Verdant, well-manicured gardens for recuperating patients; downtown green spaces with playgrounds and walking paths; aquatic habitats surrounded by sustainable, organic vegetation—Pioneer Roofing, LLC has installed these and other dazzling roofscapes on buildings across the Midwest. In the process, the specialty roofing contractor has established itself within its niche industry as one of the region’s most versatile, cutting-edge firms.
Based in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, Pioneer is led by principal John Boettcher, who says that his guiding principle—and the secret to the company’s success—has been to listen to the needs of the client and to shift the company’s focus to meet to those needs.
At a Glance
Johnson Creek, WI
Green roofing and roof waterproofing
During the 1970s, for example, the energy crisis had building owners casting about for cost savings. Spray polyurethane foam insulation was an affordable, tax-deductible solution, so Pioneer became an expert with the material and watched its business grow.
In more recent history, Pioneer has positioned itself at the forefront of the green-roofing industry in southern Wisconsin. Thanks to the rising sustainability movement, environmentally friendly roofing systems—particularly vegetative rooftops—are in high demand. So, from engineering strategies to plant and soil choices, from waterproofing technologies to landscape design, Pioneer has mastered the art, which was, at first, unfamiliar territory. “Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have thought we’d be putting plants on the roof,” Boettcher says, “[but] as the market changes, we adapt.”
Watching the market closely helps the company keep its offerings up-to-date, but the other part of the Pioneer equation, Boettcher says, is the firm’s customer service. “Our goal is to have every customer want to have us back,” he says, and making that happen is all about solving the customer’s problems.
Top 5 Green-Roofing Products Used by Pioneer Roofing
1. A root narrier is essential to maintaining the integrity of the waterproofing. It prevents the root systems from compromising the roof’s membrane.
2. A drainage/retention board sheds and stores water, allowing Pioneer to manipulate the amount of moisture that passes through or becomes stored within a green-roof system.
3. Engineered growing media is lightweight, quick-draining soil. Pioneer Roofing has developed two regional medias that are rich in organic nutrients.
4. Sedums are succulent plants that thrive in Pioneer’s Midwestern climate.
5. Pedestal and paver systems serve as both maintenance paths and outdoor walkways, contributing aesthetically and functionally to green-roof installations.
A recent project in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, is a prime example. Built right in the center of the city, Grand River Station was a mixed-use development that used every square inch of its property, but its developers wanted to include some green space in the project as well. Rather than let the rooftop go to waste, they brought in Pioneer, who crafted a park and playground space five stories up. Rooftops on urban developments such as the Grand River Station are common locales for Pioneer’s vegetative systems.
Another recent project, the Madison Children’s Museum, showcases the broader reach of Pioneer’s expertise. The firm was hired to install an extensive garden, complete with an aquatic habitat, as part of an educational experience the museum calls the Rooftop Ramble. The garden is designed to teach children about sustainable gardening and native plant species.
The biggest challenge of the museum project was that the original design had specified mismatched plants, soil, and support structures—a combination that would have compromised the viability of the garden. So, drawing on its years of experience, Pioneer did what it does best and redesigned the space with a holistic roofing system incorporating good engineering; proper soil and landscaping choices; and high-tech, sustainable roofing products that will ensure the installation’s growth
The museum’s roof now functions as both a protective barrier for the rest of the building and a place for visitors to learn about the wonders of the natural world. It’s just one more project on the impressive resume of a company capable of shifting its expertise in whichever direction market demand might swing. ABQ