By Rick Gardner
Bob Card, F–IIBEC, RBEC, REWO, is a past president of IIBEC and executive committee member. Bob and his wife, Linda, live in Olympia, Washington, outside of Seattle. He has been active in IIBEC for more than 21 years and is the recipient of the Joshua Summers Outstanding Educator Award. He recently announced his retirement from Wetherholt and Associates Inc.
How did you get involved with IIBEC?
I started my career in the late ’80s. In those days, there really weren’t any programs or training on roof consulting. A lot of my early career development was figuring out everything about roof consulting on your own. I had been working for a friend who was a general contractor building homes and small commercial buildings. A good friend of mine introduced me to Ray Wetherholt, the founder of Wetherholt and Associates Inc.
I attended the international conference in 1990 in Montreal, met some folks from other parts of the country, other parts of the world, and was exposed to the idea that this was a thing bigger than just the Seattle market. Not long after that, RCI started offering classes and the RRC registration.
In those days, nothing was online. You had to travel someplace to take the class and then to take the exam. It was quite a commitment.
You’ve just retired. What is life like now for you?
The first month or so was spastic. I had no idea what I was doing, what my life would look like, what my schedule would look like. What will I do with my time, my thoughts, and my energy? Since then, I have started to find my stride. I am not fully retired; I’ve started up my own little company to do aerial imaging for architects and consultants. I am an FAA licensed drone pilot, so I can do aerial images for folks who need images of buildings.
I am also doing some special projects here and there for friends in the industry who just need help. It keeps me engaged and keeps my interest.
I’ve been a business owner, but starting something from scratch is a whole new ball of yarn for me. That has taken some time, more than I anticipated. From day to day, there is a lot of variety, and I hope over time that settles into more of a pattern.”
Over your career, do you have any favorite projects you have worked on?
“Yes, for about 10 years, I was connected with a Seattle architect, Mark Adolphsen, with AKS Architecture. Mark had a contract with the Coast Guard to do work in Alaska, primarily at the Coast Guard station on Kodiak Island. Several years, we did studies, evaluations, repair, restoration design, and quality assurance observation for buildings at the station.
Working with Mark was a lot of fun. He is a guy that is very knowledgeable but doesn’t take himself too seriously. I worked in Alaska when I was in college. I love being in Alaska. It’s just a stunning place. Pretty interesting projects, working on hangars where they store and work on the Coast Guard helicopters as well as C-130 aircraft. It was cool to be on the roof working while these helicopters were taking off and landing at the same time. A real interesting and satisfying project to help them create an environment that supports that work they do.
Tell me about your incident when you fell off the roof of your house and what you learned from the experience.
Yes, I have joined the club of IIBEC members who have fallen and sustained injuries. I believe it includes a couple of past presidents as well. There was some talk of a curse, but I am not so sure about that.
It was September, four or five years ago, and I was cleaning the gutters of my two-story house. The way that the roof was sloped, I could get to where I needed by going all the way around the back side of the roof and then back up that slope, but in my mind, I was thinking about projects in the yard that I had to accomplish and other things I wanted to get done that day. I got impatient.
I took some short cuts that were unsafe. I should have dismissed them and said, “No, that’s not prudent. I should just do this the right way.” The result of that was I fell from the upper level to the lower-level roof. I remember thinking, if I hit the lower-level roof and stop, I am probably good. But I didn’t stop. I bounced off of that and kept going down to the concrete driveway. I bounced off my wife’s car, which probably saved me from further injury, but I did end up on the driveway and getting a complimentary ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance.
Postscript: There is an indent on the front of the hood of my wife’s car that is exactly the size of the palm of my left hand. It broke my wrist, but it also broke my fall. I have been bugging her about getting that fixed. She says it’s too expensive and that it’s just a little dimple in the hood. I think she is keeping it there as a reminder to me not to be stupid.
In my work, I am on roofs all the time. I’m always conscious of safety. Practicing prudent access. If I felt it was unsafe, I would either try to set up some other means of access, or safety, or just decline and engage a ropes access team or maybe a lift. I was not thinking in the right context. It was my own roof. I do this every day. I can do this, “easy squeezy.” It’s not.
You need to keep safety at the front all the time, even if it is your own home and even if it is the simplest thing.
Have you had any mentors in the industry? What have they taught you?
My friend, Glen Gilmore, who introduced me to Ray Wetherholt, was a sales manager for a roofing material manufacturer. He’s about 10 years older than I am, has always been a mentor. My wife and I, when we first married, were friends [with them]. He was just the kind of person who steps into a mentor role without thinking about it. It worked. He was a mentor, not so much in the technical sense, but how to adult. I was a young, mid-20 something kid, newly married and I didn’t have a clue about anything. It was something I really needed. He was the right guy at the right time. I am appreciative to him for that.
Obviously, I learned a lot from Ray. He was helpful in filling those technical holes. Brian Gardiner is a guy who I learned a lot from at RCI educational programs. The late John Wells from the Western Canada Chapter as well as his partner, Monty Klein, were also influential. When Jerry Teitsma was the education guy for RCI, I got invited to present a lot to the IIBEC Western Canada Chapter for some reason. I spent a lot of time in Vancouver. Those guys, John and Monty, took me under their wing as well as helped me to fill in those blank spots. I have a deep appreciation for John and all he did for the industry. I want to give a shoutout to John and Monty for their contributions to my professional development.
What value has IIBEC involvement over your 21 years brought to your career?
Wow! First, these days there are building science programs at colleges and universities, there are opportunities for young people to get into this purposefully. When I got into it, almost nobody became a consultant on purpose. It was something you sort of backed into. There were a lot of retired roofers and whatnot. So, the way you learned was either by doing it and messing up or connecting with someone who knew more than you did, which I was able to do. Then RCI came along and now all of a sudden, there are classes in wind uplift design, drainage, and thermal flux. Holy cow, what a gold mine that was! That was all that I needed. From the knowledge base, from learning, RCI and now IIBEC have been invaluable to me and lots of folks.
The credentials are another piece of that. I went to college and studied biology. My interest was in environmental physiology. Nobody knows what you would do with something like that. When I got out of college, I was tired of school. I didn’t want to go on to graduate school, so I ended up working with my friend building houses. For me, there was this whole new world of knowledge that I needed to acquire. RCI and IIBEC filled that need.
The other piece is that it gave me the opportunity to rub elbows with influential people. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be together with people in this industry who are knowledgeable, experienced, willing to share that, and willing to accept me as a friend. A lot of my friends at this stage in my life are people who I have come up through the industry with. I have taught with them, developed exams with them, and traveled with them. It’s those networking opportunities and relationships that result—I can’t put a value on that. It’s so amazing and fulfilling to have that opportunity.
What do you do when you are not working? What are some of your hobbies and interests?
My wife and I just returned from two weeks in Europe. We had the opportunity to visit her family’s homeland in the Netherlands as part of that trip. Her mom’s family immigrated here in the ’50s, and she still has family there. We were able to visit the little village where her mom grew up [and] her grandparents lived. There was a family business, and that building is still there. We walked the village and had our picture taken in front of the church where her grandparents were married 84 years previously almost to the day. Here we are in the same place. For my wife it was a deeply emotional moment. It was a super enriching time for us.
I have two grandkids now. They live on the other side of the state. It’s about a six-hour drive. There is some traveling that is going to be happening while I step into the grandpa role. I am here to tell you that being a grandparent is absolutely the best. I have heard that all my life. It is the truth! Being a grandparent is a reward for successfully raising your kids.
The other thing is I have a small fleet of Vespa motor scooters that I like to ride. There is a riding season here in the Northwest, and it’s not very long. When it’s nice out, I live in a rural part of Thurston County, and I have roads with 45 mph speed limits that just go all the way to the coast or all the way to the Cascade mountains.
One of the things I am working on right now is trying to start up a scooter club here in Olympia. There are a bunch of clubs in Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland (where one of my favorite Vespa shops is located). I know there is at least a dozen or two scooter riders in Olympia, but we don’t have a club. It’s a thing I am kind of working on too. Not a project yet—right now it’s kind of a fantasy. I’m getting good support from scooter shops in Tacoma and Portland. We’ll see how that goes.[This article has been adapted from a video interview conducted with Bob Card by Rick Gardner. To watch the full video, go here.]