Roofing Ethics

Aug. 10, 2010

At a recent seminar hosted by RCI Inc., the subject of ethics for roof observers was discussed in detail. RCI is the international association of professional consultants, architects, and engineers specializing in roofing, waterproofing and exterior wall systems. The association follows this statement regarding ethics:

 RCI professional members adhere to a strict ethics code that offers unprejudiced service without affiliation with any product or manufacturer.

RCI members, including Registered Roof Observers (RROs) and Registered Roof Consultants (RRCs), agree to abide by the ethics statement. 

According to the RCI Manual of Practice, members or registrants shall:

Engage only in accurate, appropriate, and truthful promotion of their practice; be respectful of the rights of others in obtaining professional work or employments; and make only accurate, truthful and appropriate statements or claims about their professional qualifications, experiences or performance.

Obligations to the client (Building Owner, A/E, General Contractor, or Subcontractor) include:

Preserve the confidence of their client or employer and serve each in a professional and competent manner;

Shall exercise unprejudiced and unbiased judgment and conduct when performing all professional services;

Shall practice only in their area of competence;

Shall decline any activity or employment, avoid any significant financial or other interest, and decline any contribution if it would reasonably appear that such activity, employment, interest or contribution could compromise their professional judgment or conduct, or prevent them from serving the best interest of their client or employer without making full disclosure to the client and obtaining the clients consent thereto;

Shall neither offer nor make any payment or gift to any public official, private client, or industry representative with the intent of influencing that person’s judgment or decision in connection with an existing or prospective project in which the member or registrant is interested.

Let’s illustrate these goals with some hypothetical roofing examples.

1. The A/E has specified a roof system using a white TPO membrane mechanically fastened through the roof insulation to the roof deck. You, the roofing consultant, have been recommending ballasted EPDM membranes and have no first-hand experience with TPO, especially with a relatively new method of blind-welding the membrane to the fastener stress plates. Do you:

a. Do the best you can, without admitting your first-hand knowledge is lacking?

b. Advise the client/AE that you lack expertise with TPO but have heard bad things about it and recommend switching to EPDM?

c. Advise the client that your knowledge is limited, but that you will work with the TPO producer, attend their training programs, and arrange for the manufacturer’s representative to assist in project start-up?

d. Convince the building owner that value engineering will prove the EPDM systems best?

2. The foreman on a project is one that you have worked with previously, with generally good results. Do you:

a. Enjoy his company with a cool beer at the local pub after work hours?

b. Recognizing that his credentials are OK, reduce your visits to this project and fill out the daily reports based upon what the foreman tells you took place in your absence?

c. Ignore some safety violations, since the crew appears to be properly trained, safety harnesses just slow the project down and safety is not your responsibility anyhow?

d. Recognize that the foreman has “innovated,” but work is progressing nicely. Note the deviations and clear these changes with the A/E and manufacturer in writing?

3. The general contractor (not your client) has asked you for advice on temporary covers at roof openings. Since there are just a few isolated openings, the GC asks you to keep an eye out for when the roofing crew approaches these openings, even though this might detract from your contractual obligations. Do you:

a. Suggest using 15/16-inch OSB, 4-by-8-foot sheets, screwed to the deck to comply with OSHA requirements, and that you will keep an eye out for the OSHA inspector?

b. Advise the building owner/manager that there is a potential conflict and that you are qualified (or not) to take on this additional responsibility if he approves?

c. Advise the GC that you must respectfully decline because this is not allowed in the contract documents?

d. Call OSHA and worn them that you are observing violations and that they should send out an inspector?

4. The roofing materials manufacturer is just entering the market area where you have your business. You are offered a nice bonus for recommending to the A/E this new material, knowing that it is equivalent to what has been used on other projects. Do you:

a. Accept, no harm done, as it is all PVC, TPO or whatever.

b. Decline, indicating that there is an ethical conflict here.

c. If the owner/A/E approves your disclosure of this potential conflict, proceed as long as you are not the decision maker for the selection of the roof system.

d. Accept. Since you are already on the project, this gives you a first-hand opportunity to learn about this new material and method of installation. If you decline, the manufacturer will cut a deal with one of your competitors, resulting in you suffering from a lost business opportunity.

If you are looking for the “correct” answers to this quiz, note that many of the choices we listed can be quite ambiguous. The practice of Ethical Behavior is not an exact science and depends upon mitigating or special circumstances that can vary with every individual situation.

RCI is providing true value to the roofing industry by calling for ethical behavior and giving examples of “proper” professional behavior. I hope this column stimulates some thought on the subject.

About the Author

Richard L. Fricklas

Richard (Dick) L. Fricklas received a Lifetime Achievement Award and fellowship from RCI in 2014 in recognition of his contributions to educating three generations of roofing professionals. A researcher, author, journalist, and educator, Fricklas retired as technical director emeritus of the Roofing Industry Educational Institute in 1996. He is co-author of The Manual of Low Slope Roofing Systems (now in its fourth edition) and taught roofing seminars at the University of Wisconsin, in addition to helping develop RCI curricula. His honors include the Outstanding Educator Award from RCI, William C. Cullen Award and Walter C. Voss Award from ASTM, the J. A. Piper Award from NRCA, and the James Q. McCawley Award from the MRCA. Dick holds honorary memberships in both ASTM and RCI Inc.

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