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Hot Weather Roofing with Clark Neilson
General Repair Coordinator, Clark County School District, Las Vegas
WHAT IS THE TOTAL SQUARE FOOTAGE OF THE ROOFS ON SCHOOL DISTRICT FACILITIES? HOW MUCH IS THAT AMOUNT GROWING EACH YEAR?
A few years ago, that question popped into my mind of just how many square feet of roof do we have to maintain here in the district? Interior square footage was easy enough to come by, but the square footage of our roofs was considerably more challenging. Our floor footage does not match our roof square footage. At the present time, the Clark County School District covers over 7,900 square miles and consists of 206 elementary schools, 59 middle schools, 44 high schools, 32 alternative and special schools, and approximately 1,400 portable classrooms. The figures came up to well over 50 million square feet of roof surface. That amount of area is hard for the average person to visualize, so I tried to convert it into measurements that might be more recognizable: 1.8 square miles, 1,148 acres or, for you sport fans, 867 football fields.
Our growth over the past 10 years or so has been unbelievable. The student enrollment has increased much faster than we can build new schools and hire teachers, administrators, and support staff. We have gained more than 40,000 students in the last four years alone. Even before we complete a new school, we are moving in portable classrooms to handle the overflow.
HOW IS THIS RAPID GROWTH AFFECTING THE SPECIFICATION, INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE OF ROOFING SYSTEMS?
Over the last 20 years or so, our roofing department has installed and maintained just about every kind of roofing system that has come along. The department's experience and knowledge of systems that work best and hold up under the weather conditions in our area of the Southwest is a great resource.
With the number of schools being built and going into operation each year, we in the maintenance department, because of our lack of personnel, find it hard to monitor the installation of these new roofing systems and actually see how the contractors are doing their job. We usually find out how good of a job they did when the first good rain hits.
Our own district building inspectors are assigned to each school project to make sure everything is done to code, but it's hard for them to see every detail of construction at that site. We receive an average of only 2 inches of rain in an entire year, so it's difficult to know if these new roofs are watertight or not.
As a maintenance department, we have been requesting that the specifications call for a major water test of the roofing system before the buildings are turned over to the district and occupied. In the last few years, our new construction department has been asking our maintenance-roofing department to evaluate the new roof specifications from a maintenance point of view. They want to know how these new types of roofs are holding up and if they are easily maintainable.
WHEN INSTALLING A ROOFING SYSTEM, WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER?
All of these issues are equally important. Our main objective is to have our roofs without any leaks. Maintaining the learning environment in the classroom where students are comfortable and dry makes it easier for our teachers to do their jobs. When soggy ceiling tiles are dropping on peoples' heads, it makes for some very unhappy folks.
As a public entity, we always are being scrutinized as to how the tax dollars are utilized, so we continually are trying to do the best job we can and keep costs to a minimum and within our budget. Our roofs get exposed to a lot of sun and extreme high temperatures that can destroy anything and everything that's on that roof.
We have found that by using a reflective coating there are a number of benefits. Energy savings is very obvious simply by keeping the attic space below the roof much cooler, thus putting less demand on our refrigeration equipment. Also, those extreme high temperatures literally cook the life out of the roofing material, drying it out and making it move, split, and deteriorate. Coatings that reflect heat, seal leaks, are universal in application, regardless of the type of roofing material they are being applied over, and have a forgiving surface that can take physical abuse are the future of roofing.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF ROOFS ON EXISTING FACILITIES IN YOUR DISTRICT? WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR ACTIVITIES FOR THESE ROOFS?
Our oldest operating school in the district was built in 1930. Over the last 80 years or so, we have tried every system that has come down the road: metal, shingles, built-up, modified, hypolon foam, you name it. Repairs on a specific roofing system usually require compatible materials, ones that won't deteriorate any of the original roofing material. We have been very successful in our repair efforts by using a reflective coating that is not only universal and compatible, but if it can be applied before the roof passes the point of no return, we can save that roof from immediate replacement by adding another 10-15 years of usable life to it.
WHAT TYPES OF ROOFS ARE YOU SPECIFYING MOST OFTEN ON NEW SCHOOLS AND OTHER BUILDINGS?
Single-ply seems to be the system of choice at the present time. But like any roofing system, it's only as good as the quality of materials used and the care taken in the installation process. Even the best system in the world won't last very long if it isn't installed properly. The reflective nature of the top coating is the secret.
HOW DOES THE HOT WEATHER - AND THE RESULTING ENERGY USE REQUIRED TO COOL FACILITIES - AFFECT YOUR SELECTION OF ROOFING SYSTEMS, COATINGS, ETC?
The temperatures on our roofs in the summertime go well beyond the 175-200 degree mark and below freezing in the winter. This causes a lot of expansion and contraction, and that kind of movement can tear a roof apart if the material used isn't flexible and if the heat is allowed to penetrate inside the building. The experience we have gained over the years by seeing what all these roofing systems can and can not do has equipped us to make good choices as to what will be put into new schools and what we do to maintain them.
WHAT TYPES OF ROOFING SYSTEMS AND RELATED PRODUCTS ARE YOU EXPLORING TO ADDRESS THE DISTRICT'S FUTURE ROOFING NEEDS?
We are by no means totally satisfied with everything that's out there at this present time. Room for improvement always exists, and we know there will be new products and systems developed in the future that will exceed what we are using today. I think we just need to keep our minds open to innovation and progress. Our district just keeps growing by leaps and bounds, and we are looking for the voters to pass another bond during this next election to get us through the next 10 years to the tune of $9.5 billion. So I'm sure we will have the opportunity to try out any new roofing system that will come over the horizon.