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The Importance of a Durable Roof
Regarding durability, the second point of emphasis in RoofPoint, the reason why it's considered a priority is because the "greenest" roofing choice might look good immediately, but is not sustainable at all if it fails in 10 years and is hauled to the landfill. Hoff says durability is increasingly added to the list of traits that identify the greenest roofing choices.
He says he believes the surge of popularity in durable roofing comes from lessons learned during previous periods of innovation and change in the roofing industry.
"When single-ply membranes were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s, the industry experienced a significant level of disruption," he says. "Some new materials were not fully tested, workers lacked training to install new systems, and maintenance procedures had to be re-developed to accommodate new products that required different inspection and maintenance procedures."
Hoff says he further believes the roofing industry has spent too much time and too many dollars fixing past problems related to durability, while failing to become advocates for the importance of durability in any green building initiative.
Getting ahead of the environmental curve can be an arduous task, especially when "new" technologies and guidelines always seem to crop up about six months after a reroofing project.
One of the aims of RoofPoint is to guide a long-term view for the roofing industry and its customers. Looking into the future, many facility managers and consultants know that a price will soon be attached to carbon.
"As of today," Hoff says, "all you can do is speculate. We don't have a way to factor carbon into our economic calculations."
The 60-Year Roof Cost
But increasingly it seems that facility managers have to be mindful of their carbon footprint when selecting all materials and systems — including roofing.
"Building owners might have to get used to asking what 'the 60-year cost' is, or 'what the cost is at X dollars per ton' for carbon," Hoff says. "Many sustainable practices really only make sense on an extended life-cycle basis."
Still, few facility managers will jump up and down with excitement when facing a re-roofing project. Tear-offs and reinstalls can be messy, disruptive and costly. Nevertheless, a performing roof is vital to a facility, and a high-performing roof can pay dividends to an organization.
The Durability Question
It's not news that roof maintenance frequently is given lots of lip service but little actual practice. But a roof cannot be installed and then completely ignored without expecting some kind of premature failure. That's the conundrum: How can durability be maximized when realistically acknowledging the customary lack of roof maintenance?
Jim Hoff, CEIR's research director, says he sees the maintenance challenge as similar to the "quality revolution" in the 1980s.
Increasing consumer expectations for the long-term performance of products such as automobiles and appliances, combined with new quality management principles, produced a true revolution in quality that changed leadership in industries and produced products that perform better and last longer, he says.
In the case of roofs, Hoff says he expects that the driving factor for a "maintenance revolution" will be the expectation within emerging building standards (such as LEED, ASHRAE 189.1 and the International Green Construction Code) that buildings should last 60 years or more. Additionally, the major sub-systems of these buildings, including roofing, should last 30 or 40 years or more.
"As a purely practical matter, it is unlikely that we will be able to develop roofing systems that can last 30 or 40 years without maintenance," Hoff says. "As a result, construction specifications will increasingly include requirements for maintenance in addition to initial material and installation requirements."