Green up top: Springfield Roofing launches energy service

TRAVERSE CITY – The initial phone call Springfield Commercial Roofing used to get from a new customer went something like this: "Jim, I want my building to not leak." Today, that phone call goes more like this: "Jim, I want to save money on my energy bill."

What the person calling, probably a facilities manager or a production manager, really means is that they want the integrity of their building envelope to be impervious to rain, but also ice, moisture, humidity and wind, as well as heat loss in the winter and cooling loss in the summer.

The "Jim" that they're calling is Jim Kehrer, sales manager of the Kingsley-based roofer, and they want him to make the things that are supposed to be outside, like rain and ice, stay outside, and the things that are supposed to be inside, like heat or air conditioning, stay inside. Sounds simple enough. Especially for a company that, until now, has counted re-roofing existing buildings as 90 percent of its business. Springfield has a 20-plus year history, and along the way employees have learned some things about "green" roofing; the company just launched Springfield Infrared and Energy Services to capitalize on both interest and their own expertise.

"When you're putting a roof on there's really a lot of opportunity to increase the energy efficiency," said Kehrer. "And what we've found is there's an amazing payback. In as little as six years one of our customers paid for not only the energy audit and the increased insulation, but also the roof. Labor, materials, everything."

That customer was Nadine Baker, one of the owners of Auto Tech, a general auto repair shop on Cass Road in Traverse City. "Our energy bills were just ridiculous," said Baker. "We've seen them cut in half since the project was finished."

Back when gasoline was 88 cents a gallon – yes, that long ago – Springfield Roofing was already looking for ways to quantify the extra money they were suggesting their customers spend on energy efficiency. Back then the company used models developed by the Department of Energy to help answer the second thing their customers called up wanting to know: "How much this is going to cost me and how much I'm going to save by doing it?"

"The interest has gone way up," said Kehrer. "When gas was 88 cents a gallon people only pulled the trigger on something if they needed a new roof anyway. Energy costs have gone so high now that it actually stands alone."

Gas has quadrupled since those days, making almost anything businesses do to increase their energy efficiency worthwhile. And, Springfield has progressed past the DOE models to much more state-of-the-art equipment. The crews at Springfield still use words like "shingles," and "roofing nails," but they've also added "infra-red camera," "thermography," and "heat flux meter" to their vocabulary. That last gizmo is especially interesting to Kehrer.

"You shoot it at the wall and it gives you an exact R value," he said. "It looks like a 1970s, science fiction, TV ray gun."

Kehrer said learning how to use the new equipment is fun, and makes the job easier, but the most exciting aspect of the new efficiency service is the ability to save energy, save the planet, and save their customers money, all at the same time.

"The greenest building is one that's already built. All of the embedded energy that would otherwise be dumped into a landfill and take money out of the customer's pocket can now be made to work. The bottom line is that we can take an existing building and make it as efficient as a brand new, Energy Star- rated building."

There is one high-tech toy Kehrer would like to have. A GPS unit with a built in computer and a CAD software program. It uses satellite information to take structural measurements with an accuracy of six one hundredths of a foot. No measuring tape, no crawling around. That, he says, and a cloning device so he could get to all of his new customers. BN