Construction is a competitive market, and there can be fierce competition between trade contractors to get projects. Roofing is no different. But 60 years ago, a visionary group of Edmonton and Calgary roofing contractors put that all aside and came together with the goal of improving their industry. With the establishment of the Alberta Roofing Contractors Association (ARCA) in 1961, these contractors sought to support and advance the roofing industry in Alberta through a system of high standards and education.
“The strength of the ARCA is that the foundation that the original members set, the vision they had, is held to this day,” says Bob James, ARCA Association president and owner of Tru-Craft Roofing (2005) Ltd. “The foundation of our standards, our training, our acceptance process for contractors, materials and inspectors hasn’t changed very much in 60 years.”
The goal of the Association, both then and now, was to improve the image and quality of roofing in the province, and every decision the 12-person board makes refers to this mandate. All too often, when people think of roofing, they envision truck-and-ladder storm chasers that flock to town after a disastrous weather event to slap up roofs. The 32 members of the ARCA are professional contractors dedicated to elevating the public’s image of roofing to better reflect the sophistication that these contractors apply to their operations. Membership in an association that promotes professionalism and high-quality standards helps differentiate the elite roofers from all the rest.
“A benefit of membership is it elevates us above other roofing contractors because we are vetted to join. It’s not easy to become a member but once you are, the public knows that they are getting a quality contractor,” says Pat Murphy, ARCA Warranty Ltd. president and owner of Freeze Maxwell Roofing (Calgary). “Because we have to meet a certain standard, the quality of our company is that much better because we are members.”
ARCA members are leaders in their fields, and while some may accommodate residential roofing requests, members focus predominantly on low slope and architectural standing seam metal for commercial clientele. Each year, ARCA’s members perform about 80 per cent of Alberta’s industrial and commercial roofing projects, both new and re-roofing, and large contracts like schools, hospitals and downtown projects are almost entirely won by member contractors.
PATH TO MEMBERSHIP
Applying for membership is a complex, often year-long process that ensures only those contractors that mirror ARCA’s dedication to advancing the industry are accepted. The board reviews each application to ensure all requirements are in order before turning it over for site evaluations and peer review. ARCA performs a comprehensive audit of the prospective member, looking into its safety program and record, quality of roofing, and its strength of communication for policy implementation. The team inspects past roofing projects and shadows the roofer onsite for current projects. The committee looks at approximately 10 roofing projects to give a thorough picture of the contractor’s capabilities.
“Once you are in, it doesn’t mean you’ll stay. You still must qualify. It’s like a reapplication for your membership every three years,” says Murphy.
The Association members agreed to regular reviews and must maintain a passing mark. The process is referred to as Contractor Gauge. All members must participate in an independent third-party review every three years to ensure they meet and maintain the high service and quality levels to remain with the Association. If a member falls below a score of 80 per cent, the Association identifies where problems lie and provides courses that the contractor can take to fill a knowledge gap. Contractors with a poor showing have 90 days to get back on track or they will not be invited to renew their membership. Members unanimously approved this review process several years ago as a way to protect the reputation, professionalism and high standards that drew them to ARCA in the first place.
MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS BENEFITS
Members are among the best in the business across the province. The rigorous application process all but ensures it. Once they are accepted, members have access to the incredible knowledge base of the board and other members, technical resources, related industry professionals and share in ARCA’s stellar reputation for quality. Member contractors are highly respected in the design community, within government agencies that bid out work, and with its business owner clients. ARCA creates an environment that facilitates this level of professionalism, and with it comes access to jobs that other roofing companies would not enjoy.
Many building owners and organizations, including Alberta Infrastructure, use ARCA as a pre-qualification tool for specific projects. They know that to become ARCA members the contractors were vetted and already meet or exceed industry benchmarks for safety, education, and training requirements. This saves clients the trouble of vetting their roofing contractors – and knowing the reputation of the Association and its members, business owners enjoy peace of mind that the job will be done right.
That peace of mind is also backed by a best-in-class warranty that protects building owners with extended coverage. Members can offer clients five- 10- or 15-year ARCA warranties which are often paired with manufacturer material warranties. The ARCA warranty program allows contractors to offer extended warranty coverage secured with a funded warranty program, allowing them to allocate resources to other areas of their company. Building owners can rest assured that their asset is protected with an industry-leading workmanship warranty provided through the Association.
“We stand behind our members. We vetted them carefully so we should be able to pay out any mistakes as it should not be very often if we keep the standards high. And we do,” says Karen Rutherford, ARCA Executive Director. “At any point in time we have over $500-million worth of roofs under warranty with money in the bank to pay for a mistake if it happens.”
ARCA proudly represents members who go above and beyond to provide great service to clients. They strive to guarantee that their clients are satisfied that they received a quality roof, and ARCA is there to assist them. While ARCA members are all top-end, skilled roofers, they are still human and can make mistakes. The Association has a system of checks and balances in place to catch errors which includes the contractors’ foreman, superintendent and project manager overseeing the installation as well as an independent inspector to ensure approved products are installed in accordance with established application standards.
The Association also sends an ARCA-accepted inspector to the building at the two-year anniversary at no cost to the client to make sure there aren’t any application issues that need to be addressed. After two weather cycles in Alberta’s harsh climate, any problems would show up by this point and any deficiencies can be resolved to ensure the roof meets the client’s expectations.
“This gives that building owner 20 or 30 years of confidence in their roof,” says Kevin Kramers, ARCA Technical Officer.
Clients can be confident that ARCA members are up on the latest building codes and regulations, too. After all, it has members sitting on and chairing various construction and government boards in Alberta. In addition to provincial involvement, the ARCA is also represented at the CRCA National Technical Committee and sits on several National Research Council and CSA committees. The Association has a solid relationship with government agencies and organizations that impacts the roofing industry as well as playing an important advocacy role.
TOP GRADES IN EDUCATION
One main benefit of ARCA membership is access to the Association’s extensive educational and training offerings. It is important for the Association to keep the quality high so it does all it can to support members in maintaining the standards set at admission. For that reason, unlike many associations that use training and education to generate revenue, ARCA training is free for members. The Association works closely with the apprenticeship programs at NAIT and SAIT, and ARCA covers members’ tuition costs for apprenticeship training and offers cash awards for top-performing students to further incentivize professional development.
“It ties into the idea of making sure we’re promoting roofing to be more professional in the province, and you can’t do that without training,” says Bob James.
ARCA hosts onsite training in the Association office’s classrooms and shop. There, members can train in any or all of ARCA’s three modules: safety training, technical and management. Module One includes critical safety training including torch safety, fall protection, fire extinguisher training, leadership for safety excellence and first aid.
ARCA also recognized that some roofers may want to transition from the roof to another area of the industry, so it created a career path and training courses that facilitates that move. The program, Accredited Roofer of Alberta (ARA), teaches members about understanding blueprints and specifications, ARCA standards, sustainability and leak detection, basic estimating and Alberta’s construction codes and Acts. Taking it a step further, Module 3 introduces members to management areas including elements of human resources, communication and conflict resolution, financial literacy, contract law and risk management, and basic project management. Students successfully completing all classes in Module 2 and Module 3 earn the designation of Certified Roofing Professional (CRP).
“If you went through this you could go work for a manufacturer, you could become an inspector, you could work for the City helping them manage their projects. There are a lot of non-labour-intensive outcomes if you have avenues available in addition to the apprenticeship program,” says Karen Rutherford.
In addition to the ever-evolving education programs, ARCA also offers their centre to manufacturers free of charge, allowing them to introduce or showcase their products to the building community. Manufacturers can invite non-member contractors and professionals as well, extending the knowledge and expertise across the sector. ARCA further elevates the industry through its bi-annual Rooferama and Advanced Education Day.
With Rooferama, ARCA creates interdisciplinary groups consisting of an architect, engineer, building owner, inspector and contractor, and the group moves as a unit through various manufacturer presentations. This introduces diverse perspectives into the discussions and makes for a richer learning experience for all participants.
The Advanced Education Day events are geared to senior professionals across the membership. These events showcase ARCA’s desire to be progressive and ahead of the curve as it helps elevate and grow the industry; the Association identifies trends and products that are on the cusp and invites renowned speakers to present about them to ARCA’s diverse audience of architects, engineers, business owners and partners. Such topics of interest have included artificial intelligence, exoskeleton, block chain technology and the trend to build modularly.
“We are always thinking about what we can give members that they don’t have the time or resources to find or get, and we get really positive feedback from people,” says Rutherford.
Education is a critical element of ARCA’s mandate to elevate the industry, and the Association has gotten creative with how best to reach members, especially the next generation of roofing leaders.
SAME INFORMATION, NEW DELIVERY
Younger members are not interested in reading tomes of standards and codes, so ARCA set out to present massive amounts of information in a more appealing way. The new building codes forced commercial buildings to adopt more resilient roofing options. One requirement is that some roof systems now must meet stringent wind uplift standards to withstand Alberta’s everchanging weather patterns. Each manufacturer tested their products and produced a mammoth number of reports with the results. Instead of having each member reading through thousands of pages of data, ARCA built a specialized content management system. This allows members and non-members alike to go onto the ARCA website and choose the wind pressure, product manufacturer, and method of affixing the roofing material and click submit; the system tells contractors if their chosen system will meet the required specifications.
ARCA also presents their application standards manual in a different, more engaging way. To keep current, the Association hired an animator and bought the technology required to bring the manual to life for today’s visual, technology-based contractors. Now members can click on a topic, from scuppers to control joints to fall arrest anchors and everything in between and watch while the animation demonstrates the content. This fully animated resource helps ARCA reach members and get information where it is needed.
“It gives people an option to see how a roof is installed without physically standing on the roof for days to see the different levels as it’s being assembled,” says Kevin Kramers.
The Association has also upped its technology game for virtual meetings and education sessions. In addition to the use of ZOOM and Teams, ARCA also established a television studio onsite to ensure the highest production quality for meetings and classes. This helps keep people engaged and connected virtually.
ARCA provides members with the most comprehensive information they need to succeed. This includes vetting roofing products that can improve contractors’ performance. As is the case with membership application, product approval takes time. To be considered, a product must be installed for at least two years in Alberta to ensure it can stand up to the winds, chinooks and cold conditions found throughout the province. The Technical Committee does a physical assessment of the installed product after two years and is present when it is installed so they can ask the installers what they think about the product and if there are any concerns or negative feedback. Vetting a product requires a thorough review, and the rigorous process explains why the Association has a strong reputation for only accepting quality materials, something the design community acknowledges by only specifying ARCA-accepted materials.
“The Association has made a huge effort in approving products and systems that are not only quality products but that will work here in Alberta, too,” says Pat Murphy. “We make sure they fit into what we as an association feel is the best we can provide our customers.”
For 60 years, ARCA has supported roofing professionals in the province through education, training and technical expertise. It is proud to be a leading force in North America, offering the best reference sources for specifiers, designers and building owners.
“There really is what I would consider to be the best roofing minds sitting around this table,” Bob James says of ARCA membership.
And those minds will continue to raise the bar for ARCA members and the industry at large.