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Thomas Bauer - The Sustainable Side of Leadax™ - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

rrt s5 viking thomas bauer transcript
May 25, 2023 at 6:50 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Thomas Bauer from Viking Products Group. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast. 


Speaker 1: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade, listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Heidi Ellsworth: Hello, and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from RoofersCoffeeShop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and I'm here today, we are road tripping East and even over the Atlantic, but not really, but we're going to be talking about how some companies are working together from Europe to the US to really bring about true sustainability. We're going to talk about circular roofing products, which a lot of people are like, "What is that?" So I've got the experts here today, Tom Bauer with Viking Products Group. Tom, welcome to the show.

Tom Bauer: Hi, Heidi. Good morning. How are you? Appreciate you reaching out to get us on the show.

Heidi Ellsworth: I am great. Thank you. I'm so excited to have you on here. Sustainability has always been one of my most favorite topics, and you guys are really starting to take a lead on really helping the roofing industry to understand sustainability and what we're going to talk about today, circular products

Tom Bauer: And sustainability has really come a long way. I remember when I sat for my lead exam back in 2006, and that was USGBC, it was a big deal, and the levels of the buildings, and we looked at formaldehyde free carpeting, and there was even points for reflectivity on roofs and bike racks. And so from that point system to where we've gotten today, it is pretty amazing and I'm really excited to see that transition in sustainability to something that I think is more cutting edge is really the ability of being something circular. So excited to talk about that in a product sense, but also in the value it has to our buildings and our sustainability goals.

Heidi Ellsworth: I agree 100%. I was at those USGB shows and it has changed a lot. Tom, real fast, before we dive in, please introduce yourself just so that everybody knows who you are, tell us a little bit about you, and then we'll get into talking about Viking Products Group and Leadax.

Tom Bauer: Been in the roofing industry about 20 years now in different roles from technical and also sales. Currently, I am blessed to be the director of sales for Viking Products, which is primarily a roofing product company all the way from accessories to full systems. So I get to work with a lot of our contractors, which are near and dear to my heart after spending so many years doing that and also supporting them to really bring them, through my network and my team, really innovative products to not only help their ultimate customer, which is the building owner, but also help them in their installation and time and also cutting edge products that are going to last. So that's really my challenge to myself and the team is to help the roofing contractors provide a huge value to their customers. So definitely a supportive role to the people that are sitting around the table having coffee, they're near and dear to my heart, so I hope they look at us as a resource, and I got the opportunity to spearhead that. So a little bit about me.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love that. And that is what roofing is all about, helping each other, growing each other's businesses, lifting. I love that. And that's what contractors want. That's what we all want, to be honest. Tell us a little bit about the Viking Products Group.

Tom Bauer: Viking really was developed as a true contractor-friendly manufacturer. Been in multiple manufacturers in my past, and I'm sure you can look that up on LinkedIn nowadays to see some of the names that I worked at, but my core has always been the contractor. So the flavor of Viking is a manufacturer that really is on maintenance and repair, also restoration, and then migrating into full systems. But really where we specialize, our niche, is maintenance and repair and restorations, making assets of the building manager or owner last longer. So I don't want to say the manufacturer's rep for like a car mechanic, but yes, we're your local NAPA.

Heidi Ellsworth: Well, and isn't that a big part of sustainability, is making what we already have last longer and be more durable?

Tom Bauer: Yes, we need to reduce landfills and tear offs, and if it's still good and it just needs a refresh or a recoat or some really neat products, which I'm sure we'll get into, those type of products to be able to offer the contractors the ability to restore and repair and offer a longer service life of the roofing system, that's really our goal.

Heidi Ellsworth: Well, and you've been partnering with Leadax, it's a company out of Europe. Tell us a little bit about them.

Tom Bauer: Leadax is a really unique company, and we'll talk about the circular and some of the environmental attributes of the product, but over in Europe and the name of the Leadax is that lead even back in the USGBC days with LEED, the PVCs and the lead were no-no words back then, but in Europe, lead has become a real concern with stormwater runoff and a lot of those issues. So they had to find an alternative for the use of lead on pipe boots and drain pans and a lot of their flashings and accessories. So Leadax is a name, but it also stands for something, and that is to find a lead alternative for where things were used for lead. And as we call ourselves Vikings, we love the fact that it's out in the Netherlands and Holland and Europe, and we have our meetings, and they're pretty excited about our name in the US because there's a heritage piece to that as well. So there's a requirement for beards as well. It's just part of the whole package.

Heidi Ellsworth: I was going to say, people can't see it right now, but Tom has an amazingly cool beard, so there you go.

Tom Bauer: That was probably the selling point, but other than that was the alternative for a sustainable but also a very practical product that could replace lead, and hence the lineage of where Leadax came from.

Heidi Ellsworth: And Leadax has been a leader in environmental and circular products in trying to replace the lead products, right?

Tom Bauer: Yeah. It's incredible some of the awards that they've won all through Europe, in fact of all shows they're going to be coming up at the Communications Electronics Show, or CES, out in Vegas, and I'm like, "What are you guys doing there?" The Dutch delegation has won so many great things, and they're even bringing that to the US for sustainability and how much of windshields and carbon off-put that they've been able to save not only in the manufacturing, but also in reducing tear off and some things like this in Europe, and we are honored as Viking to bring that to the US.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is so great. Tom, let's talk about that, what is considered a circular roofing product?

Tom Bauer: So many of the listeners out there are very up to speed on solar reflectance, or post-consumer, or post-industrial, or pre-consumer, these terms that are out there about recycled content and environmental performance. The new term, circularity, really goes further in that it's not a raw material just by itself. It starts out as a recyclable raw material or products. Everything that's in it was from a waste stream. Then after manufacturing put together use on the roof 20, 30 years, that product then is able to be broken back down into the raw materials as a recyclable product and used again.

So if you draw that diagram out is from the waste stream from aluminum, which is part of the core, the windshield, which is the PVB, which is the thin film that really keeps safety glass from shattering, or if you get in a car accident, that glass doesn't come into the cab of the vehicle, and that's really where they've diverted the waste stream, that film was unusable until this point as a recyclable product, but they have found a way to reclaim it and also kick the glass to your traditional recycling programs, smelt that down, be able to make a really outstanding membrane to it with a recycled aluminum, great product for use on the roof, and then all that stuff can be gathered back and redone again. And so it's a complete circular, so that's where the circularity comes from in sustainability. So diverted waste stream, into a product, and then it's able to be recyclable at the end.

Heidi Ellsworth: And it's circular then, that makes so much sense.

Tom Bauer: That's the magic word, and that's what it means.

Heidi Ellsworth: And who would've thought to take the little film that is on a windshield or on windows in a car, I know they're used in other places too, who had even thought about, oh, let's take that and make something out of it? That's great.

Tom Bauer: It's great. So when you look at PVB in its general term, it was a very high-end plastic. You've heard of PVC, polyvinyl chloride, and this is the polyvinyl butyral. So this is such a high-end product, because if you think about it, think of something that's got to be out there for 20 to 30 years, it can't yellow, it can't fade, it can't become brittle, so I used this loosely, it was almost too good for roofing, to be honest, because it was so expensive, and now that it's a waste stream and reclaimed, we have a premium type plastic that before was cost-prohibitive to make into things, now we have the opportunity to put that on a roofing system with all of its great attributes. So it really is a win-win situation.

Heidi Ellsworth: So with your experience, which is great, when you're looking at this, how are we starting to fit the circular products onto the roof, and what are we doing when the roofs are torn off? Are people understanding how to recycle and [inaudible 00:11:12] I'm guessing that's part of the learning curve.

Tom Bauer: It is part of the learning curve. And unfortunately, COVID and current inflation rates and raw material shortages, all these things typically are negatives in a sense of profitability and margin and time, getting jobs, but what it's forced us to do is focus on our businesses differently. There's a pain point, this is something traditionally in the marketplace before it's more expensive to borrow against, so new insulation is harder to come by, scheduling labor, it's absolutely a shortage because there's still people returning to work. There's all these issues that are forcing people to look at do we maintain our roofs? Do we let them last longer? Traditional, we can tear it off, throw down some new insulation, throw down a single ply and roll with it has really changed the model. We have so many more pieces to consider. So that paradigm shift in how we think has changed how we look at can we reuse, can we recoat, can we repair? So those three R's, reuse, recoat repair, have more value now because of the current market.

Heidi Ellsworth: And it seems like that's only growing, and who knows with the economy right now, but you're right, I think there's been a fundamental shift of people thinking this way going forward.

Tom Bauer: Well, and I think there's even a parallel. People used to lease cars all the time and they could rotate out, okay, three years, 36,000 miles, I can rotate, because there was ample F-150s or Chevy Silverados or whatever our roofing contractors need, now they go and they're not as available as they used to be. There's chip issues for the computers... All these other issues that say, "The current vehicle that I'm running right now, I can't turn in at 36,000 miles. I have to do something". And that's where mechanics and those kind of things have more value. That's where restoration repair and products like Leadax flashing and all the areas around the perimeter and details that typically have the problem with or more maintenance intensive with the roofs now become more in a focus. And so I would love to say that it's the product only that has revolutionized our market and how we look at our roofs, but it's also the current conditions in the marketplace and other product availability that's really caused us to think differently.

Heidi Ellsworth: And as it needs to, so there we are. It's like [inaudible 00:13:52]

Tom Bauer: There's always a pain point that would create a paradigm shift, but from a sustainability point, the cost and some of the market influences are causing sustainability to have a more monetary value and time value, which that's usually when we see leaps and bounds gained in those type of areas.

Heidi Ellsworth: Always that way, we've watched it time and time. So let's talk a little bit about the GreenWeld product, it's getting out there to the contractors, you're talking about it as a circular product. I love your messaging. I love how you are really saying it's a recycled product made from recycled materials, but it's also helping to now we're going to do the repairs and service the roof. What are you hearing from contractors who are using GreenWeld and really talking to building owners about this?

Tom Bauer: So I talk about the holy grail or the great unicorn, and I think that exists when you have a product that has all these really cool sustainability aspects to it, but it's also very useful. So the useful side of the GreenWeld powered by Leadax is really what's pushing the product, and it's also carrying through the sustainability part. The usefulness part of it is really that's been a cool challenge, you go into a situation and you take the name and you break it down, which is a lead replacement. So you think, okay, around my drain pans, around some of our traditional detailing like soil stacks and those kind of things, and those are the easy low-hanging fruit, but what contractors are saying is, "Oh my gosh, this because..." I always use this analogy, it's like single ply and metal had a baby together.

So you have this membrane that you can form, it's malleable, you can actually put it in a break and put a nice 90 degree crease to it and it welds together too, so you're not soldering copper or lead, you can use your traditional heat welder that you would have for your traditional single plies. But at the same time, it's got the rigidity and malleability of metal. So now it's getting put in as gutter liners. It's getting even in the residential market for chimney flashings, or coping stone, or coping cap repair, or even membrane repair. So all of a sudden now you have this product that is designed for a specific use but is applicable to so much more. So we've had a lot of challenges with our partner contractors who say, "Where can't you use this?"

Heidi Ellsworth: I love it.

Tom Bauer: Oh my gosh, where on a roof the challenge is, whether it's TPO, PVC, modified, even EPDM, tell me a flashing or a detail that you can't use this on. Let's get creative. There's even an architectural community that made Lego guys out of it because there was a competition. Even off the roof, we've had some really stellar Spartan helmets made out of it. At the IRE, I'm always making a Viking helmet out of... I can roll it and heat weld it and make the horns. And to the opportunity to the contractor to have one roll, I say one roll to rule them all, cliche, one role to rule them all, it is just the applicability to the details and everything that you can use it for that are non-traditional, that have the opportunity for maintenance and repair products, and maintenance repair crews to have one sole source. So it's been so much fun.

And we love the name Leadax, we love the history of Leadax and where it came from, but at the same time it's like Leadax is so descriptive that it can be used in so many different locations, and that to me is what's exciting about the product.

Heidi Ellsworth: It really is a product that should be in the back of every track all the time.

Tom Bauer: Amen.

Heidi Ellsworth: ... Is what I'm hearing.

Tom Bauer: Yes.

Heidi Ellsworth: Because you never know when you're going to need it. I would think, yes, on repairs, but also on reroofs, even on new construction, like you said, it's one of those things that could be used across the board.

Tom Bauer: Once somebody gets a chance to use it, and with a steel roller or something you would roll a single ply membrane seam into, or a soft hammer, you can actually transfer the profile of what you're applying it to through it. So if it's a rib metal roof, if it's a coping stone, and you want it to completely conform to whatever and transfer through with the 40% elongation in itself, and it holds that because of metal feel, that aluminum scrim in there, you can conform it to just about anything.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is so cool.

Tom Bauer: Yeah, I know. I love the product. I have about a 200-year-old farmhouse that when I first got it I put it on every part, chimney caps, I put it gutter repair, I did some window flashing with it. I'm like, "This stuff is fantastic." So even just playing around during the introductory phase to us, and then I took it on the commercial space, and so I would challenge roofers to give me a call and I'll try to fix it all.

Heidi Ellsworth: Fix everything. And in the very beginning when you were talking about Leadax and how they're looking to replace lead in so many places due to stormwater runoff and not wanting to have obviously the lead in that, so then, again, let's talk about that. This is something that's going to be on the roof. And if you said gutter liners, that's really important for the environmental safety of the water coming off too around the lead part of it?

Tom Bauer: Around the lead, yes. Lead diversion, like I said, from very beginning in the early 2000s with the development of the USGBC, we looked at our runoff, and we looked at the volatilization of PVC, and we looked at all these formaldehydes in carpet, so what was the building's footprint to the environment? And one of those was really stormwater runoff, with lead, of course, having the impacts too. You can look at bird thickness of their eggs and shells, and you can also see other small microorganisms that it affects. Those became an issue of runoff. So anywhere that water hit, and those could be soil stacks, those could be around exposed penetrations or flashings, or through gutters, or anything along those lines. So they started to look at the impact of what was coming down the spouts, what was impacting the waterways from the building aspect, whether that was retention ponds in more commercially developed areas, or if it was a direct discharge to some type of body of water, and or stream or river.

Backing that up, we were challenged as an industry to come up with better ways to manage our potential pollutants that are coming off our buildings. So they started backing out lead and other objects or are other type of chemicals, and this is really a great product that we don't give up performance as a result, and that's the challenge. If you look at the environmental VOCs, if you remember the VOC paints, as we've reduced and we've gone into water-based paints, away from solve based paints, sometime there's a give and take on product performance and it's a balance. In this situation, I truly believe that removing the lead and replacing it with Leadax, there isn't a product performance, I guess, negative. There isn't something that we're giving up, which is really rare.

Heidi Ellsworth: Wow. Very cool, Tom. I'm loving this product. And I know the answer to this, but I'm going to ask you, how can contractors get their hands on this? Where do they buy it?

Tom Bauer: We have a couple different vehicles depending on how large the contractor is or where they're at, but they can start with our great partnership with RoofersCoffeeShop, they can start there, which I would definitely encourage. [inaudible 00:22:37] And we're really trying to funnel a lot of the onesies, twosies, get familiar with, ask for a free sample, that would be the first start. So go to RoofersCoffeeShop, request the free sample, get it in your hands, take a look. I hope you will see what I see of the availability of all these different details that you can do with it. Start there, get a role, try it out. If we want to go to larger purchases, we have a lot of local distributors throughout the US that you can buy larger quantities through. But the best place to start is right with you, Heidi, and your team with RoofersCoffeeShop.

Heidi Ellsworth: I love what you've done with your e-commerce, and us working together, so we have GreenWeld in your directory and people can click there and go right to the e-commerce, purchase rolls from Viking on their site, you can go to buy online on RoofersCoffeeShop, and that will get you to the Viking Products Group e-commerce to be able to buy the role. And as we talk about this, Tom, when you're thinking what we said, "There should be a role in the back of every pickup truck as they're going out to service," we all buy off Amazon, and even my husband can buy off Amazon, and so there you go, you can go out there, you can get a roll and you can try it out. And I just think it's brilliant. So I'm very excited about this.

Tom Bauer: Well, we're appreciative of your guys' support. We love you all very much.

Heidi Ellsworth: That's good. Here's the other thing that we have to do, Tom. So at IRE coming up in March, when you're on making your Viking hats out of GreenWeld, you got to bring them to the sound stage so we can show everybody what they look like.

Tom Bauer: I will.

Heidi Ellsworth: And we'll play with the GreenWeld product right there.

Tom Bauer: And I've got something cooler coming out at the IRE too. Although my helmets are still legendary, what we do have is, at the IRE, we are introducing, very excited about, a self adhered version of our Leadax.

Heidi Ellsworth: Awesome.

Tom Bauer: That is really big for us. And we also have some colors that will be able to be available like the black and the terracotta, and continuing with our traditional gray. One of the cool things about that PVB is it's actually clear. Think about it.

Heidi Ellsworth: That's right.

Tom Bauer: So we have the option to make things in multiple colors for different roofing systems or even on the residential market. So we're really excited not only to bring the helmets at the IRE, but also bring the self adhering version, which I think will even open up the opportunity for installation of this product even further within your network of contractors both commercial and residential.

Heidi Ellsworth: We're definitely going to have that on. We will have that on live from IRE, but we'll also be having that on the site. So as soon as it's launched, everybody can find it on there, you'll be able to get samples, you'll be able to go to the e-commerce. So this is super exciting, Tom. Thank you so much for sharing, for educating everybody on what circular is, and having a product that is circular, and really that's the kind of stuff that uplifts our industry.

Tom Bauer: Well, thank you for the opportunity, Heidi. Thank you for all that you do in your team. We really appreciate it in helping the contractor, which I think is all of our common goal.

Heidi Ellsworth: It is. Thank you. And thank you all for listening. This is great stuff. I hope you can use it. Go out onto the Viking Products Group directory, find the GreenWeld, hit the click, and you're going to be able to order some, get it into your own trucks. Try it out, see what you think. Let us know. We always want to hear. And thank you so much for listening to this podcast and all of our podcasts, which you can find under the read, listen, watch section of our navigation under Roofing Road Trips. And on your favorite podcast channel be sure to subscribe and get notifications so you don't miss a single episode. And we will be seeing all of you on the next Roofing Road Trips.

Speaker 1: Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the rooferscoffeeshop.com.

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