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GAF and the Design Community: Bridging the Gap with the Designer's Collective

By Annie Crawford

January 28, 2016

Architects and the GAF team working together to problem solve.

GAF continues to improve its services to meet customers' needs. This includes thinking more and more about the challenges that designers face and how the company can help offer solutions. As a result, the design community can turn to GAF for comprehensive support from day one of their commercial projects.

The Designer's Collective

In support of this effort, GAF recently hosted its first Designer's Collective. The three-day event in New Jersey brought 11 of the East Coast's most influential architects and design consultants together with GAF department leaders.

Regional Sales Directors Natalia Gallo (Mid-Atlantic), Larry Cargal (Gulf Coast), and Cory Yawger (North East), cohosted and organized the event as a series of roundtables and one-on-one conversations. The intimate forum allowed the design community to express needs and concerns directly to GAF department heads, plus give real-time feedback on existing GAF resources for architects and specifiers.

GAF team members Natalia Gallo, Cynthia McArthur, Larry Cargal and Monica Wynn ready to learn from attendees

The Outdated Gap

"GAF started as a shingle manufacturer," explained Gallo. This meant that the company relied on contractors for an invitation to the table on commercial projects. But having manufacturers participate so late in the game was a disservice to owners, architects, project budgets, and the buildings themselves.

GAF can provide expertise across several segments of the roofing industry including Commercial and Solar. With so many resources, GAF knew it was time for the relationship with designers to also evolve and grow. "Architects have a partner in GAF, not just a vendor," said Gallo. "And we will help them guide their own customers to the right solution for their particular building."

It's nearly impossible for any single design firm to stay completely abreast of the constant changes in building codes. "That's why so many firms specialize," said Cargal. But GAF wants to and can help relieve the burden of navigating projects alone.

That's why GAF territory managers "show the architect, step-by-step," what is needed for a commercial project as well as the support available to them. "It's not about sales," said Cargal. "It's about education."

Opportunities for Improvement

GAF already offers architects comprehensive field services, technical support, and architectural services via the GAF Design Services team. But the Designer's Collective created an opportunity to further prioritize the design community's needs. When manufacturers can put more of their focus on the architects, everyone wins.

Designer's Collective attendees outside of GAF headquarters

Better Project and Building Outcomes

"When we know the building owner's goals, capital budget, and operating expense, we can better match the utility of roof assembly to the goals of their building and budget," said Cargal. Without a manufacturer-designer connection, it's left up to the roofer and general contractor who might have different goals. This means the owner's goals could get lost. As a result, "quality and budget can suffer, and the longevity of the building suffers, too," said Cargal.

More Time and Resources Saved for Architects

"In today's world, one thing you can't afford to waste is time," said Gallo. A close relationship between architects and manufacturers means GAF can directly address pain points instead of presuming. "When we know exactly what architects need, we can save them time," said Gallo. "That's the difference between service and hospitality. Making our customer important enough that we center their needs in the equation."

Learning from the Design Community about Their Challenges

The Designer's Collective provided the framework for architects to convey their industry needs, while also forging personal relationships with GAF leaders. In contrast to larger GAF events in the past, the Designer's Collective was intimate, explained Gallo. As a result, these designers and the GAF department heads are just a phone call away from each other for requests, concerns, and real-time feedback on GAF products and designs.

Here are some key insights attendees shared, which will help the GAF team uncover new opportunities to help minimize these issues and support the customer.

Employee Shortages

Architects are observing labor shortages. Overworked principal architects need employee training support. Firms are having trouble getting existing employees to come into offices.

Time Resources

Many designers find they waste time navigating manufacturer websites to find necessary code and installation information.

One existing tool GAF has in place today is our Design Services Resources. In addition to the information and assets available on the website, the Design Services team engages on a national scale with associations like the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), American Institute of Architects (AIA), and International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC) to bridge the education gap on the latest codes and trends in building design.

Product Differentiation

It's a challenge to differentiate GAF products and warranties, and explain performance value to building owners.

Cargal explained that GAF's warranties are lateralized across all systems. "It can be hard for architects to differentiate between importance of or value of different products and warranties," he said. "This event really helped us open our eyes to how we could help architects to help owners to understand."

Closing the Gap

Events like the Designer's Collective allow architects to "be more of a stakeholder in the process," said Gallo. "A direct relationship with manufacturers can increase the revenue to architects' own customers, because they can serve those customers better."

When the gap is closed, owners get a better finished product and a better performing building, explained Cargal. "We're serving architects exactly where they need us to. Without events like the Designer's Collective, we're in the dark about architects needs."

Learn more about events like the Designer's Collective and how to receive technical and design support, sustainable options, system integrations, code approvals, and much more from the GAF team.

About the Author

Annie Crawford is a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, covering travel, style, and home improvement. Find more of her work at annielcrawford.com.

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