It’s not a matter of “if” problems will arise, it’s a matter of “when.” If neglected, one of your biggest building assets – the roof – can quickly become one of the most troubling. An ongoing roof asset management program can keep roofing worries from hanging over your head now and well into the future. It’s time to reap the benefits of proactive vs. reactive solutions for roof management and maintenance.
You can’t afford not to proactively manage your roof(s).
If the assessments made by Bob Tedder, CEO of Fort Lauderdale, FL-based IRT-ARCON Inc. Intl., are on-target and only five percent of building owners have a roof asset management program in place, then 95 percent are charting the course for a very difficult future. There are a number of reasons why implementing a program is essential, all of which are equally important.
Leaks, punctures, clogged drains, ponding: Ignore the roof and this is just a sampling of the troubles you’re bound to face in the future. When a roof system isn’t maintained, the outcome can be disastrous. “There are over 3,000 cave-ins [annually] because of issues like drainage getting stopped up – a very simple situation that can become a disastrous situation for a building owner,” explains Tedder. Proactive management of roof systems can ensure that small problems don’t turn into big headaches and a big strain on the bottom line.
Good, solid maintenance practices mandated through an asset management program can ensure that the roof overhead will last the length of its warranty. “We find that most building owners replace their roofs too soon. You want to get the maximum life out of that roof. Even though it’s a small capital expense when actually building the building, it’s one-third of the building envelope and is probably the greatest expense that you’ll reinvest into your building,” explains Craig S. Dolgin, director of operations, Roof Resources Inc., Louisville, KY. By extending the life of your roof through regular maintenance, owners can reap the cost benefits associated with fewer re-roofs. Roof maintenance is also a tax write-off, whereas installation of a new roof is a capital expense requiring depreciation.
Effectively managing your roof system means effectively managing your liability risk. The inability of a roof to perform properly can have serious consequences. “If a roof system fails, you’re going to have interior problems with leaks causing structural [damage] and slips and falls – all major liability issues,” Tedder explains. “Not to mention the new monster on the horizon, which is mold and mildew.” Leaky roofs can shut down manufacturing operations, disrupt employee productivity, cause sick building syndrome, and eventually lead to the roof caving in if ignored long enough. Proper maintenance can help pinpoint problems early, greatly reducing the risk of litigation.
Lastly, roof asset management programs can help you keep better records of warranty information. “If you talk to roofing manufacturers about their warranties and warranty reserves – I think the number I heard last is that they expect between 40 and 50 percent of all roof warranties [will] never have a claim on them because they’ve been lost or forgotten,” says Jeff Evans, vice president, Benchmark Inc., Cedar Rapids, IA. Employee turnover or a change in ownership can make keeping track of roof warranties difficult when accurate record-keeping and centralized filing hasn’t taken place. Most warranties require maintenance as well as a log and documentation as proof of the work. “I’ve seen a lot of manufacturers that didn’t ask for the information, but if they get put in a bad position and they’re going to have to replace a roof, they certainly may use that against you,” Tedder warns.
A roof asset management program is a step-by-step process.
It’s not recommended that anyone and everyone undertake a roof asset management program unaided by roofing professionals, but if your facilities staff has a high level of understanding and knowledge in roof systems and repair procedures, it is possible. Seek out seminars, courses, and trade show events that can elevate learning and keep facilities professionals up on the latest advancements, techniques, and ideas.
Step 1: Inventory and evaluation. All roofs should undergo an inspection to assess their current condition. Inspections typically involve hiring a consultant or testing firm to complete non-destructive testing using infrared, nuclear backscatter, or electrical capacitance technology. These tests will pinpoint problematic areas of the roof. According to George Fox , president, IRT-ARCON Inc. Intl., Fort Lauderdale, FL, “Therefore, [the owner] can not only prioritize, but he can mobilize his annual, and his five- and 10-year budgeting for roof repair and roof recover.”
Step 2: Data collection and centralization. Pull together all documents relating to the original installation and continued maintenance of the roof. This includes the original contract for the roof, manufacturer’s warranty, drawings, any record of completed maintenance, as well as the names and numbers of contractors, consultants, and manufacturers you’ve worked with or trust. “I think keeping it organized, having some type of software program, is beneficial especially in this day and age of computers,” Dolgin suggests. Review several software packages before selecting the one you think will best serve your needs. Consider how many users will be accessing this database of information, if a web-based application is preferable, or if the software provider will supply you with updates to the software as it becomes available. You can also use existing database programs such as Microsoft Access or Excel to house the information as well.
Step 3: Develop a schedule and budget. All the information you’ve gathered will help to determine which projects are a priority and how much money to allocate to complete them. Set standards for regular maintenance and devise a schedule for each roof in need of repair or replacement. Keep in mind that climatic differences (i.e., snow in Minnesota, high winds along coastal regions, etc.) may influence a preventive maintenance schedule.
Step 4: Commit yourself 100 percent to the plan. “We try to emphasize that it’s not just enough to devise the plan, but you’ve got to live it,” says Evans. Complete cursory walk-overs to visually inspect the roof after storm events and as appropriate seasonally. “When you have other trades going up on roof areas, you have to be aware of what those trades are doing,” says John D’Annunzio, president, Paragon Roofing Technology Inc., Shelby Township, MI. A simple drop of a hammer can damage or puncture a roof membrane, causing moisture infiltration. When mechanical trades people are installing new equipment or servicing existing systems on the roof, supervise their work or inspect afterwards. Be diligent about preventive and corrective maintenance and follow the plan you’ve devised.
Consult the professionals when you’re out of your league.
If roof systems are an area that your facilities department clearly lacks expertise in, then it’s best to call in the experts. A number of roof consulting and testing firms will walk through the steps above and help you devise a program and budget to achieve a longer and trouble-free roof life. In your search for the perfect partner to assist with the development of your roof asset management program, remember to keep the following in mind. A good roof consultant will:
Have significant experience and be capable of administering non-destructive testing. “During the selection process, the experience of the companies should be validated. Check their references. Thorough research of that company through recommendations is always best,” advises D’Annunzio.
Be objective. “You’re looking for somebody that is not affiliated with a manufacturer, not affiliated with a contractor – someone that is a neutral party that can come in with the technical expertise to analyze and evaluate what your [roof’s] condition is and then make recommendations,” says Fox.
Provide good customer service and solid advice. This is essential, according to Dolgin, who says, “You want someone that is responsive and someone who will look out for the best interests of the building owner.” When all the roof consultant’s recommendations are not financially feasible, expect other options to be presented. “Sometimes the building owner doesn’t have the monies allocated to replace the roof that year; we’ll come up with an alternate plan,” Dolgin explains.
Through careful planning and implementation, a roof asset management program can reduce worries, unexpected expenses, and even liability. Don’t underestimate what neglect can do to your roof(s).
Jana J. Madsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.