The construction industry has been allotted only one year to come into compliance with OSHA’s stricter silica standards
After years of controversy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has finalized its stricter standards for silica use. The final rule, titled Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica, has the power to hinder the roofing industry with a flood of unattainable and uncompromising regulatory requirements. The rule took effect on June 23, 2016 and the construction industry has been allotted only one year to come into compliance, while most all other industries have been afforded two to five years to acclimate.
The rule establishes an array of new requirements, but the one most impactful on the roofing industry concerns a stricter permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica (silica). With exposure now limited to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the new limitation is actually five times lower than what was previously required for the construction industry. Such a toughening of regulatory standards is unprecedented— amongst any industry—which is why its promulgation has faced such staunch resistance.
Opponents of the rule have voiced two major concerns: (1) that the requirements are virtually impossible to comply with and (2) that the requirements are in fact counter-productive in that they make working conditions less safe for roofers. As for the first concern, many hold that the rule is neither technologically nor economically feasible. Not only is it said that current available technology is incapable of even meeting the new PEL limits, but one particular analysis has concluded that minimal compliance would require approximately $1 million per plant, plus an annual cost of nearly $225,000.00 (Regulatory Indifference Hurts Vulnerable Communities, United States Chamber of Commerce). If the industry as a whole purportedly had such difficulty meeting the prior, less restrictive requirements, how could it be expected to turn around one year later and fully comply with limits five times stricter?
As for the concern of roofers’ safety on the job, common sense alone should have preempted OSHA from pursuing this regulatory nightmare. With workers’ safety as the number one overriding factor for OSHA’s existence in the first place, it is baffling that it would force these new requirements on the roofing industry. For instance, in order for roofers to attempt to reach new PEL limits, new engineering controls, such as the purchase of specialized equipment, wetting and/or vacuuming, must be implemented into daily rooftop practices. In addition, when new PEL levels are inevitably missed, roofers will additionally be required to where respirators, only hindering their ability to see and avoid potential dangers.
With roofing deaths at its lowest in over a decade, it is astonishing that OSHA would pick now to force the roofing industry to expend millions of dollars in an effort to comply with impossible standards that will only make the profession more dangerous. OSHA’s purported desire to create safer work environments, through limiting workers’ exposure to silica, is not a particularly egregious aspiration in and of itself. However, a federal agency, with the power to create actual, binding law, must take into account such blatantly obvious considerations as the ones the roofing industry has been pointing out for years.
Dedicated workers hammering away in Traverse City, giving a family a much needed brand new roof to their home, all for free.
Aspen Contracting has offices across the country, including one in Traverse City.
Each year, they ask for the public’s help to find families in need of home improvements.
Today, they got to work.
“I’m so grateful for it. It’s a huge weight lifted,” says Sadeja Ryan, homeowner.
Sadeja Ryan with a smile on her face today, watching as workers from Aspen Contracting, put a new roof on her house, all at no charge.
“We want to try to give back to the communities, so we have people who are in need, who can’t afford a free roof or afford a roof, we have them or a family member, friend, relative, nominate them saying “hey this is why they should get roof,” and then we have the public nominate. Then we narrow it down to a smaller field and have the public vote on it with who they think should get the opportunity,” says Michael Gianola, Aspen Contracting.
After many leaks in the Ryan household, a relative nominated them for the free roof from Aspen.
“My windows leak and it was starting to leak onto my floor and there are some floors have holes in it from the rot of the water that would come in from the roof, so walking down the hallways sometimes it’s like an obstacle course,” says Ryan.
Thanks to votes from the public, they won!
“I am really super excited and I am really grateful and Aspens been great, they have been really helpful throughout the process,” says Ryan.
Aspen was happy to build the roof.
“We just feel like we want to give back, I mean we know that there have been storms that have come through here that have ravished the area, that people have needed work done and we don't want roof leaking like this,” says Gianola.
IN THIS fast changing world dominated by technology it is nice that some things, at least, haven’t changed in centuries.
Anybody driving on the N24 in the past month would have noticed scaffolding at Pa McGrath’s pub in Boher and a man on the roof weaving some magic.
Tomás Collins is a master thatcher from Sixmilebridge but living in Meelick. The 64-year-old learned the skill as a boy.
“I learned to thatch on the homeplace. My father told me ‘get up there and do it’.”
Tomás as been working full-time at the trade for the last 33 years.
“There's always loads of work on - it’s at the stage now where I have to turn down jobs,” said Tomás, who has become well acquainted with Boher as before he started on Pa McGrath’s he did the ridge on O’Neill’s bar.
“There aren’t too many thatched pubs so they are lovely to see. The longevity depends on the quality of the reeds and the roof, the location and, obviously, the workmanship.
“I strip it off as I go, a certain area of it and I renew any holes or hollows. You have a good sound base underneath it, I make that good and lay on a new coat of reed over that area, it goes up in courses, step by step. My ridges are lasting about 10 years,” said Tomás. And the roof itself lasts much longer.
One problem he faces is the Irish weather because when it rains he just has to cover up and stop. But it will always be nice inside.
“It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There could be a storm blowing outside and you wouldn’t hear a thing.”
Tomás has a simple answer when asked about them being an increased fire risk.
“It will go on fire if you set fire to it! The modern stoves go over 1,000 degrees and that will spontaneously combust the reed if there’s any weakness in the chimney. If you have a good clean chimney with no sparks coming out of it you should be fine.”
Thankfully it has never happened in Pa McGrath’s. Proprietor for close to 40 years, Liam Lynch said the building dates back to the 1700s.
While he would never change it he says thatching is very expensive and there are insurance issues.
“It is a strong selling point – it helps the place to stand out but it is very expensive. This is my fourth time doing it. The ongoing cost would be around €4,000 a year. There is help from the council but the grant is quite small in comparison to the overall cost of maintaining it.
“Insurance is a huge issue too. We’re not too bad as we are in business a good few years and we have no history of claims but certainly people who acquired a thatched house that hadn’t owned one previously are finding it very difficult to get insurance,” said Liam, who is looking forward to the scaffolding coming down.
The historic First Presbyterian Church at 2 North Court St. was completed in 1903, and its church office building, known as the Rufus Putnam House — just around the corner, at 9 North College St. — was completed at about the same time.
But the church office porch, which was enclosed and had a metal roof, had deteriorated over the decades and suffered from leaks. The staircase was also breaking up a bit, said Keith Morrow, a member of the First Presbyterian Church property committee.
“There was no heat or air conditioning, so the space wasn’t very usable,” Morrow said. “It was too hot in the summer and cold in the winter.”
So about a month ago, the congregation leadership decided to take action.
“We decided to put it (the porch) back to the way it was originally,” he said, adding that RVC Architects of Athens took on that task.
The results are striking, and getting positive comments from passersby. A new, unenclosed wooden porch is being constructed, which as of Thursday, had workers from Mike Myers Construction of Athens affixing hearty beadboard under the porch roof framing with nail guns.
The new staircase has also been completed, all except for railing on both sides.
In addition, Myers’ workers soon planned to replace wood beams with white columns that will bring the porch back to its historic look. The brick work of the home is original.
The main church at 2 North Court St. was designed by famed Ohio architect Frank Packard, Morrow said.
The church office building is two stories high, and upstairs, there is an apartment rented by Ohio University students. At one time, the building was used as a funeral home, Morrow said.
First Presbyterian Church owns property along North College Street that includes a parking lot nearby, Morrow said. The church pastor used to live in a home next to the church office building, which was removed years ago. Later, the church sold a sliver of land to the city so the Athens Police Department could reside next door.
The church office building, or Rufus Putnam House, is named for Rufus Putnam, a Revolutionary War officer who served under George Washington, and later, was one of the founders of the Ohio Company of Associates, according to the Ohio History Connection. They later set aside land that would become Ohio University’s main Athens campus.
Of the three local sites on the Indiana Landmarks list of 10 Most Endangered buildings, the Rivoli Theatre at 3155 E. 10th St. is in the poorest condition by far. This is its second year on the list.
The facility opened in 1927 as Universal Studios’ first Indiana theater, but the decades have stripped it of its former glamour.
The building’s owner, the Rivoli Center for the Performing Arts, put a new roof over the auditorium portion of the building in May 2014. But later that year, the roof over the front part of the building collapsed, which in turn caused the second story to collapse.
If you look through the upper windows from street level, you can see clear through to the sky. The front doors are covered with plywood and the rickety marquee sign looks ancient.
If the roof isn’t replaced, exposure to the elements will eventually destabilize the walls and lead to even worse damage, said Mark Dollase, Indiana Landmarks’ vice president of preservation services.
The Rivoli is within the area served by the Near East Area Renewal Community Development Corp. That organization’s director, John Franklin Hay, said community partners have worked hard to try to save it.
In 2014, the group helped sponsor a redevelopment feasibility study, which proposed rehabbing the Rivoli into a performing-arts theater and building a separate arts and education center to the east.
At the time, the study estimated the renovation cost for both buildings at $11.4 million. Hay said costs might have changed since then.
He envisions a combination of funding from grants and philanthropic and private investments. He’s also hopeful that the theater’s Promise Zone location might help it compete for federal grants.
The Promise Zone designation, which comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is part of an effort to revitalize high-poverty communities. The status helps improve applicants’ chance of being awarded federal funding for projects.
In the shorter term, roof repairs might soon be under way.
Roof replacement, plus reconstruction of the collapsed second floor, will cost “in excess of half a million dollars,” Dollase said
Work should begin within a few months, he said, funded partly by a community development block grant and partly with private donations.
In the bigger picture, Hay said, what the Rivoli needs is a savior.
“We have invested in a plan showing a path forward and a reuse of the facility,” he said. “The pieces are really in place to really move forward on development. The plan now needs a committed person—a champion, a developer—to help take it from plan to reality.”
The list is calculated by comparing revenue over a three-year span; his company clocked in with growth of more than 2,100 percent, hitting $8.3 million in revenue in 2015.
The 29-year-old Hempfield High School graduate said there’s no exciting story behind that growth, just hard work and a great team.
“I work with a lot of my friends, family members; my mom answers the phones,” he said.
He grew up around construction and started working in roofing around 2008, he said; from its start, he focused on running The Exterior Company as a business with the long view in mind, angling for referrals.
Along the way, he said, they earned the right to put manufacturer guarantees on their roofs — an honor offered to only a fraction of contractors. They now emphasize that to prospective customers.
As the company grew and his role became more administrative, Hoke said he turned more attention to getting the right structure and incentives — such as trucks or trips for high achievers — to encourage excellence.
He also bought a small plane, which he is licensed to fly. In addition to being fun, he said, it shortens the trip to his company’s Massachusetts office from about seven hours to under two.
From the beginning when it was just him, the staff has grown to about 75 people, about a third of them managers and office workers and the rest laborers.
In addition to the Lancaster headquarters and a Massachusetts office, there is an office in Virginia.
“We focus around big cities,” Hoke said, explaining that those tend to be good bases from which to expand.
The crews work in every East Coast state from Virginia to Maine, doing about 70 percent residential projects and 30 percent commercial, with some siding, window and gutter work thrown in, Hoke said.
In the next four years, he expects they will probably be working all the way down to Florida.
Having severe winters the last few years has slowed work a bit over that season, he said, but it has also increased the demand for their services.
“In Massachusetts they had a lot of snow last year,” he said. “During our typical summer season, we’re getting a lot of insurance claims saying ‘Hey, can you fix this roof because of all the ice dam problems we had over the wintertime?’”
Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said that national recognition is good news for the local economy as well as the companies themselves.
“Any indication that we can have a as community that there are a host of successful businesses in Lancaster County and the more recognition those businesses can get, the better off we will be,” he said.
Those other companies are marketing platform Listrak Ltd. at 1,728; marketing firm Mail Shark at 2,160; decor and gift wholesaler Primitives by Kathy Inc. at 3,200; security provider Select Security at 3,723; digital strategy company Williams Forrest at 3,888; website development firm EZSolution at 4,040; and manufacturer CounterTek at 4,092.
No sooner had Dow Chemical Co. ended production of its Powerhouse solar roof shingles than Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk announced he was getting into the market.
Musk said “solar and batteries go together like peanut butter and jelly.”
A $750 million factory is under construction in Buffalo, N.Y., where Musk’s pending acquisition, SolarCity Corp., will manufacture a product similar to the one Dow just dropped. The solar shingles are integrated into the roof — with no mounted, tilted panels — and serve as both the top of the building and a source of clean energy.
The exit of one industrial titan and the apparent arrival of a billionaire entrepreneur shows the commercial effort to harvest the power of the sun is continuing on a “natural progression,” according to Integrated Solar Technology LLC CEO Oliver Koehler.
Based in Port Chester, N.Y., and in the market for two years with solar shingles and tiles, Integrated Solar Technology does business as SunTegra. Koehler said the company is benefiting both from Dow’s departure and Musk’s vision for roof-integrated solar panels to generate enough electricity to store in a home battery that can power both a home and an electric car.
“The solar market has been growing 20 to 70 percent since 2003-2004,” Koehler said in a telephone interview. “We’re now in a phase where we have consolidation and more differentiated products. The market is large enough that solar shingles and solar tiles can find their place and I think we’ll see other more specialized products increasingly get into the market as it continues to grow.”
Some market watchers heard echoes of a rustbelt failure in Musk’s announcement about roof-integrated solar shingles. However, Koehler thinks Midland, Mich.-based Dow’s problems were linked to using copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells, as opposed to conventional crystalline silicon.
“The industry has interpreted Dow’s exit from roof-integrated solar shingles as signifying a problem with solar shingles. But really their exit is due to a failed technology and product strategy,” Koehler said. “They focused on an immature thin-film technology that requires huge scale in order to be made cost effectively.”
Chris Fisher, product development leader of photovoltaics for CertainTeeed Corp., agreed. The Malvern, Pa.-based subsidiary of building materials maker Cie. de Saint-Gobain makes roof-integrated solar shingles and tiles called Apollo II.
“The primary difference between the Dow and CertainTeed products is that Apollo II uses industry standard components for the solar module, which allows Apollo II to shift with the market and take advantage of ongoing cost, efficiency, manufacturing and technology improvements driven by the broader industry,” Fisher said in an email.
Dow “put together an interesting product,” Koehler added, but at about $6 per watt, it cost around 50 percent more than competitors.
“They really priced themselves out of the market,” Koehler said. “Despite their best efforts, they were able to get a good amount of customers across the U.S. But they were never able to get close to the scale they needed to cost effectively produce the product.”
SunTegra and CertainTeed sales started picking up as soon as Dow announced in July that it would stop taking orders for its solar shingles.
“They spent four years developing a lot of good customers and we’ve been contacting them and a lot have switched to our product,” Koehler said. Customers include roofers, homebuilders and companies that sell home improvement products. “It’s great. We can offer them a lower price than Dow and more performance.”
SunTegra took a lower-risk technology strategy with monocrystalline solar cells, Koehler said. They tend to be more uniform in appearance, a little more efficient and a little more expensive than multi-crystalline solar cells. CertainTeed also uses monocrystalline solar cells.
For SunTegra products, a solar laminate with a polyester-type back sheet adheres to a glass-filled polymer composite frame with high UV stability. The plastic in the frame allows SunTegra to get the shape it wants, while the non-conductive plastic eliminates the need to individually ground each panel to meet national electrical code for exposed metals.
Two other features differentiate SunTegra, Koeheler said. He pointed to corner connections with shorter cables, which avoid problems with long cables getting pinched as they’re fastened to the roof, and a patented ventilation system at the front of the solar shingles, which reduces the temperature underneath the panels.
“Any solar panel will operate less efficiently at higher temperatures,” Koehler said. “An integrated panel will operate about 5 percent less efficiently. Our products will operate about 2 to 3 percent less efficiently. So we have some energy savings there though our TegraVent technology.”
At peak power, SunTegra shingles, which have exposed areas of roughly 52 inches by 20 inches, generate 100 watts each. Smaller tiles, which are about 52 inches by 14 inches, put out 67 watts. CertainTeed’s Apollo II shingles and tiles, which are both roughly 46 inches by 13 inches, have maximum power outputs of 60 watts, according to company data sheets.
“For a typical home to power 60 to 80 percent of the home’s energy use, you will need about 50 to 70 of our solar shingles for about 5,000 to 7,000 rated watts,” Koehler said. “For most homes, if you covered about 25 percent of the home’s available roof space with solar you’d be supplying most of the energy used.”
Musk said he is acquiring SolarCity, which is run by his cousin CEO Lyndon Rive, in an effort to create the world’s leading sustainable energy company. He revised his master plan on July 20 and the No. 1 goal now is the integration of energy generation and storage. The vision is to “create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world.”
The 1.2 million-square-foot, taxpayer-funded Buffalo factory is expected to be operating after the first quarter of 2017 with the capability to produce 10,000 solar panels a day. Koehler said it’s “very positive” for SunTegra that Musk and SolarCity say they are going to focus on roof-integrate products.
“We think that really underscores our product strategy and gives us more credibility and awareness for integrated solar products,” he said. “We agree with his product direction and we think him bringing products to the market will be good for business.”
SolarCity will use a hybrid cell technology developed by Silevo, which it acquired two years ago, that is made with a crystalline substrate, thin-film passivation and a layer of a semiconductor oxide. Musk has described it as “the best technology out there for high-efficiency, low-cost solar panels, and at the same time, dramatically improving the aesthetics of having solar panels on your roof.”
Musk and Rive have said SolarCity plans to go after installers who replace some 5 million roofs a year as well as new construction.
SunTegra’s products are made by contract manufacturers in Indonesia and Mexicali, Mexico.
“Even if you manufacture in the U.S., most of the solar materials are still made in Asia. So Indonesia was a good place to source a lot of those materials but we did want to do a final assembly closer to home to ensure the quality,” Koehler said. “Our current operation strategy has worked quite well for us.”
To date, SunTegra has installed panels in eight states and Ontario, Canada, through a network with 30-plus dealer partners. The project in Canada put solar shingles on the first net-zero house in London, Ontario, which means it was built to generate as much energy as it consumes.
The U.S. solar market is set to grow at a pace of 119 percent this year, led by utilities with strong growth in the residential and commercial sectors, according to the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association.
Solar accounted for 26 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in the first half of 2016, according to a market report by SEIA and GTM Research. Another report says there are now more than 1 million operating solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, representing 27.5 gigawatts of capacity. A gigawatt generally solar powers 200,000 homes, SEIA says.
By 2021, solar is expected to account for more than 6 percent of U.S. electric generating capacity compared to just 0.3 percent at the beginning of this decade, SEIA adds.
“It’s still just the tip of the iceberg,” Koehler said. “If you look at peoples’ growing demand for electricity, growing populations, as well as the real issues with fossil fuels and the accelerated pace of global warming, solar is going to have to be a big part of the mix. The real question is will it be 50 percent of electricity generation or 90 percent. Either one of those is a big number.”
Globally, the building-integrated PV market for solar products is projected to grow from $3 billion in 2015 to $9 billion in 2019 and then $26 billion by 2022, according to RnR Market Research, which is based in India and has U.S. offices.
Even though Dow shuttered its production, a company spokesperson said the business would still play a role in the surging solar market by transitioning the Powerhouse platform to a licensing business model and retaining technology expertise to identify global opportunities and develop materials, such as encapsulant films.
Encapsulants protect solar cells and circuits from heat and weather, Koehler said. Along with SunTegra’s polymer composite frame, which also acts as the mounting system because it attaches directly to the roof with a screw, the two components make plastics a key enabler for solar products, he added.
“Those are really important parts of the technology and will help solar panels operate more efficiently and longer,” Koehler said.
Need a new roof? Why not one that can generate energy?
Solar company SolarCity, which is in the process of being acquired by electric car maker Tesla, plans to show off a new product, a roof integrated with solar panels, at an event on October 28 in San Francisco.
Tesla CEO and SolarCity chairman, Elon Musk, made the announcement on Twitter on Thursday morning, and said the combined company would unveil a solar roof with an integrated battery and a Tesla charger.
Musk announced plans for SolarCity’s new roof product in early August, on one of SolarCity’s earnings calls. It was the first call Musk had joinedsince he announced earlier in the summer that Tesla planned to purchase the solar installer.
Traditional rooftop solar panels are attached to roofs using metal mounting systems. But SolarCity plans to sell an actual roof that’s integrated with a series of solar panels. Musk said that the product would be attractive to homeowners that are looking to buy a new roof.
SolarCity’s planned solar roof shows how the company is shifting focus to new solar products as the market for home rooftop solar systems has gotten more competitive and difficult in some states. The product launch, and teasing the unveiling via Twitter, also appears to be an example of Musk’s influence on the company as it undergoes the merger.
Musk has long been hyper-focused on products at Tesla and is Tesla’s “Product Architect,” in addition to being its CEO and largest shareholder.
The solar industry has been working on these type of combined roof and solar panels, called “building integrated” solar, for years. A handful of companies have developed these rooftop solar systems, but many of these products haven’t gained traction because they usually cost more than standard solar panels, and also generate electricity with less efficiency. Dow Chemicalrecently stopped selling its solar shingle product due to underwhelming sales.
Tesla and SolarCity have been spending heavily over the past few years, as the companies try to grow rapidly. Tesla is building a massive battery factory outside of Reno, Calif. to make batteries for its planned Model 3 electric car.