– By Rick Hess, Chair, NFBA Board of Directors –
As we approach the midpoint of 2014, I’d like to report on the work NFBA is doing to achieve its ambitious goals. As I mentioned at the annual business meeting at the 2014 Frame Building Expo in March, we are focusing on seven areas:
Stabilizing NFBA’s financial position
Strengthening and expanding NFBA’s educational offerings
Enhancing the Frame Building Expo
Building NFBA’s technical resources
Promoting workforce safety and compliance
Right-sizing the Post-Frame Market Initiative
Enhancing NFBA member benefits.
We’ve initiated activities in some of these areas, and others are being developed with the help of board members, NFBA committees and staff, and interested members. I’ll continue to provide updates as our work continues.
Stabilizing NFBA’s financial position. We recognize that new, enhanced, and diversified revenue streams must be developed to ensure NFBA’s continued financial strength. The board of directors has made a commitment to rebuilding reserves to a level to cover 3–6 months of operating expenses. NFBA has reviewed its contracts with its partners, including its agreements with Association Management Center and F&W Media. The agreement with AMC has been finalized, and the agreement with F&W is nearly final. This process will ensure that all parties involved are working toward strengthening NFBA’s financial position.
Strengthening and expanding NFBA’s educational offerings. Considerable effort was dedicated to strengthening the educational program at this year’s expo in Nashville. And feedback suggests that attendees noticed and appreciated the difference. NFBA is committed to developing educational content beyond the expo as well. Processes now in place will facilitate the development of technical bulletins and white papers addressing specific areas concerning the post-frame building system. NFBA is working to develop short online educational modules on topics ranging from foundation options to construction practices. Our objective is to provide a comprehensive set of training materials encompassing the entire post-frame building system.
Enhancing the Frame Building Expo. The Convention Planning Committee, led by Greg Lehman, has been working diligently on preparations for next year’s expo. The group will meet this month in San Antonio, Texas, to lay out the agenda. Look for exciting information on the 2015 expo in the near future.
Building NFBA’s technical resources. The NFBA board has charged the Technical and Research Committee with setting performance expectations and material standards for the post-frame industry. In addition, the T&R Committee can be instrumental in identifying construction practices that could lead to best-practice recommendations. This work will be undertaken using a consumer-advocacy perspective that raises the profile of post-frame design and construction. (An update on the T&R Committee’s current projects is given below.)
Promoting workforce safety and compliance. In the spring NFBA launched its Gail Miller Recognition Program for Excellence in Safety for both builder and supplier companies. The program offers substantial benefits for a nominal fee, allowing member companies to obtain an impartial review of their safety programs and receive specific recommendations for improving compliance. You’ve seen announcements of this program in NFBA’s news vehicles and can learn more and download an application form on the NFBA website at www.nfba.org.
Right-sizing the Post-Frame Market Initiative. Our PFMI objectives include increasing program funding and scaling the program to available funding. The redesigned Post-Frame Advantage website (www.postframeadvantage.com) scheduled for launch this year will offer an improved lead-generation system and further advance our industry as a whole as well as the prospects of individual member companies. The “PFMI Update” article on page 12 gives more details on the new website.
Enhancing NFBA member benefits. The NFBA membership spans several segments of the post-frame industry: contractors, suppliers, building material dealers and other post-frame professionals. Within these segments we find businesses of different sizes, with different needs and objectives. Even members of the same group (for example, contractors) have diverse interests and expectations of the association. We know that membership growth will come when membership benefits are aligned with the interests of each segment.
In the coming months, NFBA will be reaching out to member and nonmember contractors, seeking input on NFBA’s services and ways that we can better serve the industry and post-frame contractors. The findings will inform decisions on the development of educational programs and technical resources. We want to strengthen and revitalize our chapter network, expand our recruitment activities, improve our data analysis (so that we can track membership trends and respond accordingly), and build engagement through expanding consulting services and designing an expo that reaches a wider audience each year.
One specific accomplishment in the area of member benefits was the launch in April of the Supplier Marketplace on nfba.org, which allows suppliers to better display their products and helps build stronger connections between contractors and suppliers.
The Work of the T&R Committee
Each month, the T&R Committee spends a significant amount of time providing information to both members and nonmembers regarding NFBA initiatives and post-frame construction. In addition to these daily activities, the group is working on a number of specific projects related to upcoming meetings, educational events, and technical resources:
Inspection guidelines for insurance underwriters. The T&R Committee has completed its work providing the insurance underwriters’ industry with specific information about the key elements of a high-quality post-frame building. Insurance underwriters are already using this information to educate their field inspectors, and several companies have recognized the value of high-quality construction and design by offering lower premiums.
Post-Frame Building Design Manual, second edition. All chapters of the revised manual have been submitted, and the entire manual is currently going through a final professional technical review. Publication is scheduled for June; the manual will be distributed as a pdf download.
Seismic R-factor project. The task group for this project has been in contact with Don Bender, Ph.D., P.E., of Washington State University to establish some preliminary points and ascertain that the research project will provide the best opportunity to establish an R-factor for post-frame construction. Bender is purchasing and conditioning materials and will be preparing samples for testing this summer. A final report is planned for release by year-end.
Research testing on the guarded hot box. Research at the University of Wisconsin is being carried out under the direction of David Bohnhoff, Ph.D., P.E. Computer modeling and preliminary testing continues, with work on full post-frame wall assemblies to be done in the third quarter of 2014.
The NFBA board is enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by the above initiatives. As always, we are grateful for your support and engagement and welcome your input as we move forward. FBN
Rick Hess is chair of the NFBA Board of Directors and general manager of the Specialty Division of CB Structures, Inc., New Holland, Penn. He can be reached at RHess@cbstructuresinc.com.