Energy-efficient Cool-roof Legislation: Creating Jobs and Reducing Energy Costs

Building on two roofing trends—higher thermal performance and cooler roofs in hotter climates—that have policymakers and architects seeing eye to eye, energy-efficient cool-roof legislation offers a significant opportunity to increase building energy efficiency and create jobs. Known in the last Congress in the Senate as S. 1575, the Energy-Efficient Cool Roof Jobs Act, and in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2962, the Roofing Efficiency Jobs Act, the legislation is scheduled to be reintroduced this spring.

The intent of the legislation is to encourage improvement in the thermal performance of existing roofs and, where appropriate in the designer’s judgment, encourage the use of a white or reflective roof surface in hotter climates. This is a clear win-win for the environment and building owners in terms of reduced energy costs and reduced pollution associated with energy consumption.

energy efficiency

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SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS lie within the commercial roofing sector, where more than 50 billion square feet of flat roofs are currently available for retrofit, 4 billion of which are typically retrofitted each year. The legislation would provide a 20-year depreciation period (instead of the current 39 years) for commercial roofs that meet minimum R-values that are significantly higher (requiring more insulation) than those required under state and local building codes and that have a white or other highly reflective surface. This change would correct an inequity in the current depreciation system (the average life span of a low-slope roof is only 17 years). By providing this incentive, the federal government would allow building owners and architects to decide whether the combination of thermal insulation and reflective roofs are appropriate for a given climate.

The required R-values under the proposed legislation are identical to the prescriptive requirements found under ASHRAE 189.1-2011, “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings”. This legislation would be limited to retrofits of existing low-slope roofs and would not be available to new buildings. The cool roof requirement would only apply to buildings in ASHRAE Climate Zones 1 through 5, which covers approximately the area of the country from Chicago and Boston south. Roofs may qualify for the depreciation in zones 6, 7 and 8 but would not need a cool surface. View a map of the ASHRAE Climate Zones.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Review, 2011, buildings account for 19 percent of the nation’s total energy usage and 34 percent of its electricity usage. Policies directed at commercial buildings are important to improving the economy, reducing pollution and strengthening energy efficiency. Although the country has over time maintained a steady pace in improving energy efficiency, a huge potential still exists, especially for commercial buildings. A wide range of credible estimates are available that point to this potential for cost-effective energy-efficiency improvements (see the graph).

THIS PROPOSED legislation complements the approaches taken in more comprehensive energy-efficiency proposals by focusing on the roof, which is the only building-envelope component that is regularly replaced but rarely upgraded to address energy and other environmental impacts.

Most buildings were constructed before building energy codes were first developed in the mid-1970s, or buildings were constructed under relatively weak codes, so these older, under-insulated roofs offer an important opportunity for increased energy savings. During the next 17 to 20 years, most of the weatherproof membranes on all commercial roofs will be replaced or recovered, which is the most cost-effective time to add needed insulation.

By accelerating demand for energy-efficient commercial roofs, the proposed legislation would:

    ▪▪ Create nearly 40,000 new jobs among roofing contractors and manufacturers.
    ▪▪ Add $1 billion in taxable annual revenue to the construction sector.
    ▪▪ Save $86 million in energy costs in the first year.
    ▪▪ Eliminate and offset carbon emissions by 1.2 million metric tons (equal to emissions of 229,000 cars).

THE LEGISLATION has the support of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association; National Roofing Contractors Association; Alliance to Save Energy; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Associated Buildings & Contractors Inc.; Building Owners and Managers Association International; United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers; and several more construction industry associations.

When Sens. Cardin and Crapo reintroduce the Energy-Efficient Cool Roof Jobs Act, they hope it will influence the future debate about tax and energy policy. Although consideration of tax reform has stalled for the moment, when Congress returns to this issue it will be a golden opportunity to consider ideas for reforming cost-recovery periods and removing the disincentives that overly long depreciation schedules currently place on building energy-efficiency improvements.

The Cool-roof Bandwagon: Is It Headed To Your City?

Spring is here, and summer is on the horizon. But for millions of Americans, it will take more than a few days of sunshine to thaw the memories of the winter of 2013-14. The National Weather Service is still compiling the statistics to let us know just how bad the winter really was. In the meantime, most of us have a more immediate way to measure the impact of the polar vortex on our lives: One look at our heating bills and we know that this past winter deserves its reputation as one of the most brutal on record.

On the West Coast, as 2014 dawned, very different climate issues were front and center. The city of Los Angeles was being praised for its mandate requiring all new and renovated domestic housing to install “cool”, or reflective, roofing. The L.A. City Council passed the requirement as one of its last acts of 2013, and the new ordinance became part of California’s Title 24, which already required “cool” roofs in new and remodeled commercial construction.

THE NEWS media hailed Los Angeles as the “first major city to require cool roofs”, implying other urban areas will inevitably follow its lead. However, the winter of 2013-14 did a good job of reminding us that the climatic conditions of Southern California are dramatically different from the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. This simple fact needs to be underscored as the bandwagon to require cool roofs travels somewhat erratically to major Eastern cities.

Last June, the mayor of Pittsburgh initiated a lukewarm cool roofs program by calling for volunteers to help paint the roofs of 10 city buildings white. Two-thirds of the Pittsburgh effort—$56,000—was funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies, a project of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The tagline of Bloomberg Philanthropies is “Good Intentions, Great Results.” I applaud the mayor’s good intentions in supporting projects that are designed to save energy. As for achieving “great results” by painting the roofs of 10 Pittsburgh buildings white? Don’t bet your next heating bill on it.

While Bloomberg was mayor of New York, the city launched the “NYC °Cool-Roofs” initiative, encouraging building owners to cool their rooftops by applying a reflective white coating as part of the city’s overall plan to reduce greenhouse- gas emissions 30 percent by 2030.

In Baltimore, the talk about cool roofs was fueled by a report issued last October by the Abell Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing quality of life in Baltimore and Maryland. The report, which is primarily an overview of previously published research, recommended increased use of cool roofs in Baltimore.

While these cities institute varied programs to support cool roofs, several major facts are ignored:

    ▪▪ Energy costs are closely related to climate. A solution that works in a warm and temperate climate to curb energy costs will not necessarily work in a colder climate.
    ▪▪ It’s vitally important to consider the source of information about cool roofing. Unbiased, up-to-date scientific studies can provide the data you need to make an independent judgment. Likewise, the manufacturers of roofing membranes have a vested interest in ensuring their products are used correctly and have in-depth knowledge of how roofing systems will perform in a wide variety of conditions.
    ▪▪ Choosing and installing a roof that will contain energy costs is a complex business. It requires understanding the interaction between building design, climate, insulation and all the other factors that impact the efficiency of a roofing system. A one-size-fits-all approach will only delay the discovery of workable, cost-effective, energy-efficient solutions.

IN FACT, a study conducted by Arizona State University published this past winter in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences underscores the pitfalls of disregarding climate differences in roofing decisions. “What works over one geographical area may not be optimal for another,” says sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu, who led the research.

Although the headlines are touting Los Angeles’ cool roof requirements, I’d like to see headlines that read, “Energy Savings Achieved by Roofs Designed to meet Midwest and Northeast Climate Challenges”. Before anyone thinks about driving that cool-roofing bandwagon from Los Angeles to New York, you might want to equip it with snow tires.

Tile Roofing: Closed Valleys with Low-profile Tile

Batten extensions are installed on standard tile W valley metal.

Photo 1: Batten extensions are installed on standard tile W valley metal.

A common failure point on steep-slope roof systems is at valleys. Often, aging material, improper fastening, lack of maintenance and ice dams make valleys vulnerable. A common cause of valley troubles with tile roofing occurs when flat tiles are used in areas where closed valleys are preferred and a simple installation requirement is missed.

The Tile Roof Institute (TRI) Concrete and Clay Tile Installation Manual for Moderate Climate Regions allows for open (flashing exposed) and closed (tiles meet over flashing) valley installations. Installers develop a preference based on their experience with the local climate. Contractors also consider job-specific environmental conditions, aesthetic preferences, pitch and maintenance needs when choosing from valley-installation options.

Although there are a wide variety of flashing and installation options for valleys, one important requirement is often overlooked and can cause leaks with low-profile tile. The specification is listed on pages 48 and 49 of the installation manual: “When a flat profiled tile is installed as a ‘closed valley’, a ribbed valley metal or single crown valley metal with batten extension shall be used.”

Batten extensions are installed on standard tile W valley metal.

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Unobstructed water flow in the valley flashing is critical. A flat tile installed directly onto standard valley flashing in a closed method restricts water in the valley flashing during heavy rains and may cause it to overflow. This can speed degradation of the underlayment and may cause rot in the battens and decking. A closed-valley installation can be repaired by replacing the standard tile valley flashing with the correct ribbed metal or by adding a batten extension to each row (see photo 1).

Because medium- and high-profile tiles have a natural cavity between the flashing and tile, this requirement only applies to low-profile tile. According to the TRI installation manual, the definition of a low-profile tile is, “Tiles, such as flat tile, that have a top surface rise of 1/2 inch or less.” Most tiles with a wood grain, lined or brushed surface still fall into the low-profile category and will require batten extensions or ribbed valley flashing.

An elevated batten system with ribbed valley flashing.

Photo 2: An elevated batten system with ribbed valley flashing. PHOTO: Boral Industries

When using a counter-batten system, or raised batten, the battens themselves can be extended into the valley because they are elevated on a pad or shim. In photo 2, a ribbed valley flashing and an elevated batten are used. Fasteners are not installed in/through the valley flashing.

Tile installers are craftsmen and each develops his or her own approach to valley details. Depending on the length of the valley and the tributary area, installers may flare or gradually open the width of the valley tile cut. Experienced installers may make a cut (dog ear) to the point of the tile that is overlapped by the succeeding row. Before accessory products, like ribbed valleys and batten extensions, were commercially available and before manufacturers improved the lug design, installers often removed lugs with their hammers. They developed propping and gluing skills to avoid creating a dam with their installation. Now the accessories and flashing designs make this type of installation better and easier.

Despite the variety of tiles within the low-profile category—some are flat on the back side and fastened directly to the deck, some have lugs on the back that can also utilize battens for attachment— all low-profile tile installed in a closed-valley method requires ribbed flashing or batten extensions unless precluded by manufacturer design and/or approved by the local building inspector.

An elevated batten system with ribbed valley flashing.

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Because of Florida’s wind and weather extremes, TRI and the Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association collaborated on Florida High Wind Concrete and Clay Roof Tile Installation Manual, which also is available on TRI’s website.

PHOTOS: TILE ROOFING INSTITUTE, unless otherwise noted

The Stars Align as Waukegan Roofing Celebrates 100 Years in Business

Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., is celebrating 100 years in business in 2014.

Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., Waukegan, Ill., is celebrating 100 years in business in 2014.

The universe seems to be telling Bruce Diederich he is following the right path. Diederich is president of Waukegan Roofing Co. Inc., located in Waukegan, Ill., a suburb 32-miles north of Chicago. As the roofing-contracting firm enters its 100th year in business, it’s difficult to ignore the coincidences Diederich, who has owned the company for 16 years, has uncovered while researching Waukegan Roofing’s long history.

One hundred years ago, M.C. DeThorne established Waukegan Roofing on Philippa Avenue in Waukegan. Although Waukegan Roofing no longer is located on Philippa Avenue, Diederich is grooming his son Philip to someday take over the business. Strange? It gets better: DeThorne included his company’s telephone number—1625—on advertisements discovered by a local historian. Today, Waukegan Roofing’s phone number is (847) 623-1625.

An early location of Waukegan Roofing.

An early location of Waukegan Roofing.

If that isn’t enough, it seems as though Diederich was always meant to own a roofing business. His father owned a shingles-only roofing-contracting firm for 32 years. While he was growing up, Diederich worked for the company but opted to sell roofing materials instead and went to work for Bradco Supply, now Beloit, Wis.-based ABC Supply Co. Inc. Diederich happened to sell materials to Waukegan Roofing, which at that time was owned by Ed and Dave Hiner. The Hiners’ father had bought Waukegan Roofing from the DeThorne family in 1951. When Ed Hiner mentioned in 1998 they were planning to retire, Diederich pulled $5 out of his pocket and jokingly told Ed not to sell before he could speak to his youngest brother who was interested in returning to roofing. The next day Dave Hiner invited Diederich for coffee.

“We were parked next to each other and Dave opened his trunk and said, ‘Ed and I want you to buy our company. Here are the last 10 years of financials,’” Diederich recalls. “I put them in my car and called my wife, telling her she’d never believe what just occurred. She thought they were really serious and urged me to call our attorney and accountant. Thirty days later, I owned Waukegan Roofing.”

Owner Bruce Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success.

Owner Bruce Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success.

The Hiners had followed DeThorne’s lead and focused their business on low-slope commercial and industrial roofs. Diederich realized he could offer his shingle heritage to the business. “I looked around and there were all these retail centers being built and they all had a shingle-mansard roof of some form,” he says. “I approached Waukegan Roofing’s top-five contracts and asked what they thought about me starting a shingle division. Every one of them said it would be a great idea because they could come to Waukegan Roofing for everything, not just the flat part of the roof.”

Waukegan Roofing’s shingle division has been very successful since Diederich established it in 1998. Today, the firm constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal. In addition, in 2007, Diederich started a commercial service and maintenance division, which kept Waukegan Roofing busy through the economic downturn and benefitted the company’s growth overall.

Waukegan Roofing constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal, as well as operates a commercial service and maintenance division.

Waukegan Roofing constructs all types of low- and steep-slope roofs, along with roof-related sheet metal, as well as operates a commercial service and maintenance division.

Diederich credits his 55 union employees with his company’s success. “We stick by them through thick and thin,” he says. “We just believe in the people who work for the firm and in the quality of the product we put out. Our motto is ‘Installing roofs you can rely on’, and we believe in that wholeheartedly.”

All the clues that Diederich’s chosen profession was meant to be are there, and he agrees his life has come full circle—from working in his dad’s roofing business to helming a successful roofing contracting company of his own into its 100th year. “People ask me whether I regret buying a roofing company and I say, ‘Yeah, I wish I would’ve done it 10 years earlier’,” he chuckles.

INVOLVEMENT

Bruce Diederich is immediate past president of the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association. He also is an active member of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association and National Roofing Contractors Association.

Upgrade to a Learning Management System

The first stone tools were made and used by early humans nearly 2.5 million years ago. As man evolved, so did the tools, transforming from blunt objects to precision equipment capable of greater rates of productivity and improved craftsmanship.

These days, tools aren’t the only advancements helping us do our jobs. During the past 10 years, safety training and compliance have evolved into a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of training programs.

BENEFITS

Learning Management System

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To better demonstrate the strategic value of an LMS, let’s look at the competitive profile comparing instructor-led training to LMS training. In the figure, the horizontal axis of the competitive profile captures the range of factors on which LMS and instructor-led training solutions compete. There are six principle factors:

    ▪▪ PRICE: The cost to set up and deliver an employee training solution.
    ▪▪ PERFORMANCE: Training that goes beyond introducing knowledge and generates behavior change, driving improved individual, team and organizational performance.
    ▪▪ ENGAGEMENT: Instructionally sound, visually appealing and interactive training programs that engage individuals throughout the learning.
    ▪▪ EASE OF USE: Easy set up and maintenance of the training and delivery system.
    ▪▪ CONVENIENCE: Easy employee access to the training, anytime and anywhere. This includes the office, the job site or even at home. Management can access records from mobile workstations without having to be in the office.
    ▪▪ MEASUREMENT: Easy and cost-effective learner tracking, measurement and reporting.

The figure shows LMS and instructor-led training score high for Performance, Engagement and Ease of Use. However, instructor-led training, relatively speaking and largely due to its inherent lack of convenience, is expensive (in addition to paying the training company, think travel and/or time away from the job for the trainees) and, therefore, it gets a low score on Convenience and Price.

In addition, LMS allows the employer the opportunity to automate the training process, deliver offline training and ensure continued compliance. To automate training, the employer creates a list of trainings needed by job description. These lists are then used to create a learning plan. When the employer puts a new employee into the system, the LMS will automatically assign the training content via the job description. The employer then monitors the system to ensure the employee is completing his or her training.

If the employer chooses not to use automation to assign training inside of the LMS, he or she can manually assign training courses one at a time through the system. This may be done to reissue a training course because of a workplace incident.

DID YOU KNOW?

More than 40 percent of global
Fortune 500 companies are
using some form of a Learning
Management System.

Pages: 1 2

Keys to an Effective Accident Investigation

The nature of a workplace accident will determine the extent of the investigation, the resources that will be needed, what types of investigative processes will be required and who will need to be interviewed. The following basic steps should be taken to complete a formal investigation:

  • Gather information
  • Interview witnesses
  • Review existing documentation
  • Organize and analyze the facts
  • Develop the sequence of events
  • Determine and report the cause(s)
  • Make recommendations
  • Implement solution(s)
  • Write the report

Gather Information

Your primary goal in this step is to gather accident information that can give critical clues into the causes of the accident. To achieve this goal, you must first secure the accident scene. An accident scene can be secured with cones, caution tape, or by locking a door or stationing a person to watch the scene. Once the accident scene is secure, you can collect information by photographing or sketching the scene; recording video; or reviewing recorded information, such as security videos.

Interview Witnesses

Witnesses are the best resource for gaining an understanding of how the accident occurred and the conditions that led to the accident. Witnesses include people who saw the accident, the injured person(s) and others who may have contributed to the accident. This can include supervisors and trainers, maintenance personnel and anyone else tied to the investigation.

When interviewing these people, it is important to remember emotions can run high in the wake of an accident, especially a catastrophic one. Try to put the witnesses at ease by:

  • Explaining your purpose and role.
  • Sincerely expressing concern regarding the accident and desire to prevent a similar occurrence.
  • Listening with a calm, attentive and unhurried demeanor.
  • Keeping an open mind.

Review Existing Documentation

When searching for information, investigations should not stop at the scene of the accident, physical evidence or the individuals involved. Documents related to the incident can provide insight into the causes of an accident, especially root causes. Some examples of useful documents are:

  • Technical data sheets
  • Health and Safety Committee minutes (in situations where a Safety Committee exists)
  • Inspection reports
  • Company policies/procedures
  • Maintenance reports
  • Injury and illness logs
  • Past accident reports
  • Job-hazard analyses and safe-work procedures
  • Training records and reports
  • Work schedules
  • Other documents that may substantiate safety-related systems in the area of the accident

Organize and Analyze the Facts

When all the evidence is collected and interviews are complete, a timeline of the accident should emerge. Each event on the timeline describes an actor and action. The actor effects change through action or inaction. Actors do not have to be employees; equipment or processes can impact the system to precipitate an accident.

It may take a great deal of time to determine any weaknesses in management systems or other root causes that contributed to the conditions and practices associated with the accident. [Read more…]

A Homeland Security Program Minimizes Administrative Headaches

Lines & Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation Inc. is a small family-owned business that was started in 1947. We have grown to be the largest roofing company in Yuma, Ariz. Jonathan Lines, the general manager, is the third-generation Lines to guide this company. He is taking the reins from his father, John Lines, and uncle, Steve Lundgreen, the current owners.

Unfortunately, we all know there is a lot of turnover in construction. Having to worry about eligibility for employment is a distraction from what we do. We have an office staff of two people. How do you train two people to become experts in all the different areas a businessperson needs to be aware of nowadays? It is just impossible.

A few years ago there was an article in the local newspaper about a raid on a local business. The purpose of the raid was to check for illegal workers. The article stated there were a number of illegals working at this site, and the business would receive fines above $10,000. I didn’t want to worry about this, but we were not experts on the different documents that could be used to prove eligibility and didn’t know how to look for illegal documents. I did not want to become an expert either. I thought I was doing what was needed.

A day or two after the article appeared, one of the owners was talking to a group of employees and said we would have to check all employees for document accuracy. He was joking, but we lost a surprising number of employees that morning. They just disappeared, and we all knew why. I knew that whatever we were doing was not working. Then we were audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I was more than a little uneasy as they presented their badges and realized why they were in our office.

Our audit turned out to be a positive experience. ICE agents went through each of our I-9 forms. Then they held a meeting with us. They could see we had been making an honest attempt to use appropriate hiring processes. They helped us clear up the things we were doing wrong and encouraged us to take advantage of the best employment practices available to us on the Internet.

We were using E-Verify already; E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. We now use E-Verify for I-9 documentation, socialsecurity.gov for Social Security number verification and Arizona’s New Reporting Center to withhold child support. We are in compliance and ICE does the verification. I no longer worry about these issues, which is one less headache for me.

The IMAGE Program

Lines and Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation Inc. was the second Yuma, Ariz., employer to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in a nationwide program designed to strengthen hiring practices and combat the unlawful employment of unauthorized workers. Lines and Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation was certified as an ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers (IMAGE) partner.

Lines and Lundgreen is a roofing, insulation and acoustical ceiling installation firm with 46 employees serving Yuma County and the Imperial Valley. The company’s projects range from residential roof repairs to large commercial and government contracts, such as the F-35 simulator building at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides private companies with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including the use of employment screening tools, such as E-Verify. IMAGE-certified companies also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

Employers interested in learning more about IMAGE membership should visit its web page.

The Great Melt of 2014 Means Buildings Are in Need of Repairs

Thank goodness it’s spring! The entire country battled a tough winter, so I’m sure you’re all breathing the same sigh of relief I am. Although the end of winter was a great thing, here in Chicago it caused what I like to call the “Great Melt of 2014”. For me, the snow, ice and extreme cold were bad; the resulting Great Melt of 2014 was much worse.

A little background: In 2007, I bought a second-floor two-bedroom condo on Chicago’s northwest side. The three-floor, 15-unit building had recently been gut rehabbed and I was among the first owners. For seven years, my neighbors and I have dealt with numerous construction defects; the board even passed a special assessment soon after we all moved in to deal with masonry issues. I still believe the developer is laughing on a beach somewhere with my money and I’d love to sue my inspector, but those are stories for another day.

When the Great Melt of 2014 began, as you can imagine, new problem areas arose. I couldn’t catch all the water pouring into my unit—through the back door’s frame, around a ceiling HVAC vent, through the HVAC ductwork in the utility closet and even through the microwave. Yes, you read that right. Through the microwave. The management company brought a contractor out who claimed water pouring through a duct is just condensation. Really? Even if it was condensation—which I vehemently disagreed with—who considers it OK for water to pour into their home?

After some aggressive emails and phone calls from yours truly, the management company sent another contractor to the building who diagnosed problems with the masonry (again), inappropriate mortar used on the steps leading out of our back doors onto the typical Chicago-style wraparound porch, poor incorporation of our outside-facing doors with the masonry, bad caulking around my exhaust vent (the kitchen exhaust fan is integrated with my microwave above the stove), gutter and downspout problems, and ice dams.

The point of writing about my experience—other than the therapeutic process of writing about nerve-racking problems—is condo boards and management companies could use construction partners who provide regular maintenance, make them aware of issues spotted during maintenance visits and ultimately minimize unit owners’ stress. In “Business Sense”, page 23, Scott Otey, vice president and managing partner of West Coast Florida Enterprises Inc., Naples and Fort Myers, writes about how his business has partnered with condo associations and management companies and has even joined the Falls Church, Va.-based Community Associations Institute.

The partnership not only helps the condo residents, but also keeps Otey’s team busy. I’m sure you’ll glean some ideas from him about how to network with these groups and make yourself invaluable to them.

Despite the ongoing issues with my building, I have many friends who live in multifamily buildings in Chicago that also experienced leaks during the Great Melt of 2014. Feel free to use our experiences to prove how indispensable partnerships between contractors and condo associations/management companies can be.

If you enjoy reading the magazine, please consider submitting something for the next one. Let’s talk about ideas! Call me at (630) 308-4602; email me; post a comment below; and/or Facebook and tweet us. This magazine—and your peers—are counting on you!

From Green to Blue: Making Roof Systems Sustainable in Urban Environments

Municipal storm-water managers historically have focused on controlling runoff from ground-level impervious surfaces, such as roadways, sidewalks and parking areas. However, the next frontier in storm-water management is rooftops. In urban storm-water management, roofs are part of the problem and potential solution. An exciting new technology to control rooftop runoff is known as blue roofs. Over the next several years, New York City alone will spend several billion dollars on green infrastructure solutions to address its storm-water-control problem, and blue roofs will be a key part of these efforts.

Blue-roof trays are held in place with stone ballast and hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events in a New York pilot project.

Blue-roof trays are held in place with stone ballast and hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events in a New York pilot project.

Blue Roofs

The roofing industry has become very familiar with the use of vegetated, or green, roofs. The vegetative layer grown on a rooftop provides shade and removes heat from the air through evapotranspiration, ultimately reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air. By reducing the heat-island effect, these buildings require less energy to cool in the summer and use fewer natural resources (oil or other fuel) in the process.

However, an even newer and less-well-known sustainable technology applicable to roofs is the blue roof. A blue roof temporarily stores rainwater in any of a number of types of detention systems on the roof. They are most applicable and provide the most benefit in highly urbanized cities that are serviced by combined sewers. Combined sewers handle sewage and rainwater runoff from roofs, streets and other impervious surfaces. On dry days, these combined sewers can easily handle the amount of sewage flowing through them to the local treatment plant. However, on days with heavy rain, these combined systems can easily overflow with rainwater and raw, untreated sewage. This combined sewer overflow, or CSO, can flow into local sensitive receptors, like streams, ponds and oceans, contaminating the natural resources and killing fish and other wildlife dependent on them.

The beauty of blue roofs is they can store much of this rainwater during and immediately after a rainstorm, temporarily preventing it from reaching the sewer system. In this way, CSOs are minimized and local natural resources are protected. When the storm is over and the sewer system has the capacity to handle it, the blue-roof retention materials are designed to slowly release the stored rainwater back into the storm-drain system.

This blue roof in New York uses a check dam to retain storm water.

This blue roof in New York uses a check dam to retain storm water.

NYC Pilot Program

Our firm, Geosyntec Consultants, along with environmental engineers Hazen and Sawyer and HydroQual and water-management firm Biohabitats, designed and implemented a groundbreaking blue-roof system in New York. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) retained the team to implement a sustainable green infrastructure retrofit pilot program to demonstrate how rooftops can reduce the frequency and volume of CSOs in the city. The objective was to design and install storm-water controls to quantify the benefits of sustainable approaches as a viable solution to reduce storm-water flows to the city’s CSO system. Rainfall of less than 1/2 inch can overload the system and result in untreated discharges. The use of sustainable green infrastructure, like blue roofs, to reduce storm-water inputs to the combined system is one of many approaches New York City is considering to help solve this problem.

Geosyntec’s role on the team was to design several storm-water pilot studies, including blue roofs. Our blue-roof designs included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets, small dams on the roof surface using check dams of angle-iron to create ponding and the most successful technique—blue-roof trays. We developed specially designed trays, held in-place with stone ballast, to hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events. If blue-roof trays were installed on all roofs in an entire drainage area to a CSO, the results would be significant in solving the CSO problem. In addition, trays are more practical because they can be spaced around existing equipment on roofs and moved during repairs and maintenance of other rooftop systems.

Geosyntec Consultants designed a blue roof that included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets.

Geosyntec Consultants designed a blue roof
that included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets.

Roof-system Protection

Protecting the integrity of a roof membrane is an important consideration for roofing and building contractors that are considering installing a blue roof. Blue-roof-tray systems offer the best protection because they rest on top of existing membranes and ballast systems and do not result in any membrane perforations that require additional waterproofing. Other blue-roof systems, like check dams or new drain inserts, may require additional waterproofing. The bottom line is if the roof membrane is old, compromised or currently leaking, any type of blue roof would be problematic until a new membrane is installed.

In addition, during the pilot projects, we took great care to inspect and test the roofs for load-bearing support—a step that should be conducted for all blue and green roof systems.

As we look to the future, roofs in urban areas will most definitely become a major part of the storm-water solution, and blue-roof technologies will evolve to become a common practice.

Learn More

NYCDEP has posted information about blue roofs and other urban green infrastructure for CSO control on its website.
The U.S. Green Building Council offers an online course about blue roofs for storm-water management.

PHOTOS: Geosyntec Consultants

Seal of Approval: How to Make the Most of Asphalt-shingle Sealants

Extreme weather events, such as the wide temperature swings during the recent winter and hurricanes that afflict coastal regions, have increased consumer demand for reliable and high-performance roofs. Asphalt-shingle roofs have been proven to provide the protection homeowners need, thanks to the material’s durability and longevity.

Many asphalt shingles rely on built-in sealants to provide a solid installation. This sealant material is an asphalt-based, heat-activated, viscous bonding material, which retains adhesion in difficult weather conditions, after the initial bonding of the shingles has occurred. The sealant will fuse the asphalt shingles together when each course is properly attached to the roof deck and previous courses.

IMAGE: Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association

Click to view a larger version of this image. IMAGE: Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association

The bonding sealant is factory-applied on the front or back side of the shingle, depending on the manufacturer’s design. Heat from the sun activates and softens the sealant, initiating the bonding process. After the bonding of the shingle sealant, the shingles provide a home with superior wind-resistance.

If not installed correctly, the sealant will not be able to do its job, which could result in shingle blow-offs and other performance issues. For the roofer, shingles that are not properly installed and allowed to bond could mean an unwanted call back to the job site. The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) recommends contractors follow these essential steps to ensure asphalt shingles are installed properly the first time and that sealant adhesion is not impeded:

Scheduling: If an asphalt-shingle installation takes place in cold or windy weather, it could impact the ability of the sealant to cure. The sealant cannot bond in cold weather, and the wind could shift the shingles and break the bond before it has a chance to complete the process. Follow manufacturer instructions for cold-weather installation or plan for projects when weather conditions are more suitable.

Roof Deck: Making sure the substrate and roof deck are not damaged or deteriorated is key to maximizing the potential of the asphalt-shingle sealant. If these elements are overlooked, the shingles will not have a solid base for fastener attachment, and the sealant between the shingles could be less effective.

Underlayment: Proper installation of an approved underlayment will provide the appropriate surface for shingle installation and will help manage water. Ice-barrier underlayment materials, compliant with ASTM D 1970, are recommended for use in northern climates where accumulation of snow or ice on the roof is likely. The ice shield provides extra protection from the potential for water damage; this is especially important on reroofs of older homes where the placement or quantity of attic insulation allows heat to flow to the roof.

Accessories: Roofing accessories, such as flashings at penetrations, valleys and changes in direction of the roof, are essential to making sure the sealant can do its job. Roofers should select approved accessories, whether they are drip edges, ridge vents or other architectural details.

Nailing: The actual attachment of the asphalt shingles is where a roofer has the most control over the installation process. It is important to make sure shingles are attached to the deck with the proper type, size and quantity of nails, as well as in the precise location required. Make sure the nails are in the right place by driving them in the indicated “nailing zone.” Always ensure nails used in laminated shingles are driven through the double-thickness overlap area.

Selecting a shingle that meets or exceeds wind-speed requirements in local building codes will help a roof covering withstand windstorms and protect a home. Further, roofers should always follow all building codes and manufacturer installation requirements for shingle applications.

Asphalt shingles are manufactured to provide homeowners with beautiful, affordable and reliable protection for their homes. It is up to the installer to ensure the sealants can do their job by making sure other facets of the proper installation process are followed.