Greg discusses the spirit of EIMA's meeting in 2002

Gathering for its annual meeting in San Diego in February, the EIFS Industry Members Association reaffirmed its resolve to strengthen the association in the face of continued challenges to the industry.

EIMA's Board of Directors voted to pursue an aggressive membership initiative to strengthen the association as it struggles to detach itself from litigation in Texas, as well as address a number of other key industry concerns. While the association's gathering was overshadowed by a recent judgement handed down by a Virginia court against Dryvit Inc., many of those attending expressed confidence that the EIFS industry can prevail.

"I think the year 2002 has a lot of potential, but we also have challenges to deal with," says Association President Macon Lowe, of Sto Corp. "We need to get the full support of as many people as we can."

Familiar foes

Two of the biggest challenges facing the EIFS industry are long familiar-litigation and insurance-however, they've taken on an added sense of urgency in response to recent events. On Jan. 28, the Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk, Va., ruled that Dryvit's Outsulation system was responsible for alleged moisture-related damage to a local condominium complex, despite strong evidence of shoddy construction. Should the ruling stand, it could have a harmful effect on the EIFS industry.

In a drafted response to the judgement, the association expressed deep concerns that the court overlooked the prevailing view of building professionals that all components of wall assembly must be properly detailed and integrated and, "that poor construction practices and improper detailing can lead to moisture intrusion problems" regardless of the wall cladding. "We believe the Norfolk decision is flawed, that its rationale will not be adopted by other courts, and that the decision will ultimately be overturned on appeal," EIMA affirms.

The association itself faces a legal challenge in Texas, where it remains a named defendant in four EIFS-related lawsuits. While the association has already reached settlements in two other Texas suits, according to association counsel Peter Spanos, the association faces continued legal challenges. "It has been an extremely challenging 12 months for EIMA and the next 12 months look to be challenging as well," says Spanos.

Despite these challenges, the association has proven itself as a valued industry resource. During the course of the meeting, EIMA's recognition and growing influence stood out as remarkable achievements during troubled times. Through its "Gatekeeper" initiative to reach out and better inform building officials, inspectors and real estate professionals about EIFS, EIMA has brought about a profound change in opinion of many who influence the use of EIFS. The product evaluation services arm of ICBO, for example, recently turned to the association for help in drafting a new code acceptance criteria for foam decorative shapes. Stephan Klamke, EIMA's executive director, also points out that the focus of many of the groups EIMA has contacted are starting to shift away from EIFS toward other concerns.

"They're all concerned about the contractor component of installations," says Klamke. "And everyone's concerned about mold."

Insurance and mold concerns

Within the industry, many concerns also revolve around the limited availability of insurance for EIFS contractors, distributors and builders. The growing trend of EIFS-related insurance limitations, restrictions or exclusions remains a paramount concern to the industry.

"Going forward, we're not going to be doing business the same way as 15 years ago-or 5 years ago," says Klamke.

Insurance availability remain a top priority for both EIMA's distributor and contractor committees, and EIMA is continuing its work with Premier Risk Services of Norcross, Ga., to put together insurance alternative for its members. Klamke reports that the effort was knocked off track by the events of Sept. 11, and has been further been stymied by insurer's concerns over liability in many areas of construction.

"What we're finding now are restrictions on certain policies not specific to EIFS or plastering," he says. "Exclusions are starting to appear for HVAC, plumbing and electrical."

Mold is also a growing concern throughout the construction industry. Addressing the subject, attorney Larry Gornick of the San Francisco firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, reported on the growing trend of toxic mold litigation. Gornick advised applicators in particular to be vigilant in documenting any improper conditions or omissions on projects that may lead to future moisture intrusion and potential mold claims.

"Do some kind of documentation about problems you see and document your efforts to prevent water intrusion," says Gornick. "Those things are going to be very helpful if you're ever involved in litigation."

Moving behind litigation and insurance concerns, EIMA is looking to expand its membership among contractors and increase its participation with state and regional industry groups.

"This association has value," says Lowe. "None of us individually can accomplish what this association can."

In other business, the association paid tribute to Peter Harrison, of Parex, as the association's "Member of the Year." A new slate of officers and directors were also named.

Lowe continues to serve as association president, with Peter Balint, of Dryvit, remaining as immediate past president. Other officers include: Drew Seibert (vice president), of Manning Co.; Eric Berge (secretary), of Parex; and Nilesh Shah (treasurer), of Rohm & Haas.

Additional directors include: Lloyd Littleton, of JPS Glass; Ron Chelli, of Wind-Lock; Dorothy Roberts, of Pleko; Jeff Norris, of TEC Inc.; Mike Boyd, of Teifs; Fritz Reitter, of Reitter Stucco; and Fred Wollard, of Woolard Brothers Inc.

Returning ex-officio directors are: Michael Grasing, of Grasing Associates; Danny Bonnell, of Commercial Wall Systems; and George Adams, of Texas Acrylic Finishes Inc.

EIMA's next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 5-7, 2003, at the Tradewinds Beach Resort & Conference Center, Clearwater, Fla. For additional information, contact EIMA at (800) 294-3462.