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The State of Piping and Plumbing Systems


A perfect storm hit Arizona State University in 2011. That year, the need to re-roof the Wells Fargo Arena, one of the campus's largest buildings, coincided with the Tempe university's growing commitment to solar power.

"It was a clear, clean roof, and we needed to re-roof the building, so we combined the solar panels with the roofing project," says senior project manager Karl Edelhoff. The solution to the situation required Edelhoff and his team to address several major challenges.

During the $2.5 million project, roofing crews contended with a tight deadline. They also had to work in challenging weather conditions and coordinate with other projects at the arena. Beyond those issues, the project took place in one of the campus's highest-traffic areas. None of those hurdles, however, matched the challenge of preparing the roof and the structure below it for the installation of more than 2,000 solar panels.

Contractors handled the installation of the new PVC roof and the solar panels, but in preparation for taking over post-installation inspection and maintenance of the systems, the university's carpentry staff often visited the job site to learn about the systems.

"I had three roofers be familiar with the project as it was ongoing," says Bob Backus, the supervisor of carpentry services, the campus department that oversees roofing projects. "They would visit the project from time to time, and I'd go with them. They learned the type of roof system, and they're capable of repairing it, if necessary."

One of the main post-installation concerns that emerged was the appearance of splits in the membrane.

"The manufacturer was thinking it (occurred) because of the movement of the roof — expansion and contraction and size of the roof — that it split," Backus says. "They're pretty certain it has stopped. We were prepared for everything that we had come up. There was also some leaking around the perimeters and edges because there was some improper installation in some areas."

In the hopes of preventing further problems with the roofing systems, the carpentry shop performs preventive maintenance twice a year, a process that includes inspecting for leaks and performing basic cleaning.

"It gets dirty rather easily, so we hose it off and power wash it every six months or a year," Backus says. "We keep the drains clear, and we're good."

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