Iain Fergusson’s future wasn’t clear when the teen was standing on his family’s sprawling farmhouse, but he knew he loved being up there.
“I grew up in the southwest corner of Scotland on the farm that has been in my family for generations. It was a big falling house that leaked every time it rained. “
He was 16 before the family could scrape together enough money to pay some locals to repair the slate roof. “I went up there and loved it. It planted a seed. “
Thousands of miles and decades later, Fergussons Highland Roofing Co. closes 16 years of business in Wilmington.
Fergusson left his village of about 150 people in his early twenties after an American student whom he later married. The couple traveled and lived in several US cities. Then they had twins, and Fergusson looked at his life differently.
“I had to take life seriously. I always had a roof in the back of my mind, ”he said.
Determined to offer his clients a quality job at a fair price, he used the experience he had gained at other companies and started Highland Roofing in 2005. Although they are no longer married, his former wife Rebecca remains his business partner.
The company started out with a focus on metal roofing for residential buildings.
“Looking back, I started the company without knowing much about roofs,” said Fergusson. “I learned a lot at work. I just followed my heart. I was asked about different types of roofs by people, so I had to study carefully and carefully at work. “
For five years, Highland only built residential roofs. After gaining experience with flat roofing materials, they switched to the commercial sector and hired an employee with specialized experience. In 2015 they acquired Hanover Iron Works, a local company with a century of experience.
“I’ve inherited some wonderful customers,” said Fergusson. “That made the decision to move away from residential buildings.”
Since that decision, projects have included the Surf City Municipal Complex, Harrelson Center, UNCW Dining Hall, Renaissance Apartments, Hawthorne at Oleander, Pawville, St. James Episcopal, and the award-winning redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center.
One of the projects that Fergusson enjoyed immensely is the green roof of the county’s Juvenile Justice Center. “It’s fun when something new comes up and learns something interesting,” he said.
Green roofs contain traditional roofing sheets that are covered with a planting medium such as soil and live plants. One of the numerous benefits is that the plantings protect the roofing materials from ultraviolet light, so the roof will last longer than the 20 year expectation of an exposed membrane, and this helps offset installation costs upfront.
Fergusson said he also enjoys working with liquid-applied roofs that can be installed as a new roof or over an existing flat roof.
“The advantage is that you use the existing roof, which becomes an underground. You can’t do that on every roof, ”he said. “Sometimes the existing roof is not good enough.”
There are circumstances where the old roof only needs a little preparatory work to get it into shape. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone. The liquid applied is much cheaper than tearing off the existing material. The exposure is also much lower, ”said Fergusson. “No opening of the building to the elements.”
He described it as monolithic with no seams, no overlaps, no edges or openings that can deteriorate. “It can be cleaned and recoated in 20 years,” he said.
Highlands repaired the 50,000-square-foot former StarNews building on South 17th Street after Hurricane Florence in 2018. The replacement of the existing roof would have cost more than $ 1 million, according to Fergusson estimates.
Highland is a partner in Duke Energy’s commercial discount program to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, including the installation of a more reflective cooling roof system.
Fergusson noted that Hurricane Florence was the first real storm the company had experienced.
“It was a good experience for the company because it pushed us to our limits,” he said. “We learned something about our team. It was a mess for six to nine months. “
The enormous workload allowed Fergusson to reorganize its workflow. “I’m so proud of how efficient a team is,” he said. “Everyone has a defined role and everyone is really good at it. Everyone works well together. “
Their growth included entering the Raleigh market where they have appraisers as well as project and construction managers. A trial run in the Myrtle Beach market resulted in the acquisition of customers, but they are now served from the Wilmington office.
“I am very proud of all of our employees and how good they are individually and together. The people determine my success. I am grateful to this community for the opportunities that arise from referrals and repeat business, ”said Fergusson.
He added, “I’ve always been pretty good at being honest about what I don’t know. I’ve always looked after people the way I would like. I appreciate that and the people I brought with me for success. It’s a good city. If you have a good reputation, they will get the word out. ”