Greenbuild 2009: One for the Generations

The brown and dusty environs of Phoenix became lush – at least for a few days last week – as Greenbuild 2009 brought its verdant footprint to the Phoenix C.C. (that’s Convention Center). The annual sustainable construction fest attracted a reported 25,000+ visitors who strolled through two exhibit halls packed with 1800 booths festooned with asparagus and lime and shamrock – and every shade of green in between. Duro-Last was one of them, and we presented our cool roofing and broader sustainability messages.

Waiting for the exhibit hall to open on Wednesday morning, November 11, 2009.
Waiting for the exhibit hall to open on Wednesday morning, November 11, 2009.

Most of my time was spent with representatives from the multitude of media outlets that serve the construction and facilities markets. Trade shows provide selling opportunities for those folks as well, and as I buy advertising for Duro-Last, I often feel like a meatloaf sandwich at a wolf convention – there’s no escape.

My informal observation was that the green part of the construction/facilities biz is doing well – or at least showing life. Traffic was strong throughout exhibit hours, even up to when things closed down late Thursday afternoon. And clearly, many exhibitors had spent serious money on their presence – size, shape, sophistication, and staff – to attract buyers to their booths. Can an investment in attending Greenbuild – to either exhibit or be exhibited to – foretell an up tick in our corner of the economy? Many would say yes, especially given that green construction products and practices are becoming easier to cost justify.

My non-scientific study also involved a casual interview with the trash police. I managed to sneak away from the media reps on one occasion for a surreptitious saunter around the show floor and spoke to some college architecture students who were monitoring the trash receptacles. They were ensuring that garbage was separated properly (organics from non-organics, etc.) before being disposed of.

Two young ladies in architecture programs at the universities of Idaho and Southern California were tending one bin. I didn’t get their names or photos, unfortunately. I did get their perceptions of the proceedings, and a couple of comments stood out.

First, they seemed pleasantly surprised that this event had attracted people from all generations. They apparently expected that a show with a green focus would be the province of the young, and perhaps not as relevant for those who have been steeped in more traditional construction practices.

Second, they said it was fairly easy for them to discern those exhibitors and attendees who had a clear commitment to sustainability and those who were merely trying to capitalize on the “green” trend.

I don’t know if they saw a connection between the two – e.g., it’s primarily baby boomers who are just riding along on the green bandwagon. Regardless: it’s clear from the stunning growth of the Greenbuild event – not to mention the enthusiasm of the architecture students – that sustainable building practices are going to be a cornerstone of the facilities world for the foreseeable future.

Roof Dilemma: Maintain or Replace?

Is roof replacement a better option than maintaining it when the roof’s watertight integrity – its primary function – fails? In other words, at what point do roof leaks become intolerable, and it’s time to replace the roof?

Think about how roof leaks can affect the bottom line:

  • Interior damage: To ceiling tiles, carpet, computers, gymnasium floors that could cost $500,000 to replace.
  • Production downtime: Shutting a line down for a day could cost thousands of dollars in lost productivity.
  • Lost business: Roof leaks at a four-star hotel can make the priciest rooms unavailable for guests.

Delaying roof replacement can add costs to a new roof project once the decision to replace it is made. Ineffective and inconsistent patching and other maintenance can allow water to penetrate the membrane and cause irreparable damage to roof system components, including insulation and the roof deck itself. Here are some potential added-cost considerations:

  • Tear off – add $1-2 per square foot.
  • Roof deck replacement – add $2.50-6.00.
  • Asbestos removal (possible for some older facilities) – add 10% or more.

The roof contributes – on average – 5% to the construction cost of a building, but is the most litigated component of a commercial building.

Building owners/managers should use their experience to establish a projected average service life of roofs. Several factors will influence a roof’s service life: design quality, installation integrity, products, maintenance, roof use, and weather.

Here’s an example: If you manage a million square feet of roofing that has a projected life expectancy of 20-30 years, you might consider budgeting to replace 1/20 or 5% (50,000 square feet) per year. If the average installation cost is $5 per square foot, look to budget $250,000 each year.

So when you are deciding between maintaining or replacing, look at your annual maintenance costs and if they are exceeding what your annual new roof budget is, it may be time to replace.

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Solar-Ready…and Moving Forward

This photovoltaic (PV) segment of the roofing industry continues to grow while most others decline. This trend is mainly due to rising energy costs and federal stimulus goals of making our country greener. Combine these factors with state and/or local incentives in many areas of the country and the return on a new roof and PV system investment can be less than ten years in some cases. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) (www.dsireusa.org) provides a “comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

As with any major building investment, there are number of considerations that must be addressed with a rooftop PV installation: how will the system be mounted on the roof – with penetrations, ballast, or adhesive? Can the building structure support the additional load? What about local codes and permits? How will the watertight integrity of the roof be ensured during and after installation?

When building owners are interested in solar, the roof system must be addressed. The PV system should be installed in an environment that will not require extensive roof maintenance or replacement for 20 to 30 years because the cost to remove and reinstall PV systems in order to (for example) find a leak source can be expensive. Another consideration: the incremental cost of a new roof will be minimal compared to the cost of the complete new PV system – a smart building owner will take care of both at the same time.

Although PV is an electrical application, roofing is the trade that owns the rooftop, and the majority of solar PV decisions/installations are controlled by roofing contractors. In California (where the use of PV is common) many roofing contractors have created in-house PV departments or have working relationship with solar integrators – the experts that design the systems for each specific building.

Solar technology will continue to show gains, both in efficiency and usage. Currently, it is widely accepted in only a few states because of the financial incentives available in those areas. Incentives will continue to expand to other parts of the country, and if the demand for rooftop PV has not hit your area yet, it will within a few years.

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Faces of Duro-Last: Steve Kowalewski

Steve Kowalewski - EXCEPTIONAL Metals Technical Manager
Steve Kowalewski - EXCEPTIONAL Metals Technical Manager

Steve Kowalewski has been with EXCEPTIONAL® Metals, a division of Duro-Last® since 2004 as the Technical Manager and works out of the corporate headquarters in Saginaw, Michigan.

He is responsible for providing technical advice on the design, manufacture, and installation of all EXCEPTIONAL Metals products as well as estimating, design, and technical services for standing seam inquires. Other duties include the development of installation details and working closely with the marketing department on product literature and the EXCEPTIONAL Metals website.

Prior to joining Duro-Last, Steve worked in the local sheet metal union for over 15 years as a sheet metal mechanic working on architectural jobs. It is that experience that Steve credits for his extensive sheet metal knowledge.

Steve enjoys the daily interactions he has with customers, sales reps, and architects. “One of our strengths at EXCEPTIONAL Metals is our custom work. Most of our business involves making products that are unique to a particular roofing job. I welcome the challenge of helping spec difficult applications and create new metal components,” said Steve.

“I thoroughly enjoy working for such a great company with people that make my job a pleasure,” concluded Steve.