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Metal roofs are not new. Standing seam, metal shingle, and metal tile roofs made from copper, aluminum, steel, or zinc have been widely used in commercial and institutional facilities for generations. What is new today is the options that facility managers have when it comes to colors and appearance.
In the past, the number of color options available has been somewhat limited. Pressure from the residential market for more color options has carried over into the commercial market. Today, there are more color options available in metal roofing than in any other type of roofing.
Metal roofs have the advantage of a long service life relative to most other types of roofing, typically 50 years or more. They also are 100 percent recyclable. While they typically are between one and one-half to two times more expensive than other roofing options, their extended service life results in a lower life cycle cost.
Roof maintenance advances
Not all advances in roofing are taking place on the roof itself. New tools are being introduced that will help facility managers maintain their roofs.
Thermal imaging apps are available for smart phones that can help identify areas where water has penetrated the roof and damaged the insulation. The attachment for the smart phone combined with the app can produce high-resolution thermal images that readily detect even small temperature differences.
Drones are making viewing and monitoring the condition of a roof easier and less expensive. Because they can be flown well above the roof, they can take detailed photographs of specific areas of the roof or of the entire roof, photographs that were previously unavailable or prohibitively expensive. When fitted with thermal imaging cameras, drones can complete detailed infrared moisture scans to detect moisture trapped in the roofing system.
The use of thermal imaging with smart phones and drones will provide facility managers with essential information needed in evaluating the condition of their roof, particularly when they are making the decision to repair or to replace.
James Piper, PhD, PE, is a writer and consultant who has more than 35 years of experience in facilities management. He is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management.
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Metal and Drones: Roofing Maintenance Innovations