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.

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.

maintainreplace

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.

USPS-SolarRooftop-1

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.

Roof Maintenance

Routine maintenance inspections of your roofing system should take place twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. The fall inspection of your roofing system is important to ensure that it is ready for the inclement weather of the winter months. The following are some areas that should be reviewed during the fall inspection.

  • Sealants
    • All edge terminations, pitch pans, stacks, and curbs should be inspected for proper adhesion and visible signs of cracking or wear.
  • Drainage
    • Drains must be kept free of debris such as bottles, sticks, and leaves. A proper-sized leaf grate will help prevent clogs. Commercial grade push brooms can be used to sweep leaves and other debris away from drainage paths: these materials should be removed from the roof. Additional inspections of the drains may be needed in areas with heavy foliage to keep the drains cleared throughout the year.
  • Parapet Walls
    • Parapets should be inspected for deteriorated coping, cracked or missing mortar joints, and any signs of deterioration. Always remember to practice safe inspection routines near any roof edge. Keep in mind that some roofing systems can be slippery due to frost, morning dew, rain, snow, etc.
  • Tie-Ins
    • Roof tie-ins should be inspected for proper adhesion between the roofing systems. The sealants used for completing the tie-in should be examined for cracks, splits, or gaps which could allow water infiltration.
  • HVAC
    • Rooftop units should be inspected for missing or unfastened panels and properly functioning condensate lines. These situations can produce moisture that is commonly and mistakenly believed to come from roof leaks, which can lead to unnecessary costs and aggravation.
  • Debris/Snow and Ice Removal
    • All debris that could lead to damage to the roofing system such as nails, screws, broken bottles, etc. should be removed from the roofing system. If at any time a shovel is needed for removing debris or snow, it is recommended that a plastic scoop shovel be utilized to minimize the risk of damage to the roof. A metal shovel or plastic with a metal edge, has sharp edges that can snag on plates/fasteners, seams, etc, and create a hole in roofing membranes. If removing ice from the roof, it is recommended that you use an ice melting product (such as salt) rather than chopping or trying to break up the ice, which could possibly damage the roof.

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 Five E’s of High-Performance Roofing

In the final post of our three part series we take a look at High-Performance Roofing (HPR). HPR systems have five important, closely related attributes that make them cost-effective, leak-proof, reliable, long-lasting, and environmentally friendly.

They are called the “Five E’s,” and they can help building owners make informed roofing choices:

  • Energy: HPR systems help reduce energy consumption and improve the energy efficiency of the building envelope. This is a primary benefit of cool roofing, but reduced energy use also contributes to a better environment.
  • Environment: HPR systems help reduce the overall impact on the external environment while also creating and maintaining a healthy, productive indoor environment. This is the key objective of green or sustainable roofing, which also places a premium on energy efficiency and endurance.
  • Endurance: HPR systems must meet or exceed traditional performance standards in terms of longevity, all-weather reliability, water absorption, wind and fire resistance, low-maintenance and simple repair. No matter how “cool” or “green” a roof is, it still has to protect the building in all types of weather – a reality that is sometimes neglected in sustainability discussions.
  • Economics: HPR systems must be cost-effective based on both initial cost and, more importantly, the entire life-cycle cost. No roofing system will gain wide acceptance if it does not make economic sense to building owners and managers.
  • Engineering: Smart engineering and design are the great enablers of High-Performance Roofing systems, and all four of the other E’s. Engineering impacts everything from intelligent design and installation to life-cycle costs and long-term performance in all weather conditions.

High-Performance Roofing is a critical part of any High-Performance Building. A HPR system is a protective, performance-enhancing umbrella that protects the High-Performance Building from the elements, enables uninterrupted facility operations, and contributes to the health and productivity of the building occupants. HPR is also one of those rare cases where there does not have to be a tradeoff between “green” and performance, or “green” and cost. The best HPR systems cost less over time because they reduce energy bills, minimize environmental impact, require less maintenance, and keep the weather outside, where it belongs.

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.

Faces of Duro-Last: Drew Ballensky

Drew Ballensky - General Manager, Duro-Last - Iowa and Cool Roofing/Architectural Spokesperson
Drew Ballensky - General Manager, Duro-Last - Iowa and Cool Roofing/Architectural Spokesperson

Drew Ballensky joined Duro-Last in 1996 as plant manager and was responsible for start-up and production activities at the Iowa facility. He also handled customer relations activities for several years before taking on his current role as general manager and spokesperson for Duro-Last’s cool roofing and architectural market initiatives.

Drew received his Bachelor of Technology from the University of Northern Iowa and MBA from Florida State University. Prior to Duro-Last, Drew worked for Butler Manufacturing as an industrial engineer and a manufacturing engineering manager. He moved on to Champion Products where he was an operations financial analyst before serving as a plant manager for Nordico Manufacturing. Drew then co-owned a construction business.

By combining his manufacturing and construction experience with his more recent involvement with new energy technologies and the regulations intended to encourage their use, Drew has become Duro-Last’s energy-efficiency and cool roofing guru. Drew frequently writes articles on sustainability issues for industry media and the Duro-Last roofing blog. He also facilitates classes on cool roofing for The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Drew enjoys opportunities to interact with a wide variety of roofing industry people, from contractors to sales reps to building owners to specifiers and even to our competitors through the organizations he participates in. These include the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association where he is the president, the Vinyl Institute, the AIA, and the U. S. Green Building Council.

Drew likes working for a company that has a product and system that just makes sense and is easy to believe in. “Our history of product quality and customer support provides a good foundation for any conversations I have about roofing systems. It’s also a pleasure to be able to confidently discuss Duro-Last’s ability to help facilities meet sustainability goals, which is clearly one of the key decision-making factors in the marketplace these days,” said Drew.

“I welcome any questions or comments you have about cool roofing and invite you to ask them here,” concludes Drew. You may also contact Drew directly at 641-622-1079 or dballens@duro-last.com.