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6 Weapons to Defend Your Roof From Winter's Worst

Posted on 11/26/2014 2:12 PM by Ellisha McLaughlin


Whether we’re talking about a small retail storefront, such as an automobile parts store, a strip mall, thousands of square footage at a medical facility, or a “big box store,” winter storms, ice, and wind can cause damage to roofing systems, especially the low slope and flat roofs found on many commercial facilities.

But before you start binge-watching the weather reports, there are some winterization tips – many you can do yourself – to help maintain your roof’s integrity – and help you sleep at night. 

Before the Storm

1) Check your gutters: Do a visual inspection of all your gutters and downspouts. Make a note of cracks, rust spots or holes. Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to have sections replaced than to repair. Check downspouts, too, and be sure the gutter and roof edge metal is fastened securely along the building perimeter.

2) Clean the gutters: If Autumn’s already come and gone, get up there and remove leaves, branches and other debris. Don’t forget to wear heavy gloves so you aren’t surprised by sharp objects. Check the roof’s drainage system. If it’s rained recently, that’s even better; Remember, that could be ice the next time. Are there puddles anywhere? If you aren’t comfortable up on the roof, hire an expert or get on a maintenance program. 

3) Get rid of the algae: “Green Roofs” designed with vegetation to help the environment are becoming popular, but if your roof is actually supposed to be white, then you may have a moisture buildup problem. While you’re inspecting the gutters and cleaning away the debris, turn your eye toward dark spots where there could be mold, mildew, lichens and algae. If it’s just from puddling, you’re in luck: a solution of 1 cup bleach per gallon of water is something you can do yourself. But if you notice there are areas that look damper than others, or there are dark areas, this could be continual moisture buildup and that will cause excessive membrane wear and eventual failure. You may need to call in a qualified commercial roofing professional to determine what mitigation needs to be done. 

4) Look for cracks, splits, and punctures: Remember that algae? That can also help lead you to tears, splits and punctures in the roof membrane. Take care to check the roof seams and edges – rain, wind and ice dams can cause extensive damage especially in an area where the rain enters, freezes (expands) then melts. Now you’ve got a real mess. 

When the Snow and Ice Arrives

Anyone who has ever shoveled snow soon discovers just how heavy it is. While one inch of rain can weigh about 5 pounds per square foot, if your gutters and downspouts aren't doing their job, your roof is going to handle that load.

Now, imagine the that water is snow. One foot of light snow weighs about the same, but heavy and wet snow can add up to 10 to 20 times that per cubic foot of weight. It gets worse: if that snow thaws and refreezes you are now looking at 40 to 60 pounds of extra weight on your low slope roof per cubic foot, and it’s not going anywhere soon. 

5) Listen and look for telltale signs of snow overload: 

  • Noticeable roof deformities
  • Sagging or bent metal purlins
  • Leaking, which could indicate membrane damage
  • Audible "popping" noises emanating from the building's structure

Drifting snow and wind can cause roof failures and leaks. Roofs can (and do) cave in with no warning signs. If you can put your hands on the facility's original blueprints, there may be a notation of safe snow loads; but remember, wet, thawed, refrozen snow all changes the calculation when it comes to the actual weight. 

6) Get the snow removed promptly: The best practice is to have snow accumulation removed promptly. Here’s why to have it done professionally:

  • A general maintenance crew armed with snow blowers and power brooms may do more harm to the roof. They could damage skylights, buried gas lines, or puncture the roof. Have you ever seen someone chipping away ice with a pitchfork or ax? That isn’t going to end well. 

  • A professional snow removal crew will be experienced in not damaging your roof’s structural integrity. The snow and ice needs to be removed in a checkerboard pattern, for example, to avoid instability. They will also have special ladders and equipment and be experienced in removing snow in accordance with OSHA safety regulations.

​​It's important to remember that though you may not be able to stop everything winter can throw at you, a thorough winter maintenance program can prevent weather-related issues, and anything you can cross off the list that keeps you up at night as a facility manager is a good thing. 

Ellisha McLaughlin is director of services for North American Roofing and can be reached at emclaughlin@naroofing.com.

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Keep Parking Operation Costs In Check

Posted on 11/25/2014 10:59 AM by Jon Martens

One of the biggest challenges facing parking owners and operators is how to keep operations costs in check.  Every dollar spent unnecessarily is a dollar lost.  The question is, how do you keep costs down while continuing to provide a safe, convenient, and pleasant parking experience to drivers? The key to cost reduction is understanding the most significant drivers of increased costs, and while every facility’s parking operation is different, most share common expenses that can be decreased.

At most parking facilities, the biggest cost leader is labor. Fortunately, the technology revolution that’s transforming the parking industry is permitting owners and operators to run their facilities more efficiently, permitting them to reduce personnel costs without impairing the quality of service.

Switching from a cashiered payment system to an automated system such as pay-on-foot, can reduce the need for revenue control staff at exits. Some owners are taking this even further by switching to an entirely cash-free operation requiring all transactions to be by credit card. Using technology to reduce or eliminate staff can save owners thousands of dollars in salary, benefits, and insurance costs. These approaches can also minimize loss due to theft by cashiers – a common concern with any cash-based business.

Maintenance is another important cost leader. It can be very expensive to conduct routine cleaning and upkeep, structural repairs, and parking access and revenue control (PARCS) equipment care. Routine maintenance can and should include cleaning surfaces, light painting, re-lamping, cleaning offices and public areas, restriping parking stalls and driving lanes, and the upkeep of landscaping and plants. On-going structural maintenance should include regular inspections by an engineer specializing in parking structure restoration as well as sealing to protect against moisture penetration, expansion joint maintenance, and to address spalling.

Equipment maintenance is also essential. If PARCS equipment goes down, operations become less efficient, which can cost owners money. Other equipment that requires regular maintenance includes escalators, elevators, and maintenance vehicles.

While maintenance is typically one of the more costly operations expenses, it is critically important. Facilities that are not properly maintained can suffer from concrete degradation or failure, and will need to be replaced or repaired much sooner than they otherwise would. Owners and operators who cut back on maintenance often find that their operational costs actually rise significantly because of the need to undertake unplanned and unbudgeted repairs.

However, there are some maintenance elements that can actually provide cost savings. One of the best is lighting, which typically represents the largest utility cost in a parking facility, but also provides the most potential for savings. Lighting technologies are constantly changing, with LED, induction, and florescent lighting providing much better visibility at dramatically lower consumption rates and longer life cycles over traditional metal-halide or high pressure sodium fixtures.  

The savings can be so significant that owners who retrofit their facilities can generally recoup their investment in as little as three to four years depending on the lighting solution. Modern LED lighting systems also have a significantly longer lamp life, greatly reducing the cost of ownership.  Upgrading the lighting system can also provide another important benefit: promoting safety and security within the structure by improving visibility.

Smart fixtures that recognize activity and adjust the lighting level based on the presence of people or vehicles can also increase savings. This permits illumination to automatically be reduced or increased as needed. This can be particularly useful in sub-grade structures, which must be illuminated 24 hours a day.

If an operation is outsourced to a third party for daily management of the parking, the management relationship may also provide opportunities to reduce costs. Upon the conclusion of a management contract, it’s always good to test the waters by issuing an RFP to ensure that you are getting a fair deal. To reduce the personal effort and obtain an apples-to-apples comparison of the proposals, it is recommended that the process be done by a parking consultant with experience with this process. Experience shows that considerable savings in expenses are obtainable even when the current operator is retained.

There’s no reason for parking owners to spend more than necessary to operate their facilities. Owners who understand which aspects of their parking operations are most costly, and how to reduce costs in those areas can save thousands of dollars every year.

Jon Martens is a parking consultant with Walker Parking Consultants. He can be reached at jon.martens@walkerparking.com.

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