Roofing Systems: Streamlining for Savings

By investigating emerging systems and revisiting traditional specification processes, managers can improve ROI and ensure long-term performance

By Ryan Joyner  

Maintenance and engineering managers are looking for ways to provide a better return on their organizations’ roofing investments. In some cases, this effort involves exploring emerging roofing systems that are designed to offer institutional and commercial facilities benefits for specific issues.

For example, more managers are looking into the use of self-adhered systems, while others are researching cool roofing systems. For more on cool roofing systems, see the article below.

In other cases, managers are revisiting their long-standing processes of specifying roof systems and working with contractors and roofing professionals to find room for improvements and cost savings.

In all cases, the goal is to streamline the process and end up with a system that reliably and cost-effectively protects the building and its operations.

Systems Evolve

In today’s roofing industry, managers and contractors are constantly looking for ways to keep a reroofing job clean, efficient and acceptable. Building occupants and visitors are certain to take notice of problems with a roofing project, whether the problem is asphalt or adhesives that cause odors and irritate employees inside the building or the aesthetics of the roof when completed. Now more than ever, odors are a major concern in educational, health care and office environments.

Manufacturers of roofing systems are developing ways to meet the changing needs of the industry for contractors and building owners. Insurance-coverage limitations, building owner and employee sensitivity to foul-smelling substances or irritants, contractor liability, and fire-safety issues have pushed manufacturers, roof system designers and roofing contractors into the design and application of self-adhering membranes.

Specification and Installation

In addition to providing an environmentally friendly roof, a maintenance manager also needs to take into account the importance of quality assurance during installation. Typically, quality assurance is provided by the installing contractor, who is responsible for installing the roof according to the contract.

Many times, a lack of supervision, training or poor crew morale can result in poor quality roof installation. On the other hand, hiring an outside roof-system design professional — architect, engineer or roof consultant — can help a manager ensure quality control.

It is recommended that someone with roofing experience be on the job site throughout the duration of the project. Sometimes, it is best to get a design professional involved early on in the project, possibly even having a designer prepare a job-specific detailed specification. This way, the designer is familiar with the project from beginning to end and can control the installation of the roof system.

Even little things, such as making sure the contractor is using the materials specified for a particular job and using the correct amount of fasteners, asphalt or adhesives, is important in ensuring a quality finished product. Using this type of professional enables managers to have an expert design a detail for those unique situations on a roof. Although roofers are good at figuring out difficult details, others might simply throw materials together and call it watertight. Some manufacturers can assist in selecting a particular roof system and preparing a site-specific specification. But other manufacturers merely push their product, which might or might not meet the needs of a particular building or facility.

A roof-system design professional, on the other hand, has the knowledge of a wide variety of roofing manufacturers and roofing systems in the market. The designer will specify a roof that fits the needs and uniqueness of a given building and can offer a list of manufacturers from which to choose.

The specifier will design specific details for your building where a roofing contractor or manufacturer may overlook or try to get by with an inadequate standard detail.

Fine-tuning the Process

A roof-system design professional also can offer bidding services to provide pre-qualified contractors in order to ensure that you have competent contractors bidding on your project. This step allows bidders to compete against one another on a level playing field and provides the building owner with the option to take the lowest or most qualified bid. The design professional would look at all available options and make a recommendation.

When working with a roofing contractor, a well-written specification can assist a manager in obtaining a successful reroofing project. When contractors bid on a specification, they are bidding to install the roof according to the detailed specifications provided. In such a situation, a manager can use the specification to maintain or control the process of the project.

Contractor qualifications are also important. The qualification process determines if the contractor is technically and financially qualified, as well as helps analyze their existing safety program.

Finally, it is also important to include the selected manufacturer in the reroofing process. In some instances, manufacturers will review the specifications and determine if it meets their requirements. A reputable manufacturer always performs a final walkthrough before issuing the warranty, if one is being provided.

Self-adhered Systems

Fires caused by torches and asphalt kettles have led to higher insurance premiums. Heavy asphalt fumes can cause the loss of productivity from employees or limit the time in which reroofing can take place.

Each of these problems has had an impact on the roofing industry, and they have created a push for manufacturers to develop a more environmentally safe product. With the use of self-adhered membranes, managers can eliminate the use of asphalt and the strong odors, as well as the use of a dangerous torch.

Self-adhering single-ply membranes are very similar to the fully adhered single-ply roof system, minus the adhesives. These membranes are installed to a clean substrate rolled in place with a lawn roller. All laps are hot-air-welded.

The installation process for self-adhering, modified-bitumen membranes is very similar to that of an adhered single-ply roof system. But the maintenance and repairs are similar to typical modified bitumen repairs.

Managers should look for a contractor familiar with the installation of an adhered single-ply roof system, rather than a traditional “hot” roofing contractor. Typically, the system’s manufacturer has an approved list of contractors for the application of that particular system.

Not all self-adhering membranes are the same, and it is very important that membranes are installed according to the respective manufacturer’s requirements. For instance, the end laps of a granular-surfaced cap sheet are not self-adhering, due to the granular surfacing. In this case, the end laps must be hot-air-welded to embed the granules in order to provide a watertight bond.

A self-adhering membrane system allows managers to eliminate many of the less desirable features and potential disruptions of traditional roofing installations. Self-adhering roof systems make installation easier in difficult-to-access roof locations, and this helps keep the job moving quickly and efficiently with minimal need for heavy equipment. With less heavy equipment required, products can be moved onto the roof without interfering with normal building operations.

Perhaps just as importantly these days, self-adhering roof systems are environmentally smart and installation friendly, and they reduce occupant disruption. These qualities make this application particularly attractive to educational, health care and office facilities.

On the flip side, there are disadvantages to self-adhering membranes. Some manufacturer’s membranes require a minimum surface temperature during installation. Also, dust and dirt can prevent the membrane from proper adhesion to the substrate, so the substrate needs to be kept very clean.

In addition, self-adhering membranes are relatively new to the market, so there is no time-tested data to determine the life expectancy of the roof system. There are also limited rating approvals from Underwriters Limited and Factory Mutual rating approvals for these products in regards to wind uplift testing.

Roofing systems continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of the roofing industry, as well as commercial and institutional facilities. By learning more about the correct procedures to follow when reroofing, maintenance and engineering managers will be able to achieve a better return on the investments for their organizations.

Cool Roofs: Trend into Mandate

Cool roofs are becoming a trend, as well as a requirement in some cities’ building codes. ENERGY STAR®, California’s Title 24, and Chicago’s municipal energy code are a few energy codes that already have been put into place.

Cool roofs come in a variety of materials, from single-ply, coatings, and even metal roofs. Typically, cool roofs are a light-colored roofing system that reflects the sun’s heat and harmful ultraviolet rays and readily emits absorbed solar heat. The result is a lowering of the roof and building temperature and better protection for the roof from sunlight degradation.

Cool roof systems are one of the best methods for keeping solar heat out of buildings and increasing energy savings. Cool roofs normally stay 50-60 degrees cooler at peak times during the hot summer months than traditional, darker roof membranes. This characteristic offers great benefits to managers and contractors, while protecting the environment from negative effects of the urban heat islands.

Also, while cool roofs not only tend to stay cooler, they provide reduced electrical demand, increased energy savings, and improve a building’s comfort level.

— Ryan Joyner

Ryan Joyner is a staff consultant with Benchmark, Inc., a national roofing management consulting firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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  posted on 1/1/2005   Article Use Policy

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