5 Strategies for Managing an Aging Roof Portfolio

11/30/2012 | Ron Harriman

Hows your roof portfolio look? Evaluate staff, funding, and physical conditions to determine an action plan.

When it comes to addressing an aging roof, you don’t have to feel like a cat on a hot tin one. As facility managers are forced to do more with less due to shrinking staff and budget constraints, roof replacement, repair, and maintenance are frequently delayed, sometimes indefinitely.

Many facility managers find themselves in a position of playing catch up with a portfolio of aging roofs, many of which have unknown conditions and may be near the end of their service life. Consider the following strategies to develop a roof asset management plan.

1) Establish Expectations
First it’s important to identify why roofs fail. Ideally a roof would fail due to age and exposure to natural factors such as heat, ultraviolet (UV) light, and water. However, poor design, lack of maintenance, material failure, improper construction, abuse, and severe weather can contribute to premature roof failure. Consequently, most roofs do not fail on a normal and predictable age-related deterioration curve.

The normal roof service life for a low slope roof is between 15 and 20 years. It does not take an expensive roof system to exceed this norm. With sound strategy and an action plan, you can lessen the risk of failure, extend roof service life, and reduce total cost of ownership.

Whether you are taking over responsibility for an existing portfolio or have been managing a portfolio for years, overcoming the challenges associated with an aging portfolio starts with obtaining information in order to make sound decisions.

2) Deploy Staff or Outsource Help
In spite of how smart the world has become, buildings, computers, and corporations do not have the skills and expertise to develop strategy, implement an action plan, and make decisions – only people do.

Risk and Condition

Consider these two factors when assessing your roof assets. The following chart illustrates how the Roof Condition Index (RCI) rating system and Roof Inventory and Risk Assessment (RIRA) can be used to prioritize funding.

RCI RIRA Facility Name Building Name Roof Section Name
57 18 Processing Plant High Bay P1
82 14 Warehouse East 1 W3
45 13 Headquarters Systems H2
57 13 Processing Plant Low Bay P3
39 8 Warehouse West 1 W8
71 8 Warehouse West 2 W9
30 7 Processing Plant P4 P2
18 3 Warehouse East 2 W11
24 3 Headquarters Office H1

RCI is based on the combined condition ratings of various roof components (i.e. field membrane, perimeter flashings, etc.) – the higher the RCI, the worse the condition of that section. RIRA is based on the combined risk ratings of various factors (i.e. sensitivity, cost escalation, etc.) – the higher the RIRA, the greater the risk associated with that section. Evaluating risk and condition provide you with information to make good decisions. For example, the warehouse roof section W9 above is in fair to poor condition but may not get funded for repairs or replacement because of its somewhat low risk rating. You must take both factors into account.

There are many team member roles and responsibilities to consider as you develop your strategy. Consider the following staffing roles, responsibilities, and resources when formulating your overall plan:

  • Appoint a roof champion: The roof champion is someone who understands the value and importance of managing roof assets and is the face and voice of your facilities’ roofing program. A facility without someone committed to roof maintenance will likely have an aging, failing fleet of roofs. The care and maintenance of a roof can only take place at the facility and with boots on the roof. Whether this role is provided in-house or outsourced, it is imperative that the responsibility be assigned and executed by a team member who is committed to following a program.

    If you don’t know who is responsible for roof maintenance at a facility, it should be a red flag. As an example, if roofs are on a 20-year replacement cycle, that means no more than 5% of roofs would be replaced in a given year, and thus 95% of your roofs are in maintenance mode. The roof champion should have a constant tab on this.
  • Benefit from an expert: Implementing replacement projects requires technical and procurement expertise. In-house roofing experts are rare these days because engineering staffs are slim and devoted primarily to production processes.

    Roof design takes time, training, and experience. Rather than letting roof projects fall in the lap of the new guy in engineering, it is more effective to develop roofing proficiency with a mid- to long-range timeframe and to invest in training. If that is not realistic, consider outsourcing.

    As you evaluate your personnel resources, look for gaps or opportunities to streamline the process and leverage existing resources.

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