6 Considerations: Is the Proposed Roof System Right for Your Facility?

April 14, 2017

Your roof is at the end of its service life. A roofing project is inevitable. Once you’ve vetted roofing contractors, how do you know that the systems they’re proposing are right for you? The following six considerations should help you evaluate whether to say yes to any roofing proposal.

No. 1 Energy
If your roofing contractor isn’t asking about what’s important to you, they may mistakenly think that the cost of the project is all that you care about. And while that’s certainly a big factor, life-cycle cost may trump initial project cost. That’s where R-value comes in. In other words, what R-value of insulation will result in the most significant energy savings in the quickest amount of time? An analysis will reveal the optimum level of R-value to maximize your investment.

Reflectivity and emissivity are other considerations when evaluating the proposed roofing system. The geographic area where your facility is located will help determine if heat absorption or reflection is most advantageous.

Lastly, if interests in energy aren’t just limited to efficiency, but rather extend to production, then how the proposed roof system can support a photovoltaic system is critical. For example, if you’re opting for a ballasted solar system, the roof system must be able to support the additional weight (e.g. without crushing the insulation). Whereas, if you prefer to mechanically attach solar panels to the building structure, the proposed system must ensure compatibility of flashing materials so the installation doesn’t negatively impact the waterproofing ability of the roof.

No. 2 Durability
If you have equipment on the roof, a cell tower, or use window washers, you’ve got foot traffic on your roof. The roof system that’s proposed should account for who’s on the roof, what they’re doing there, and how often. For any roof system to be truly appropriate, its durability must match the level of use. This is especially true on roofs with solar systems, which may require the installation of high-density coverboard on top of insulation and under the roofing membrane.

Again, due to the location of your facility, weather may necessitate a certain level of durability. For example, if you’re in a hail-prone area or whenever wind uplift is a concern, the proposed system must compensate.

No. 3 Aesthetics
Public institutions, historic buildings, and schools often have special aesthetic considerations. Additionally, facilities professionals may want to avoid complaints from residents of a neighboring skyscraper when a blindingly bright white roof membrane is installed. Hospitals also need to be wary, as life flight helicopter pilots may also report problems locating the landing pad when adjacent roofs are white. The right roofing proposal will account for preferences and/or requirements such as these, which are related to aesthetics.

No. 4 Usability
As mentioned earlier when durability was discussed, usability deserves equal weight in the decision-making process. How the roof allows people to work on it and even under it is key. To reduce liability and potential accidents, slip resistance is necessary criteria. Likewise, to protect rooftop workers, permanent fall protection equipment and systems can be installed by your contractor as part of the roofing project. Walkway pad or elevated walkways (e.g. over ammonia pipes) can also protect workers from potential injury.

A roofing system that takes into account the proper levels of insulation, or when warranted a vapor barrier, can decrease the likelihood of condensation dripping into the building’s interior.

No. 5 Fire Resistance
Every roofing proposal should account for insurance company and building code requirements. Certain assemblies do not provide a Class A fire rating; however, fire resistance is not always a matter of looking at isolated materials. It’s more important to view the system in its entirety.

No. 6 Slope
Slope is critical on commercial and industrial buildings because it facilitates proper water drainage. Unless the existing roof has structural slope or tapered insulation systems, then slope should be added. A well thought-out proposal will consider how best to add slope.­

Don’t fall into the trap of using the warranty period to run your cost analysis. If the new roof can’t meet your functional requirements, the warranty is irrelevant.

The contractor must first and foremost understand what’s existing and the condition of it, in order to propose a reroof or recover. Careful investigation of what you need, what’s required, and what you desire is necessary.