BY RANDY BOGRAND, COO
Vapor Armour created a company that is extremely resilient in the face of the current global crisis.
It was something of a happy accident. While others in the construction industry are facing severe material shortages and labor issues, here at Vapor Armour we’re conducting business as usual. We’d love to say it was our clairvoyant ability to see the future, but the truth is, it was the science.
The problem, as we saw it, was that the roofing industry, evolved to serve the needs of most commercial applications but was yet to adapt to the specific needs and standards of eradicating Vapor Drive in freezers and coolers. We wanted to provide a solution that put Vapor Armour servicing both remediation projects and new construction in Cold Storage. We recognized that a unique problem, requires unique solutions, which is why we pursued a process patent on the Vapor Barrier applications we developed.
When Vapor Armour began developing our patented process, we looked at the reality of the problem our clients were facing. While traditional roofers are incredibly good at what they do, stopping water, we found a few weaknesses in the process unique to building a sealed Cold Storage facility, stopping Vapor Drive – stopping AIR. So, we began to study what was happening. What were the causes of condensation, frost, and ice? Why was Vapor Drive such a huge problem, and why weren’t there good solutions for fixing the problem, once it occurred? Things had been done the same way for generations, and no one was looking for permanent Vapor Drive solutions. Recently, the game changed.
While the FDA had always expressed concerns about condensation, the law changed in 2015 with the advent of the FSMA, and in 2020, the FDA moved from warnings to enforcement. The Cold Storage industry is being forced to evolve, facilities will now face penalties, shutdowns, and even loss of licensure. The old solutions that had only been applied in the most dire circumstances, when ice/condensation invaded storage and threatened product, would need to be applied in every case where Vapor Drive was present. The old solutions’ failure rate wasn’t encouraging. It was time to get serious.
After studying the problem in 1998, we recognized significant room for improvement. The first thing we noticed was that the vapor barrier solution being used wasn’t holding up. While traditional builders did an excellent job of initially sealing the joint between the top of the insulated wall panels and the bottom of the roof, the seal wasn’t lasting more than a year in most cases. The thermal realities of cold storage were causing more building movement than the seal could manage long term.
Our response was to develop a proprietary vapor barrier membrane that created an impermeable vapor barrier that also flexed with the thermal shifts in the structure. Creating our own supply for this product, has made us stay several projects ahead on supplies, while other contractors are 90 to 180 days out on any project.
The next weakness we spotted was in the roofing insulation itself. While the Poly ISO foam board that has become the industry standard in recent years has some excellent qualities, here is what we found. The way the board is manufactured creates a problem. Between the beads of the foam, there are voids. This is great, if those remain filled with air, which in a typical roof, they will, and that will provide great insulating properties, but Cold Storage, as you know, is anything but typical.
When Vapor Drive is introduced through a breach in the vapor barrier, or roofing system, condensation inevitably occurs. When this happens in a Poly ISO roof, that moisture is not only able to penetrate those voids but can saturate much of the roofing insulation. It then becomes soaked and frozen and kills the R value of the insulation. This turns your roof into a heat transmitter that can make it impossible to maintain the required temperature for cold and freezer zones.
Our response was to shift to what we feel is a better suited product, in Extruded Poly Styrene, or XPS, and we commonly use Dupont Grey (or Blue) Board insulation. Like Poly ISO, the foam repels water and has excellent insulating properties, unlike Poly ISO, the XPS is manufactured in a way that eliminates the void, making it impervious to moisture, even in standing water.
Add to this the fact that many roofers are not familiar yet with the application of XPS, and the supply chain issues with supplies from China, making Poly ISO impossible to get now, and you have a perfect storm. At Vapor Armour, we’ve been in the fortunate position of using XPS in our process from the beginning and have been purchasing truckloads of the product for use for our customers.
The icing on the cake, though, is in the Vapor Armour family itself. Our team is 100% “our team”. We determined from the beginning to make every position a career step, with every single member of our team being a full employee, with excellent pay and benefits. So, while other companies are experiencing unprecedented turnover, Vapor Armour has gone through pandemic with a less than 2% turnover rate, and we’ve been expanding our install teams consistently to meet demand.
So, what does all this mean for you? Well, we can tell you about our industry leading installation process, the superior products we use, and the professionalism of our team, but if we cannot show up and meet the deadline to prevent your company ending up in regulatory hot water, none of that matters. That’s where other contractors are at right now.
By partnering with Vapor Armour, you can know that we are not only the best in the industry, with a unique, patented process that is warranted for fifteen years, but when we give you a timeline, you can trust that our crew will show up, with our proprietary solution, and install a permanent barrier that can get you back to doing what you do with a minimum of hassle, while other projects are still waiting on material.
We don’t want to give the impression that the recent struggle hasn’t impacted us at all, but our unique business model, designed to provide the best solution for our clients, has also turned out to be an excellent sustainability plan for the current reality. We’re here and ready to serve as soon as you’re ready to pull the trigger.