an NRCA vice chairman and president of Clark Roofing Co., Broadview, Ill.
A complex endeavor
Although U.S. best construction practices are well-respected globally, expanding NRCA's international outreach is a complex endeavor.
In 2015, research from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) found the concept of association membership unpopular in some countries, such as China, where it is considered exclusively in terms of political party membership.
Participants in ASAE focus groups recognized this distinction and generally have chosen to lead with products and services to promote their associations and industries in other countries. Associations must perform due diligence regarding whether each country might embrace a membership model.
"In each country, the needs are different so that's kind of where we start. And then we of course look at what the climate is over there," says a medical society CEO. "What are the politics? How is this going to work? Memberships are important in some countries. They're not important at all in other countries. Content is just as important."
"We're not going to enter China through the membership door," adds a CEO of a membership organization in the management industry. "We're going to enter China through the event and certifications door."
This is not to say membership is irrelevant, of course. Membership recruitment is important to any association, but as we've seen from ASAE's research, not all countries view membership as an important endeavor. By understanding the most common obstacles and challenges associations face when expanding internationally, NRCA can be better prepared for global growth.
Did you know?
More than 700 international roofing professionals representing 53 countries will attend the 2017 International Roofing Expo® and NRCA's 130th Annual Convention in Las Vegas Feb. 27-March 3. During the convention, NRCA will host delegation meetings with several countries, including China, France and Germany.