Three Ways To Make A Roof Last Longer

Occasionally, we come across articles that we feel will be beneficial to our readers. John D’Annunzio has written a series of articles for FacilitiesNet discussing factors that determine roof longevity. Below is a brief description and link to each article.

Part 1: Proper Design Improves Roof Longevity

This first article discusses key components to proper design that include wind uplift calculations, drainage design, thermal factors, perimeter edge design, and existing building conditions. It also discusses the selection of materials and systems that are compatible with existing building conditions. Proper design should always focus on providing a long-term roofing system.

Part 2: Focus On Roofing Materials And Workmanship To Improve Longevity

The second installment explains that not all roof materials are the same and not all materials are suitable for all buildings. Applied materials should be new, free of all excess moisture, and manufactured in compliance with ASTM standards. Proper material storage at the project site is also required.

In addition, the roof is one of the only major building components that is partially or fully constructed on-site. A large percentage of premature roof failures occur due to improper workmanship.

Part 3: How Weather And Maintenance Impact Roof Longevity

Finally, the third article describes how applications of roofing materials in conditions not suitable to the material’s constraints (too hot, too cold, in wet weather) will contribute to premature failure.

No matter the roof type, all roofs require a certain level of attention. Roofs are exposed to the elements 24 hours a day, every day of the year. One of the most important reasons to implement an annual roof maintenance program is to extend the service life of the existing roof system.

Selecting A Commercial Roofing System

Building owners, roofing contractors, and specifiers have many options when deciding which commercial roofing system is best for a specific project. When selecting a roofing system, there are many issues to investigate. A thorough investigation will assure you that your investment is the best long-term roofing decision.

1. History/Longevity:

How long has the roof product been on the market under one owner? Proven longevity is critical when selecting a roofing system or manufacturer.

2. Cost:

Up-front cost is often perceived as the key factor in choosing a roofing system. However, the life cycle cost is the more important financial aspect that needs to be investigated. Considerations should include: tear-off, maintenance expenses, energy savings, additional warranty cost, and fast, non-disruptive installations.

3. Installing Contractors:

The long-term success of any roofing system ultimately falls on the installing roofing contractor and their application quality. Building owners and specifiers need to investigate the roofing contractor thoroughly. Roofing contractors should be trained and authorized by the manufacturer to ensure that quality is kept at the highest level.

4. Warranty:

Roofing system warranties can occasionally be confusing. Many times, manufacturers don’t have a published warranty and in some situations, the manufacturer or roofing product has been on the market less than 10 years, with warranties ranging from 10-20 years.

Features you may want to consider for a commercial warranty are:

  • Exclusions for consequential damages
  • Additional cost for the warranty
  • Exclusions for ponding water
  • Whether it’s a “repair or replace” warranty
  • Whether the warranty is transferable

5. Type of Building Design:

The roofing system should be flexible and able to be designed to meet the needs of virtually any type of structure. Determine if the roofing system can be designed for:

  • Dead level, low-sloped, or steep-sloped roofs
  • Buildings that cannot handle additional weight
  • All types of decks
  • Retrofit applications
  • Small roofs to large facilities
  • The strictest wind or fire code requirements
  • Metal buildings

6. Prefabrication:

Prefabrication is very important when choosing a roofing system as it allows the manufacturer to construct a portion of the roof in ideal factory conditions. Many commercial roofs are completely “manufactured” by an installer on top of a building where heat, humidity, cold, wind, and poor labor decisions will affect the roof’s long-term performance.

7. A Complete System Supplier:

With respect to commercial roofing systems, it is important to select one that has single-source accountability. It is important to have complete system warranty coverage, not just a warranty for the materials supplied by the manufacturer.

8. Company Support:

Contractors especially should investigate this issue to make sure the company supplying and warranting the roofing system is a complete service provider. These support services should be provided to all contractors:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Quality Assurance
  • Manufacturing

9. Rooftop Environment:

  • Is there a lot of foot traffic on the roof?
  • Are there numerous penetrations on the roof?
  • Any rooftop emissions?
  • Are there extreme variations in the expansion and contraction of the building?

Each of these issues needs to be addressed when choosing a roofing system to purchase or install. Make sure that the roofing system you choose for your commercial application has the sales, marketing, quality assurance, engineering staff, and reputation to meet your needs.

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.

maintainreplace

Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems. Part 3

Q: What makes PVC systems more cost-effective in the long run?

A: Life Cycle Cost analyses have proven that PVC roofing systems are among the least costly over time for two major reasons: long service life and energy efficiency. The longer a roof lasts without major problems, the less costly it is on an annual basis. Energy savings of up to 40 percent every year due to the reflective properties of white PVC roofs can add up to tens of thousands of dollars during a 20- or 30-year life-span. Custom prefabricated PVC roofing systems also contribute to cost-effectiveness because they generate less waste, require less time and labor to install, and reduce the potential for rooftop human error, because up to 85 percent of membrane seaming can be completed in a controlled factory environment.

Q: Environmental groups seem to think that PVC is one of the most hazardous products ever created – dangerous to human health and the environment. How do you answer that?

A: During the last 35 years, there have been literally dozens of scientific studies and more than 26 full-scale LCAs relating to the safety and environmental impact of vinyl production, use and disposal. Study after study by a wide range of scientific, governmental, academic, and industry groups has confirmed that vinyl production in the United States today is very safe, and that finished vinyl products, including PVC roofing membranes, are inert, posing no risk to human health and with very little impact on the environment. In fact, many PVC products – including reflective PVC roofing systems – often make a decidedly positive contribution toward sustainability. According to Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace in 1971 and current chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies:

“It’s completely unacceptable for activists to call PVC ‘toxic’ when PVC’s effects on health and the environment have been investigated at every stage from manufacture through use and on to final disposal – in all cases vinyl has been shown to be safe and environmentally sound.”

The Art Of Specifying A New Or Replacement Roofing System

Putting a new roof on a building is a major undertaking. Assembling the right team to plan and carry out the project can help ensure that the job proceeds smoothly, and that the finished product looks and performs up to expectations.

Who’s Involved?

An important first step is determining who to include in the decision-making process. While the exact titles will vary with each project, two individuals or groups are key. One is the employee most familiar with the current roof, any problems it’s been experiencing, and the solutions that have been used.

Not surprisingly, it’s also helpful to include the individual who will have final approval over the decisions to install the roof and the amount to be spent. Depending on the company, this individual may be the facility manager, building owner, purchasing manager, company owner, or head of finance.

In addition, roofing systems slated for installation on new construction often require the input of an architect or designer. Including them early on in the process helps ensure that all concerns are addressed up-front.

Another key member of the roofing team is, of course, the contractor chosen to install the roof. Facilities professionals evaluating contractors should consider the experience each contractor has with different roofing systems.

The Contractor’s and Manufacturer’s Roles

Before re-roofing begins, the contractor should complete a thorough investigation of the current roof and determine what, if any, problems have arisen.

The contractor also should ask the building owner or manager about any constraints the installers might face, such as, if there are times during which the noise that accompanies a roofing job would interfere with building operations.

Building owners and managers should also stay in contact with the manufacturer of the roofing system. If the contractor that installed the roof retires, for example, the manufacturer should be able to help the building owner locate another one.

Other Considerations

When a new roof is installed, the initial cost typically is top of mind for most building owners and managers. However, there are other costs that facilities managers should factor into roofing decisions. The warranty also plays a key role in the overall costs of the roof. What does it cover and what does it exclude? Some warranties cover damage to a building’s interior that results from a leaking roof, while others don’t.

Equally important to consider are the ongoing roof maintenance costs and its expected life. The less it costs to maintain a roof and the longer it lasts, of course, the lower the overall cost will be.

Assembling the right team, keeping the lines of communication open, and considering both the initial and long-term costs of different roofing systems help ensure a successful roofing project.

Factors To Consider When Purchasing A Roofing System: Part 8 Life-Cycle Costs

Our final installment in this series discusses the life-cycle costs of a roof. Any roof life-cycle discussion must take into consideration the factors covered in previous posts: price; quality; prefabrication; installation disruptions; ease of maintenance; performance; environmental impact. Each type of roofing system will vary on these factors, so it is important to compare your options in order to make the right roofing choice. Some systems are beneficial because they offer substantial energy savings; some are virtually maintenance-free but may cost more to install; others offer lower initial installation costs, but require the expense of tearing off the existing roof and/or regular maintenance once installed.

Clearly, investing in a new roofing system is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. Your choice can determine how long your roof will last, its performance, maintenance, etc. Make sure to research all your roofing options by visiting manufacturers’ web sites and getting their literature or look at independent industry sources – this ensures that you are educated in making the right roofing decision.

Finally, don’t be fooled by lower initial costs. An evaluation of the areas in the following list should help you estimate the real, long-term cost of any roof you are considering.

1. Installation
a. Roof product cost
b. Installation costs (labor & overhead)
c. Tear-off costs (if required)
d. Disposal costs
e. Building disruption costs
2. Long-Term Durability
a. Regular maintenance costs (over 20 years)
b. Roof replacement costs, if life expectancy is less than 20 years
3. Repairs
a. Roof repair costs (estimated over 20 years)
b. Interior damage repairs (estimated over 20 years)
4. Energy Savings
a. Estimated energy savings (over 20 years)
b. Energy rebates/incentives
5. Warranty
a. Cost for 15-year No Dollar Limit (NDL) warranty

Is Roofing Part of Your Energy Management Strategy? Part 1

With the continuing volatility of oil and gas prices, two things have become increasingly important to the owners and managers of buildings of all shapes, sizes and locations: energy management and cool roofing. And yet, the two are seldom discussed as related issues. If you ask a building owner or manager about their energy management strategies, chances are they’ll mention a variety of “high-tech” solutions for improving building automation, systems interoperability, and the energy efficiency of their lighting, office equipment, security systems, and the biggest electricity consumer of all – air conditioning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that $40 billion is spent annually to air condition commercial buildings, which is one-sixth of all electricity consumed in the United States.

Important as these high-tech solutions are, the enormous energy savings potential from smart “low-tech” roofing decisions are typically regarded as a traditional “building envelope” issue. But smart roofing decisions can reduce annual air conditioning consumption by 10 to 40 percent, depending on location, building design, climate, and other factors. This not only reduces air conditioning loads and utility bills, but can also allow facilities to downsize their air conditioning equipment considerably.

The Cool Roofing Trend

Roofing can contribute to energy efficiency in two ways – proper insulation, and reflective surfaces. Thermal roofing insulation became a major consideration during the oil embargoes of the 1970s. Proper insulation helps keep warm air in during the winter and out during the summer. Insulation needs vary from climate to climate, and most local building codes today mandate minimum roofing R-values – a material’s ability to resist heat flow.

A more recent trend has been the phenomenal growth of “cool roofing” – the use of white or light-colored roof surfaces that reflect solar energy and keep building relatively cooler in summer months. Although the overall market for commercial low-sloped (flat, or nearly flat) roofing has been stagnant in recent years, demand for cool roofing systems has continued to grow strongly. More than just a sensible, long-term, “green” building design solution, cool roofing is considered by many scientists, industry experts, and government officials to be an effective means of addressing critical national energy efficiency and environmental challenges.

In our next installment we will discuss: How Cool Roofing Works.

The True Price Of High Performance

Oxymoron, n: a combination of contradictory words (such as sustainability costs more)

Contrary to popular wisdom, when it comes to the building and construction industry, profitability and sustainability go hand-in-hand. In fact, if a new building component doesn’t contribute to business profitability, it is not sustainable.

Sustainability, or high performance design, is often equated with “green design.” However, high performance design is about making financially smart building choices, not just being “green.” Consumers typically will not pay for something that is green unless there’s a financial benefit as well. Sustainability is good business sense first – green comes with it.

High performance building projects address issues related to the design, construction, maintenance, rehabilitation and eventual demolition of a building with an emphasis throughout the building’s lifecycle on using resources efficiently and preserving the global environment.

The profitability of high performance design must be considered for the entire life-cycle of a building, not simply the initial cost of construction. Typically, a roofing system with a low initial cost is a teaser that fails to consider all of the costs associated with the roof over its useful life. A long-lasting, high-performance system delivers a lower cost of ownership spread out over a longer period of time, requiring fewer repeated expenses related to maintenance, repair, and replacement. Plus, benefits such as energy savings can reduce life-cycle costs even further.

Recently, a contractor called to say that he was going to change his approach to selling roofing after a building owner said that the Duro-Last roof was the least expensive roof he had ever bought. It seems that the building owner was a banker who calculated that the Duro-Last roof was costing him 30% less per year in maintenance, repairs and frequent replacements than the modified bitumen roofs that he had always used before.

A smart investment because it costs less over its life span, a high performance roofing system is the ideal choice for sustainable facilities.