Dick Van Genne began as a common roofer with an uncommon eye for detail. This helped him rise to the position of foreman at a relatively young age, which often meant running crews of men twice his age.
He quickly realized that his long‐term success would owe as much to his ability to align people as it would his knack for aligning shingles. He learned to use an economy of words, filtered through strong discernment. This skillset became especially useful for his position at Topside, as it often involves coordinating remedial work (i.e., gently handling egos while ensuring the end product is a success).
In his experience with Suncor and Syncrude, Dick worked on virtually every form of roofing system. In each instance, he prodded deeply and took meticulous notice of fine details. This "mental encyclopedia" allows him to quickly recreate the most likely approach taken by the original construction crew, which he is then able to cross‐reference against known failure‐points to identify the present culprit.
While most tenured roofers can readily identify common mistakes, it takes specialized experience with non‐traditional materials, methods, and environments to diagnose more sophisticated problems. This is especially true with large commercial and industrial installations that involve complex membrane‐assembly and chemical waterproofing. Dick has this experience in spades, in both oilfield and traditional settings.
The biggest professional mistake we could make is jumping straight from intuitions to assumptions. Dick has a strong preference for thorough evaluation. He asks structured, thoughtful questions, giving space for the counter‐party to give full detail and context.
Dick also received his Registered Roof Observer ticket designation from RCI. Additional areas of professional study include advanced roof and wall assembly systems.
Mel Hoffart got his start in construction as a labourer in the 80’s. His first job was with a home‐builder in the still-developing energy‐efficient housing movement. The industry was new and very imperfect. Contractors had a lot to learn about how to adapt their products and processes to the unique conditions of the far north. Accordingly, much of Mel's time was devoted to warranty cases. This period ignited a growing obsession in him with the science of structural deterioration. He wanted to know how they happened, why they happened, and how they could be avoided. It's been his daily diet ever since.
Mel supplemented his hands‐on experience with time in the wholesale supplies sector. Contractors from various fields would come to him to discuss challenges with the materials they were using. This helped him gain deeper insights as to which products did and didn't work in different applications, and allowed him to build an index of common challenges that would have escaped his notice as a single‐industry specialist.
Mel also spent nearly 20 years doing estimation and management work with roofing and building‐envelope companies. This helped him to develop a different and equally‐important skill: audience‐appropriate communication. Any given project might involve him explaining the same problem to an engineer and to a non‐technical accountant. Learning to speak both languages took time. But he learned. Mel has also been able to successfully translate his verbal skills to written projects (especially survey‐reports and specs for tenders), which has greatly benefited Topside (whom he joined as partner in 2006).
Mel is a Certified Infrared Thermographer, as well as a Registered Roof Observer with RCI. Being a strong advocate of life‐long education, he also actively takes update courses from RCI and EPIC.