Cool Roofs in Northern Climates Provide More Bang for the Buck Than We Thought

Electricity demand in Washington, D.C., plotted against daily high temperature. Source: Weather Underground, PJM Interconnection (PJME).

(Figure 1) Electricity demand in Washington, D.C., plotted against daily high temperature. Source: Weather Underground, PJM Interconnection (PJME).

The energy savings from cool, reflective, roofs have long made them the go-to roof choice in warmer and temperate climates here in the United States. Both ASHRAE and the International Energy Conservation Code have included roof surface reflectivity requirements for a number of years. About half of all new flat roofs installed in the country are highly reflective and in some product categories white options outsell dark ones by a substantial margin. It is hard to argue with the notion that, where it is warm, the roofs should be white. While the building-level impacts of cool roofs in cool climates has been covered in the past, very little has been written about the broader economic benefits of cooler buildings and cities. When we include the economic impacts of factors like improved health, air quality, and energy savings, the case for cool roofs in cool climates looks even better.

The Benefits of Cool Roofs Go Way Beyond the Building

The building-level impacts of cool roofs are a central part of the discussion about whether they should be used in cold climates. However, it is also important to recognize the substantial co-benefits that come from installing cool roofs in terms of healthier and more comfortable people, improved productivity, better air quality, and increased economic prosperity. While the economic benefits of cool roofs are substantial, they may not always be fully included in a building owner’s roof buying decision.

How much cooler could our cities become if we added more reflective roofs? In a comprehensive review on this topic, Santamouris 2012 found that when a global increase of the city’s albedo is considered, the expected mean decrease of the average ambient temperature is close to 0.5°F (0.3°C) per 0.1 increase in reflectivity, while the corresponding average decrease of the peak ambient temperature is close to 1.6°F (0.9°C). The cooling impact of reflective roofs in certain neighborhoods could be significantly better, though. A study of Chicago by Notre Dame University found that installing reflective roofs cooled city surfaces by around 3.5 to 5.5°F (2-3°C), but surfaces in the downtown core cooled by 12.5 to 14.5°F (7-8°C).

Cool Cities Are Energy Savers

We have started to better understand and quantify the impact in cities that are able to get a degree or two of cooling. The most obvious benefit is that cooler cities demand less energy on hot days. The graph in Figure 1 plots electricity demand in

Lowering the temperature of cities can bring a multitude of benefits. Source: Global Cool Cities Alliance.

(Figure 2) Lowering the temperature of cities can bring a multitude of benefits. Source: Global Cool Cities Alliance.

Washington, D.C., against the maximum temperature every day for 5 years (2010–2015). The graph’s shape looks very similar to plots from other cities with high penetrations of air conditioning units. Demand for electricity climbs rapidly above about 80°F. When the maximum temperature is 90°F, the city requires 21 percent more electricity, on average, than on 80°F days. At 95°F, demand has spiked by nearly 40 percent over the 80°F baseline. Charges for peak electricity demand are a major expense for commercial and industrial building operators and, in seventeen states, for homeowners as well. Further, peaking demand is often met by less efficient, more expensive, and dirtier power plants that worsen air quality. At worst, peak demand can cause productivity-killing service interruptions or brownouts.

Cooler Cities Are Healthier Places

Heat is a potent but silent killer. On average, heat kills more people than any other natural disaster, and heat-related deaths tend to be underreported. In 2015, Scientific American reported that 9 out of the 10 deadliest heat events in history have occurred since 2000 and have led to nearly 130,000 deaths. Cities on dangerously hot days experience 7 percent to 14 percent spikes in mortality from all causes.

Heat stress and stroke are only the tip of the pyramid of heat health impacts. Heat puts significant additional stress on people already suffering from diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and/or diabetes. A recent study finds that every 1.5°F increase in temperatures will kill 5.4 more people per 100,000 people every year.

Installing cool roofs or vegetation can lead to a meaningful reduction in heat deaths by making the daytime weather conditions more tolerable. There are a number of studies estimating the impact of increasing urban reflectivity and vegetative cover on weather conditions. Kalkstein 2012 and Vanos 2013 looked at past heat waves in 4 U.S. cities and modeled the impact of increasing reflectivity by 0.1 (the estimated equivalent of switching about 25 percent of roofs from dark to light colors) and vegetative cover by 10 percent. Though the sample sizes are too small to draw sweeping conclusions, the studies found that cities making these modest changes could shift weather into less dangerous conditions and reduce mortality by 6 percent to 7 percent.

Cooler Cities Are Engines of Economic Growth

The health, air quality, and energy benefits of modest increases in urban roof reflectivity could generate billions of dollars of

An infrared scan of Sacramento, Calif., shows the range of surface temperatures in the area. Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.

(Figure 3) An infrared scan of Sacramento, Calif., shows the range of surface temperatures in the area. Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.

economic prosperity for our cities. A study of 1,700 cities published in the Journal Nature Climate Change found that changing only 20 percent of a city’s roofs and half of its pavement to cool options could save up to 12 times what they cost to install and maintain, and reduce air temperatures by about 1.5°F (0.8°C). For the average city, such an outcome would generate over a $1 billion in net economic benefits. Best of all, adding cool roofs to between 20 and 30 percent of urban buildings is a very realistic target if existing urban heat island mitigation policy best practices are adopted.

Cool Roof Performance in Cold Climates: In Brief

As positive as cool roofs are for cities in cool climates, they first have to be a high-performing choice for the building itself. What do we know about net energy savings in cool climates with higher heating load? This question was the subject of “There is Evidence Cool Roofs Provide Benefits to Buildings in Climate Zones 4-8” in the November/December 2016 issue of Roofing that summarized the newest science and field studies that show that reflective roofs provide net energy benefits and favorable heat flux impacts on roofs in cold climates. In short, the newest research from Columbia, Princeton and others demonstrates that the size of the “winter heating penalty” is significantly less than many had thought and shows net reductions in annual energy use when cool roofs are used, even with roof insulation levels as high as R48.

Real Cool Roofs in Cold Climates: The Target Survey

It is not just the science that supports the use of reflective roofs in cold climates. The strong and steady growth of cool roofing in northern markets over the last decade or two is also a good indication that reflective roofs are a high-performance option in those areas. For almost 20 years, Target Corporation has installed reflective PVC membranes on nearly all of its stores in the

Studies estimate that modest increases in urban roof reflectivity could generate billions of dollars of economic prosperity for cities. Pictured here is the roof on the Cricket Club in Toronto. Photo: Steve Pataki

Studies estimate that modest increases in urban roof reflectivity could generate billions of dollars of economic prosperity for cities. Pictured here is the roof on the Cricket Club in Toronto. Photo: Steve Pataki

United States and Canada. The membranes are usually installed over a steel deck with no vapor retarder. Target and manufacturer Sika Corporation undertook a field study of 26 roofs on randomly chosen stores located in ASHRAE Climate Zones 4-6 including Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. The roofs were 10-14 years old at the time of the survey. None of the 51 total roof sample cuts were made across these roofs showed signs of condensation damage. A more detailed accounting of the study by representatives of Target Corporation and Sika Sarnafil published in Building Enclosure includes this important paragraph from authors Michael Fenner, Michael DiPietro and Stanley Graveline:

“Specific operational and other costs are confidential information and cannot be disclosed. However, it can be stated unequivocally that although the magnitude varies, Target has experienced net energy savings from the use of cool roofs in all but the most extreme climates. Although the savings in northern states are clearly less than those achieved in southern locations, experience over approximately two decades has validated the ongoing use of cool roofs across the entire real estate portfolio. Even in climates with lengthy heating seasons, overall cooling costs exceed heating costs in Target’s facilities.”

It is increasingly clear that installing cool roofs is the definition of “doing well by doing good.” Even in cold areas, a properly built roof system with a reflective surface is a high-performance option that delivers value for building owners while making hugely positive contributions to the neighborhoods and cities they occupy.

Steep-Slope Projects: Risks, Considerations and Best Practices for Contractors

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Many contractors treat residential roofing as routine. However, whether a re-roof or new construction, each project can be infinitely complex and should be addressed as such by always accounting for weather and safety issues, as well as proper installation and customer service.

One of the most prominent and popular elements of residential architecture is a steep-slope roof. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), steep-slope roofs have slopes greater than 4:12 and range from 18.5 degrees to 45 degrees or more. While the process of installing a roof with these angles isn’t necessarily much different from a low-slope roof, it can pose more risks and considerations for workers.

Weather Woes

Weather plays an important role in every roofing project, but staying on top of potential issues from Mother Nature is especially crucial during steep-slope jobs.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

In high temperatures, workers may fall victim to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke or worse. The best way to beat the heat is to start early and get as much done as possible before the temperature peaks. Starting early in the summer—specifically in the South—can allow work to be completed before daily rain showers roll in. Proper hydration and attire are also important.

Cold temperatures can create even more complications because some manufacturers advise against installing their products in weather below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and certain equipment is susceptible to freezing. Furthermore, workers have to pay extra attention to the grip of their shoes to avoid slipping and falling. Not to mention, freezing-cold hands and feet may cause an otherwise adept worker to become clumsy. Wearing the proper clothing is key during cold-weather jobs, and workers should be advised to keep an eye out for the first signs of frostbite, including cold skin, redness, tingling and numbness.

Safety Considerations

In 2015, falls were the leading cause of private-sector work deaths in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 40 percent of worker fatalities, according to OSHA. In addition, OSHA reports nearly 90 percent of fatal falls happen due to the lack of a fall-protection system.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

When working on a roof slope greater than 4/12, OSHA requires additional safety measures, which include either a guardrail system with toeboards, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems. Yet, many contractors—especially residential roofers—choose to forgo protective devices because they feel they are not feasible or create a greater hazard. In such cases, OSHA does allow the use of alternative fall-protection methods in residential construction, as long as contractors develop a written, job-specific fall-protection plan that complies with OSHA regulations.

Proper Installation

During the installation process, roofers should keep a few things in mind whether they’re applying shingles to a steep-slope or low-slope structure.

  • Valleys
Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Valleys are a critical part of proper roof installation because they experience the most water flow during rainstorms and can be potential leak points.

In an open valley, a piece of aluminum, copper or other type of metal is used to help keep rainwater flowing off the roof. Open valleys are often used when a homeowner wants a showier look, such as on a Colonial-style home.

Closed valleys—the most common valley installation method—use asphalt shingles and offer a more traditional look. When properly installed, they keep water from getting trapped in the valley and allow for proper drainage.

In addition to open and closed valleys, contractors also have the option to create a weave valley, which alternates shingles through the valley from both sides, creating a braid-like effect.

Laminate/architectural shingles should not be used for weave valleys. Because laminate shingles aren’t one-dimensional, they do not create the flat surface needed for a weave valley, which should only be used with three-tab shingles.

When using laminate shingles, be sure to follow instructions on the wrapper for either an open or closed application.

Contractors also need to be extremely careful around obstacles such as chimneys and skylights, which require their own flashing and water divergence methods. For instance, more flashing may be needed in these areas to divert water and prevent leaks.

  • Starter Shingles

Starter shingles allow the first course of shingles to properly seal down, protecting the edge of the roof and providing anchoring power for high-wind resistance at the critical eave and rake areas. They further protect the roof by filling in spaces under the cutouts and edges for the first course of exposed shingles, preventing wind uplift.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

The most common mistake when installing starter shingles or modifying traditional three-tab shingles is putting them on backward or upside-down.

Additionally, the overhang should be no more than three-quarters of an inch to prevent wind from penetrating beneath shingles, as well as to keep shingles from curling or cracking.

In addition, many manufacturers caution against double-stacking pallets of starter shingles, which can cause the bottom shingles to warp. Be sure to read all storage and handling instructions prior to installation.

  • Underlayment

Underlayment is an important part of the roofing process and is required by code for residential properties to meet Class A fire requirements. Serving as a secondary barrier, underlayment protects rakes, eaves and critical flashings from water infiltration. Most warranties also require underlayment for the roof to be ASTM compliant. However, some contractors still opt not to use it because they want to save time on a project or their customer balks at the cost.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Another frequent error during underlayment installation is incorrect overlaps. On low-slope roofs (slopes between 2:12 and 4:12), underlayment should have double coverage. And while traditional installation is fine on steep-slope roofs, always follow manufacturer instructions for overlaps from course to course.

Last but not least, be sure to keep underlayment from wrinkling, which can cause ripples in the shingles. While trying to keep underlayment as flat as possible, avoid pulling it too tight because it has a natural expansion and contraction. If underlayment gets wet, be sure it adequately dries out before continuing the installation process.

  • Shingles and Nails

Shingles should be installed with the manufacturer’s recommended offset, which will help prevent leak points and also properly align the shingles across the roof. Once all of the shingles are aligned, only the shingles themselves should be exposed—not the nails.

Because the common bond area is the strongest part of a shingle, manufacturers require nails be placed there to achieve the advertised wind performance. Nails should not be too high or too low, or unevenly spaced. If nails aren’t positioned correctly, the manufacturer’s wind warranty may not be valid.

Customer Service Follow-Up

Providing excellent customer service is key to every roofing job. Homeowners who have a good experience are more likely to share positive reviews and opinions.

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Photos: Atlas Roofing

Before starting a steep-slope project, be sure to discuss the entire process with homeowners to ensure that they know what to expect, as well as the types of warranties they will receive with their new roof. In addition, prepare the surrounding property, such as windows and landscaping, to prevent damage during the installation process.

During the job, be sure workers are vigilant about not dropping nails anywhere on the jobsite. After the job, walk the property with the homeowners to ensure all debris and materials were cleaned up; magnets can be used to double-check for stray nails. If the homeowners are happy with the finished product and their experience, don’t be afraid to ask them to write a nice review on the company website, Angie’s List, Yelp or other customer referral app.

Most of the best practices for steep-slope roofing can be applied to any type of roofing project. However, steep-slope work can pose additional challenges that other projects may not. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions and OSHA guidelines on all roofing jobs, but especially on steep-slope projects, when one minor slip could turn into major consequences for all involved.

About the Author: Paul Casseri is the product manager of the Roofing Shingles and Underlayment Division for Atlas Roofing Corp., He is responsible for all areas of product management, including product initiation, feasibility, design, development and testing. He is a graduate of Penn State University with more than 20 years of experience in the building products industry.


Snowstorm in the Gym

I was recently introduced to Mike Pickel, co-founder of Texas Traditions Roofing in Georgetown, Texas. We were busy preparing case studies for our education issue, so I asked him if he’d worked on any interesting school projects lately. He replied, “Well, I did just get a call about a snowstorm in the gym.”

It took a second to wrap my head around that statement. A snowstorm. In the gym. In July. In Texas.

Now, that got my attention. I must admit, that wasn’t at all what I was thinking about when I asked about projects for our education issue. Our case studies usually put the spotlight on marquee projects like the new basketball arena at Ole Miss or the new indoor football practice facility at Liberty University covered in this issue. We were also following stories about a metal roof on a new construction project in Texas, a large hot-mopped modified bitumen re-roofing project in New Jersey, and a solar installation on a school in North Carolina.

But a snowstorm in the gym—I had to hear more about that. Talking with Mike Pickel reminded me that trophy projects are one thing, but there are a lot of less glamorous but no less important tasks that can make up the typical day in the life of a roofing contractor.

Texas Traditions had helped out at Summit Christian Academy in Cedar Park, Texas, before, solving some tricky leaks in the mechanical wells over the classrooms that had puzzled other contractors for years. “They started saying we were miracle workers,” Pickel recalls. “I said, ‘No, we’re just roofers, ma’am.’ But they just loved us from that day forward.”

So, it was natural that school administrators called Texas Traditions when an unusual problem revealed itself in the gym. “They called us and said, ‘We’ve got a problem out here. We don’t know what’s going on. It looks like it’s snowing in the gym.’”

Pickel doubted it was a roof leak, but he went out and took a look. “It did look just like snow,” he says.

Luckily, Pickel had seen this once before. Years ago, he had a residential customer with the same problem—army ants. “Sure enough, army ants were up there just eating away at that iso, and it was falling down like snow through any crevices or cracks.”

Working with the private school to handle small problems is just part of the job, notes Pickel. So is helping administrators manage their budget to prepare for necessary re-roofing projects. “In some cases, we have to patch these roofs and nurse them along until they have the money for a roof replacement,” he says. “You do what you have to do to help a client. So, now we’re a pest control guy as well.”

Replacing a roof is something building owners might do just once in their lives, so explaining what’s involved is critical, notes Pickel. “You’ve got to educate the owner,” he says. “You’ve got to go out and craft a custom solution for each client. That’s what we tell our residential roof advisors all the time: Stop selling and listen to the client. That’s key for us. We excel at listening to the client and problem solving.”

Listen to clients and come up with a plan to meet their specific needs. That’s great advice no matter what line of work you’re in.

Kemper System Features Cost-Effective ‘Cool Roof’ Solutions

Kemper System America Inc. now offers two cost-effective ‘cool roof’ solutions for prolonging the life of metal, BUR, modified bitumen and aged single-ply roof systems.

Roof Guardian RG-170 is an elastomer-based coating system ideal for extending the life of many types of roofing assemblies. Formulated using a 100 percent acrylic polymer base for enhanced adhesion and durability, the coating features a high Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) rating of 109 and is Class A fire rated. Roof Guardian RG-180 is a fiber-reinforced elastomeric coating with an acrylic polymer base, ideal for metal, concrete, single ply, modified bitumen, and granular cap sheets. It offers an SRI rating of 108.

“Kemper System has been at the vanguard of liquid-applied roof waterproofing solutions for decades. These two new white Roof Guardian coating systems offer a quick and cost-effective approach for transforming many kinds of existing low-slope roofs into a cool roof that can help building owners cut cooling costs,” says Jim Arnold, Director of Product Development for Kemper System.

Part of the company’s Roof Guardian Technologies line, the roof coatings can be quickly applied with a commercial-grade sprayer or roller. The highly reflective bright white finish lowers the surface temperature of the substrate to reduce thermal transfer into the structure. This high solar reflectance helps lower indoor temperatures to reduce building cooling requirements.

Formulated to resist cracking and peeling, both products provide excellent waterproofing and long-term mildew resistance. Both solutions are Energy Star and Cool Roof rated.

“For more than 60 years, Kemper System has been a global industry leader in cold liquid- applied, reinforced roofing and waterproofing, having invented the technology and holding the first patents,” says Arnold. “Today the company offers a full range of building envelope solutions to protect against weather, preserve the integrity of surfaces, and enhance the comfort and value of buildings.”

This portfolio encompasses Wall Guardian fibered acrylic air barrier, Roof Guardian Technologies elastomer-based roof coatings, and HeatBloc-ULTRA radiant heat barrier. Other high-value brands include COLEAN traffic coating systems, and the company flagship for exterior and interior waterproofing, Kemperol reinforced membrane systems.


Call: (800) 541-5455

Feeling Comfortable With Metal Roofing

Metal Roof Consultants Inc

Photo: Metal Roof Consultants Inc.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” 

Throughout our lives, we must decide what to do and how to deal with the inevitable fear that surrounds doing anything for the first time. Remember that bicycle in the garage that looked so inviting—until you thought of how it would be impossible for you to balance yourself on those two tiny wheels and pedal it forward without falling and hurting yourself. Your mind focused on falling and not the excitement of being able to conquer riding that bicycle. Yet, as Theodore Roosevelt said many years ago, “the worst thing you can do is nothing.” 

We are faced with new things throughout our lives, and when we do we usually must weigh the possibilities of doing the right thing, the wrong thing, or nothing. However, if we expect to have a productive and peaceful life, we must force ourselves to always do “something.”  

Finally, we must also ask ourselves why we even consider new things we contemplate doing. When we take on a new task and we know why we are doing it, we are comfortable with taking whatever risk is anticipated. When we know that the only wrong thing to do is nothing, we have the possibility to achieve even greater things. Even if it turns out to be the wrong thing, we will learn valuable lessons about ourselves and the task we were trying to accomplish.  

Now, let’s look at the metal roofing industry and ask ourselves whether we are “doing nothing” either because we are afraid of “falling off the bicycle” or because we haven’t determined why we want to enter this market. Both reasons limit your personal and business potential to what you are doing now. Now, let’s explore some of the reasons you might not be comfortable entering the metal roof market, thereby limiting your growth potential. 

The Metal Market

Metal roofing has been around since 1932, when the first standing seam roof panel was introduced by Armco steel at the World’s Fair in Chicago. However, it is still a rather small percentage of the total roofing market. Why? In part, it’s because some contractors fear entering this market. Let’s look at some of the reasons that the unknown aspects of metal roofing, or the incorrect perception of a metal roofing system, can cause contractors to avoid this market: 

Metal Roof Consultants Inc.

Photo: Metal Roof Consultants Inc.

Specialized workforce. There is the perception that this market requires a field force that is very difficult to gather. The reality is that the metal roofing systems in today’s market include parts and components that are easily put together. Manufacturers provide training in how to install their specific pre-manufactured components that make up a metal roof system. In general, there are panels, clips, and termination components (ridge, rake, gutter/eave, curbs, etc.). These components have been developed over decades of trial and error and, when installed correctly, will create a leak-proof roof system which will last as long as any of the other building components. In addition to the metal roof manufacturers, the Metal Buildings and Erectors Association (MBCEA) is a group that provides independent training on the proper erection of metal buildings, including all components of a metal roof system. 

Engineering. The engineering associated with a metal roof system is the responsibility of the manufacturer per the International Building Code (IBC). Local engineering for a particular metal roof can be provided by a professional engineer licensed in the locale of the particular job site. Both sources are readily available to the contractor that wishes to enter the metal roof contracting business. The contractor should not have any concerns about this aspect of a metal roof if he does his due diligence and partners with a manufacturer that will provide the tested engineering characteristics of a particular roofing system and a local engineer who can take that information and perform a code-required analysis. 

Details. As opposed to sheet membrane or shingled roof systems, the metal roof system has its own details. These details require a different understanding of water protection. Metal components, including the actual roof sheet, will not allow water to penetrate and, if protected with a galvalume coating, will last well over 60 years (refer to, Technical Resources, “Service Life Assessment of Low-Slope Unpainted 55% Al-Zn Alloy Coated Steel Standing Seam Metal Roof Systems”).  

These metal components, however, need to be joined and terminated with sealants and fasteners to create a total water-resisting barrier. Again, the panel manufacturers have time-tested details to assist contractors. A word of caution, however: Make sure that you properly select the panel type (standing seam, corrugated panel, snap seam panel, etc.) that best suits the project, and match those selections with a manufacturer and the detail that will perform best. Finally, the local engineer must be used to ensure the detailing will resist the local design loads. The contractor is only responsible to select that qualified manufacturer and engineer—not become one. 

Cost. “Since metal roofs cost a lot more than conventional roofs, they must be hard to sell.” While this statement is prevalent in the metal roofing market, it is blatantly untrue. While the initial cost may be higher than a conventional roof, a metal roof offers an exceptional value over its lifetime. In fewer than 20 years, the cost of a metal roof system can be as much as 50 percent less than that of many conventional roofs, and conservatively one-third the cost of these roofs over a 60-year time frame. End of argument!  

The Retrofit Segment

What about metal retrofit roofing? While that question might scare you more than merely considering entering the overall metal roofing market, it can definitely expand your horizon and offers more potential than just riding a bicycle. If you’ve ever ridden in a car, you know that the experience, comfort and potential for getting places is greatly enhanced. The same concept applies when expanding your metal roof market possibilities to include the lucrative metal retrofit roofing market. This market, with its extremely limited contractor participation and increasing customer demand, makes it very interesting to consider.  

Metal Roof Consultants Inc.

Photo: Metal Roof Consultants Inc.

A recent metal retrofit roofing package of six roofs totaling more than $20 million bid in North Carolina, and only three companies submitted bids. Each contractor ended up with two projects each, totaling between $6 and $9 million per contractor. During this same time, single-ply and shingle projects in the same geographical area attracted many more contractors. Again, you may feel that all-too-familiar twinge in your stomach caused by only looking at the negative consequences you might encounter. However, doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. It is true that finding manufacturers and engineers to assist you when entering the retrofit market can be difficult, as the pool is much more limited than that of the metal roofing industry in general, but these resources are available to you. Just be diligent and look harder!  

Finally, consider what a very wise man said many years ago to a young man just out of college. He said, “Can’t never did anything.” That wise man was my father, and he spoke those words on my college graduation day. My experience has seen the metal roof market develop with many new innovations. The metal retrofit roofing market was not even in existence in the 1970s, but it has since become a market that grows year after year. I have been lucky enough to see, and be part of, a revolution in the roofing industry with respect to metal roofing’s place. All the tools you need to enter the market are out there, but, like that bicycle many years ago, you must first determine why you want to ride it and be willing to risk falling off a few times. The rewards are worth it, even if you get your knees scraped a few times. 

Miami-Dade County and ARMA Team Up to Update High-Wind Codes

ARMA awarded the Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources Department the 2017 ARMA Public Partnership Award.

ARMA awarded the Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources Department the 2017 ARMA Public Partnership Award. Aaron R. Phillips, Corporate Director of Technical Services at TAMKO Building Products and chair of the ARMA Codes Steering Group, presented the award to Michael Goolsby and Miami-Dade team members who worked on the project. Pictured at the ceremony are (from left) Eduardo Fernandez, Gaspar Rodriguez, Michael Goolsby, Aaron Phillips, Alex Tigera and Jorge Acebo.

In the aftermath of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, the entire building code for South Florida was rebuilt from the ground up. When it was launched in 1994, the South Florida Building Code was a groundbreaking document that set new roofing application standards and testing protocols for every component and system in the building envelope. More than two decades later, it was clear the building code for Miami-Dade County’s high-velocity hurricane zone (HVHZ) needed to be updated. Beginning in 2014, Miami-Dade County officials worked with the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA) and others in the roofing industry to ensure the current code language was clear and up to date.

Two-and-a-half years later, their work is complete. The 2017 Florida Building Code is scheduled for implementation on Jan. 1, 2018, and it will include every one of the proposals and public comments jointly submitted by ARMA and Miami-Dade. As a result of this successful collaboration, ARMA presented the Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources Department with the inaugural ARMA Public Partnership Award in 2017 for their work together in updating the building codes for the HVHZ.

Members of the joint task force on the project shared their thoughts on the experience with Roofing, including Mike Fischer, ARMA’s Vice President of Codes & Regulatory Compliance; Michael Goolsby, Miami-Dade Board and Code Administration Division Director; Jorge Acebo, Roofing Product Control Examiner; Alex Tigera, Roofing Product Control Examiner; and Gaspar Rodriguez, Code Compliance and Training Officer, Roofing.

They all believe this collaboration between industry and government could serve as a successful model for other industry trade associations and other code bodies to follow. “This kind of cooperation between a public regulator and a private trade association is rare enough,” says Fischer. “The overwhelmingly positive results are unprecedented.”

The Problems

Miami-Dade staff and ARMA representatives both saw shortcomings in the roofing requirements for HVHZ. There were outdated references that needed to be removed, including test standards that were out of date. This often resulted in questions that slowed down the product approval review process. Members of the roofing industry also wanted to explore coordinating the Miami-Dade HVHZ protocols with other national testing requirements to further streamline testing procedures.

Fischer summed up ARMA’s goals this way: “ARMA is a responsible advocate for the asphalt roofing industry. We take that role seriously. We are an advocate. Our job is to represent the collective interests of the producers, but we try to be responsible about it. And it’s that drive to be responsible which led us to this partnership with the Miami-Dade staff.”

At the first meeting between ARMA and Miami-Dade, Fischer tried to break the ice. “The first thing we said when we came into that meeting was, ‘Hi, we’re from industry and we’re here to help,’” Fischer recalls. “I will tell you that when we started that meeting in the morning, the Miami-Dade staff was probably skeptical of what we were there for. By the end of the day, we had laid out a project plan of how we were going to work together, and that set the tone for the rest of the project.”

Fischer knew it would take the two entities working together to get things done. “In the Florida process, we knew we had to work with Miami-Dade, as they are a key stakeholder. We brought in other roof covering manufacturers for some of the discussions, and we also talked to the FRSA, the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Association—the contractors—so they were at the table for quite a bit of this as well.”
ARMA set up a special task group to focus on the Miami-Dade protocols. The task force went through documents one by one with members of Miami-Dade group, identifying problems and sections that were out of date. They hashed out compromises when they didn’t agree.

Protecting the Public

Goolsby worked on the project on behalf of Miami-Dade along with members of his team including Acebo, Tigera and Rodriguez. “We cover a lot of territory,” notes Goolsby. “We maintain the building code and write the building code, but we also oversee all of the contractor licensing in Miami-Dade County. We have about 15,000 local licensed contractors. Of course, we handle product approvals, and we also service all of the boards here. We have a board of rules and appeals. We also oversee 35 building departments throughout Miami-Dade County. We try to make sure the code is uniformly enforced in all of those jurisdictions. So, we cover a lot of bases.”

The top priority is protecting the public. “In a general sense, we provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Goolsby says, “But it’s these issues of life safety that are the most critical.”
Evacuating South Florida is difficult, so the residential portions of the code were written under the assumption that many people might have to ride out a storm in their homes. “We wanted their home to be just as strong as any commercial structure,” says Goolsby.

Acebo notes that ensuring the code is properly followed is as crucial as the code itself. He believes the inspectors’ role includes reassuring homeowners that systems are being installed correctly. “It’s important to us to fulfill our role to provide independent corroboration that the work is being done and installed properly,” he says. “The great thing about this particular effort is that it was truly collaborative. It was great to work with them and establish the language that was common with other jurisdictions or other certification agencies.”

Promising Results

Members of the joint task force agree that the changes make the code easier to understand. They also should streamline product approvals process.

“These updates definitely help the manufacturers get through the product approval process, specifically for Miami-Dade HVHZ requirements,” Fischer states. “It also helps the roofing contractor because we made sure the documents have the installation language updated, so it gives better direction to the installers of the products. And that trickles up to the general contractors in new construction, as it speeds up their processes and takes out some burdens.”

“At the end of the day, as a responsible advocate, one of ARMA’s main motivators was to make sure their industry’s products get installed the way they are intended to be installed,” Fischer continues. “That benefits the end user—the building owner and building occupant.”

Acebo agrees that the approvals process helps everyone—homeowners, contractors, manufacturers and inspectors. “If questions come out of the field from homeowners, manufacturers or contractors as to whether something is being applied or used properly, we can serve as that independent third party that doesn’t really have a stake in it other than to serve as an arbitrator who can clearly indicate whether something is right or not according to what has been provided and tested.”

The collaboration was so successful that the task force is already looking at other changes in the future. The Miami-Dade code is used as a model for other code bodies, and the joint task force could serve in that role as well, according to Fischer. “This is a model of collaboration between a governmental agency and private industry groups that will serve us well,” he says. “We are going to continue to do this with other groups, and frankly we’re going to continue doing it with Miami-Dade because this process isn’t ever done. Things will always be changing and we always have to keep up to date.”

Hot-Air Welding Under Changing Environmental Conditions

The robotic welder’s speed, heat output and pressure should be properly programmed before the welding process begins. Photo: Leister.

The robotic welder’s speed, heat output and pressure should be properly programmed before the welding process begins. Photo: Leister.

Today’s most powerful hot-air welders for overlap welding of thermoplastic membranes are advertised to achieve speeds of up to 18 meters (59 feet) per minute. That’s fast enough to quickly ruin a roofing contractor’s day.

These robotic welders are digitally monitored to achieve consistent overlap welding performance, but they cannot adapt to changing environmental conditions automatically. It’s the contractor’s job to monitor and assess seam quality before the base seam is welded and when ambient temperatures or other factors potentially influence welding performance.

Successful hot-air welding requires the use of specialized, properly maintained and adjusted equipment operated by experienced personnel familiar with hot-air welding techniques. Achieving consistent welds is a function of ensuring that the roofing membrane surface is clean and prepared for heat welding, conducting test welds to determine proper equipment settings, and evaluating weld quality after welding has been completed.

Setting up hot-air robotic welders properly is the key to having a properly installed thermoplastic roof, and performing test welds is one of the most important steps. Making appropriate adjustments before the welding process begins ensures that the correct combination of welder speed, heat output and pressure is programmed into the robotic welder.

For most roofing professionals, these procedures have been firmly established in the minds of their crews and equipment operators through education and field training. But let’s not forget that Murphy’s Law often rules on both large and small low-slope roofing projects.

The frightening reality about using robotic welders is if they are set-up incorrectly or environmental conditions change, the applicator may weld thousands of feet of non-spec seam before anyone even bothers to check. If you probe for voids at the end of the day, it is probably too late.

If serious problems are discovered, the applicator must strip in a new weld via adhesive, cover tape, or heat welding, depending on what the membrane manufacturer will allow. If seams must be re-welded, the operator has to create not one, but two robotic welds on each side of the cover strip. The sheet will also need to be cleaned and re-conditioned no matter what method is used.

Can these errors be corrected? Absolutely. Except now the crew is in a real hurry because the roofer is working on his own time, and application errors tend to snowball under these conditions.

Reality Check

What goes on in the field is sometimes quite different than what one sees when hot-air welding thermoplastics under an expert’s supervision.To support this view, we asked four field service reps, each with a minimum of 35 years of roofing experience, to comment. The most senior “tech” has worked for six different thermoplastic membrane manufacturers in his career. Their names shall remain anonymous, but this writer will be happy to put readers in touch with them upon request.

Successful hand welding is a skill that is developed and refined over time. The correct selection of welder temperature and nozzle width can have a significant effect on the quality of the hand weld. Photo: GAF.

Successful hand welding is a skill that is developed and refined over time. The correct selection of welder temperature and nozzle width can have a significant effect on the quality of the hand weld. Photo: GAF.

So, let’s welcome Christian, Dave, Mark and Walter, and get straight to the point: Is the average roofing crew diligent enough when it comes to properly testing welds using industry best practices?

“I would say ‘probably not,” exclaims Walter. Dave just shakes his head as his colleague Mark adds, “I would have to say no.”

Considering the generally laudable performance of thermoplastic membranes over the last decade or so, we must interpret our experts’ opinions as suggesting the need for further improvement in hot-air welding techniques. Hence, the purpose of this article.

“There are a few outstanding issues causing bad welds,” says Walter. “These include welding over dirty or contaminated membranes; improper equipment setup; using crews with inadequate training; and knowing the difference between the weldability of various manufacturers’ membranes.”

Welding equipment consists of three main components: the power supply, the hot air welder (either automatic or hand-held), and the extension cord. A stable power supply of adequate wattage and consistent voltage is critical to obtaining consistent hot air welds and to prevent damage to the welder.

The use of a contractor-supplied portable generator is recommended, although house-supplied power may be acceptable. Relying on power sources that are used for other equipment that cycle on and off is not recommended. Power surges and/or disruptions and insufficient power may also impact welding quality. Proper maintenance of welding equipment is also of obvious importance.

“Contractors seem to never have enough power on the roof,” observes Mark. “The more consistent your power is, the more consistent your welds will be. Too many times, I’ve seen too many tools (hand guns, auto welder, screw guns and a RhinoBond machine) plugged into one generator.”

Generator-induced challenges on the jobsite are going to arise, agrees Christian. “But at least today there is more experience in understanding, dealing with, and ultimately preventing these issues,” he says.

Most TPO and PVC membrane suppliers also recommend using the latest automatic welding equipment, which provides improved control of speed, temperature and pressure. Our four experts generally agree that field welding performance has improved over the years and programmable robotic welders have helped. They also point to proper training and experience as crucial factors.

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Follow Proper Safety Standards and Procedures When Loading Materials on the Roof

Ladder hoists can easily transport up to 400 pounds of materials to high rooftops.

Ladder hoists can easily transport up to 400 pounds of materials to high rooftops.

Architects, building owners, contractors, facility managers and other skilled professionals allied with the roofing industry rely on proven safety standards and procedures to keep workers safe. This attention to safety is even more important in areas where natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes are a frequent occurrence.

Earthquake-resistant roofing: After an earthquake, the collapse of poorly constructed concrete roofs and walls leads to significant injuries and death. This is especially true in economically disadvantaged countries where building codes are absent and financial resources are limited. Lighter roofing materials like aluminum and other metals pose less risk for earthquake survivors, and disaster-resistant monolithic shells made of reinforced concrete show real promise.

Hurricane-resistant roofing: Clay tiles and concrete tiles hold up better than wood and other types of shingles in hurricane conditions. In Guam, monolithic domes made completely of reinforced concrete have withstood both earthquakes and hurricanes for 50 years.

Tornado-resistant roofing: Unlike earthquake zones and likely hurricane pathways, tornado-prone areas have no international code for building. Keeping the roof on a building may prevent the walls from collapsing and heavier materials like reinforced concrete seem to best suit this purpose. Insulating concrete forms (ICFs) are being used for roofing but serve more for insulation than for structural integrity in a storm. Once again, reinforced concrete building materials hold up the best. Kenneth Luttrell, PE/CE/SE, MACI, and Joseph Warnes, PE/CE, FACI, FPCI provide detailed analysis in their study titled “Hurricane and Tornado-Resistant Concrete Houses.”

Of course, the very materials that make buildings resistant to natural disasters—especially the reinforced concrete and clay tiles that stand up to hurricanes and tornadoes—present a greater worker safety risk due to their size and weight. You can still get those bulky, heavy materials to the roof and safeguard worker well-being if you choose the right material hoist to prevent falls, decrease injuries, and minimize the chances of both non-fatal and fatal accidents.

Material Transport Options and Risks

Roofing jobs include inherent costs and risks. Transporting materials to the roof is labor-intensive, hazardous work when you must manually carry objects up a ladder. Bulky and/or heavy items increase the risk of accidents, including falls that can lead to death. If you violate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “three points of contact” regulation regarding ladders, you face stiff fines. Boom trucks and roofing conveyors may partially eliminate some of this risk, but they require operator training, rental fees and significant space. They can also potentially cause property damage to driveways, lawns and landscaping. These machines can fail to unload materials safely away from the edge of the roof, which is precisely where you want them. In many cases, an OSHA-approved material hoist is the better, safer alternative.

A platform hoist can decrease the risk of injuries, minimize OSHA infractions, prevent accidents and reduce worker fatigue.

A platform hoist can decrease the risk of injuries, minimize OSHA infractions, prevent accidents and reduce worker fatigue.

OSHA Regulations

OSHA ruling 29 CFR §1910.28(a), which took effect in January 2017, puts the responsibility for worker safety—especially the testing and certification of fall-protection systems—on the building owners who hire roofing contractors. Employers must now provide fall protection for employees who will be walking or working on a surface with an edge that is four or more feet above the ground. Depending on the fall danger, employers are free to choose from guardrails, personal fall arrest (PFA) systems, safety nets, travel-restraining systems, or warning lines that mark a designated work area near a low drop-off.

This ruling revised previous industry rules regarding falling, slipping and tripping in the workplace so that the construction rules and the general industry rules are more closely aligned. Unfortunately, repair work—governed by OSHA’s mandate 29 CFR §1926 for the construction industry—and maintenance work—regulated by 29 CFR §1910 for general industry—are still ambiguous.

A provision for ladders is also included in the new ruling. A cage, ladder safety system (a body harness and connectors, carrier, lanyard, or safety sleeve), a PFA system, or a well must be included on fixed ladders installed before Nov. 19, 2018, that extend more than 24 feet from a lower level. On or after that date, fixed ladders must include a ladder safety system or a PFA to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of falls.

Under the new regulation, roofing contractors using these fixed ladders must ensure their workers’ safety with a cage, ladder safety device, self-retracting lifeline or well. Rest platforms are also required, depending on the height of the fixed ladder. Rope descent systems (RDSs) and their anchorages must be tested and certified in writing by the building owners.

In addition to regulating how workers should be protected from falls, OSHA also monitors how objects are carried and loaded/unloaded. For those doing manual lifting, OSHA states that:

  • Every person going up and/or down a ladder will grasp the ladder with at least one hand at all times, maintaining three points of contact with the ladder—either with two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet.
  • Workers must not carry loads and objects that might cause them to slip or fall.
  • All ladders, including portable extension ladders, fall under these OSHA rules.
  • Ladders must support four times their intended load unless they are labeled “rugged use, extra-heavy-duty,” in which case they are require to support a minimum of 3.3 times their 375-pound capacity.
  • No load is allowed to exceed the published weight limit.
  • Ladders may only be used for their intended purpose.
  • Non-self-supporting ladders must be tilted at an angle so the base of the ladder is one-quarter of the working length of the ladder away from whatever is supporting the top of the ladder.

Choose an OSHA-approved ladder hoist to meet these safety standards.

Material Hoists

For your workers’ safety, choose a material hoist company committed to your safety and to excellence, quality and service. Their products should easily transport up to 400 pounds of materials to high rooftops, keeping your team off of ladders. By handling the bulky, unstable and heaviest objects, a platform hoist decreases the risk of injuries, minimizes OSHA infractions, prevents accidents and cuts workers compensation claims. It also reduces worker fatigue.

Look for a ladder hoist designed to accommodate all types of building materials. This includes the new, heavier shingle packages that increase efficiency by increasing the number of shingles (and therefore the weight) of each shingle package. Also take into account the heavier materials that have proven their worth in areas prone to earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes including:

  • Clay tiles, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds/100 square feet
  • Concrete tiles, which can weigh up to 700 pounds /100 square feet
  • Reinforced concrete, which varies in weight due to thickness
  • Slate tiles, which can weigh up to 1300 pounds /100 square feet

Product Attachments

Choose a ladder hoist with product attachments that can handle the bulkier materials required for natural-disaster-resistant construction. An unloading ramp automatically unloads away from the roof’s edge, increasing safety and efficiency. Custom support braces stabilize your hoist or “laddervator,” protecting workers at greater heights. A plywood carrier can transport bulky material like rolled goods, sheets of metal or plywood, skylights, and trusses, keeping workers safe from carrying unwieldy items up a ladder one-handed.

Don’t let unwieldy, heavy objects or special materials that have proven their effectiveness in natural disaster zones keep you from a great safety record. Start with an OSHA-compliant platform hoist.

Learn more about this latest regulation at OSHA’s fall protection page.

Innovative Roofing Insulation Appeals to Owners, Architects

Because Rich-E-Board roofing insulation is light and easy to install, it lowers the cost of delivery and handling and can reduce labor costs by more than half.

Because Rich-E-Board roofing insulation is light and easy to install, it lowers the cost of delivery and handling and can reduce labor costs by more than half.

It’s exceptionally thin and easy to install. It delivers an R-value of 50 to commercial, industrial and government buildings. Now, Rich-E-Board, the innovative new roofing insulation, is enjoying a groundswell of interest from building
owners, contractors and architects seeking to drive down construction costs and boost energy efficiency.

Rich-E-Board recently received a patent for its proprietary Vacuum Insulated Panel—two polymeric foam cover boards that sandwich the panel—and the adhesive ribbons that bind the boards and panel together. This ultra-thin insulation offers a certified alternative to a huge commercial roofing market—billions of square feet in construction every year—challenged with
meeting stringent standards for energy efficiency.

While conventional insulation requires a thickness of 15 inches to reach an R-value of 50, Rich-E-Board achieves the same result at just 1.5 inches thick. Rich-E-Board can be installed on most roof deck types, including ballasted roof systems, and can support all conventional low-slope roof systems.

Rich-E-Board’s design delivers significant advantages:

  • Lower energy bills: Achieving an R-value of 50 can cut a building’s heating and cooling costs by 8 to 10 percent, according to the GSA.
  • Simpler retrofits: Rich-E-Board enables retrofitted structures to achieve required R-values in less time, with fewer materials, and without costly and destructive building modifications.
  • Reduced construction costs: Because Rich-E-Board is light and easy to install, it lowers the cost of delivery and handling and can reduce labor costs by more than half.
  • Design flexibility: With its slim profile— especially compared with multi-layer insulation— Rich-E-Board saves space, expanding the design options for architects.

Rich-E-Board is also fireproof and water and mold resistant, notes Joanne Collins, president and CEO of R-50 Systems, maker of Rich-EBoard. “Our team focused on creating a game-changing alternative,” Collins says. “Rich-E-Board fills a significant
void in the marketplace by providing an insulation system capable of meeting today’s tougher energy standards.”

Success in the Field

Rich-E-Board has made a successful transition from the drawing board to the marketplace. Owners and architects have taken advantage of the insulation’s slim profile and high R-value on several building projects.

At a government building in Chicago, for example, owners chose to install 3,600 square-feet of Rich-E-Board as part of a roof retrofit aimed at lowering lifetime energy costs. Rich-E-Board’s slim profile also cut construction costs by more than $20,000 by streamlining design and installation.

At the Cohen Courthouse in Camden, N.J., Rich-E-Board was selected for the roof retrofit, eliminating the need for expensive building modifications that would have been required for conventional insulation. The decision lowered the project cost by $200,000.

Earlier this year, Rich-E-Board was awarded a patent for its design. More recently, the insulation earned its first LEED 4 designation.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in Rich-E-Board as the roofing market learns more about the benefits it brings to the commercial roofing,” Collins says. “This product fills a significant void by providing an insulation system capable
of meeting today’s tougher energy standards.”

Collins notes that, in addition to the $5 billion annual market for commercial roofing, Rich-E-Board can be used in walls and other building applications. Rich-E-Board is 99 percent recyclable and made entirely in the U.S.


The Beer That Saved My Life

Did I ever tell you about the beer that saved my life?

One day, the freezer motor in my refrigerator started to make a horrendous shrieking sound. I opened the freezer door, grabbed a pound of frozen ground round, and threw it at the back wall of the freezer. The noise stopped. Problem solved.

Unfortunately, the shrieking episodes continued and became more and more frequent. When I began dating Patti, the lovely woman who later became my wife, she was not impressed. “What are you going to do about that?” she said, hooking a thumb at my musical freezer. “What do you mean?” I replied. “I’m just never going to thaw that ground round.”

I knew that wasn’t a good long-term answer, but a new refrigerator was just not in my budget. However, Patti did some research and found out that a new freezer motor was relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

After purchasing the motor, I pulled out the refrigerator to install it. The galley kitchen was tight, so I had to reach around the refrigerator blindly to unplug it. I removed the back panel of the freezer and took out the old motor without too much difficulty. It was thirsty work, and remembered I had some beer in the refrigerator that would still be cold. I opened the door to pull one out, and realized with alarm that the refrigerator light was on. The unit was still plugged in!

Suddenly I wasn’t very thirsty any more. I realized that I had unplugged the microwave instead of the refrigerator. I was lucky not to have been shocked. It probably wouldn’t have been fatal, but I guess it possibly might have been, and it makes a better story to tell it that way. In any event, after unplugging the unit, I was able to complete the repair. We thawed the ground round and cooked up some hamburgers that night to celebrate.

What does this have to do with roofing? Unfortunately, too much. Many building owners think of their roofs much like I thought of my refrigerator. It is the job of roofing professionals to educate them so they can avoid these common mistakes:

  • Out of sight, out of mind: Roofs are often overlooked by building owners unless a problem crops up. But that’s often too late. Routine maintenance can be the key to spotting minor problems before they become major ones. It can also be a necessary component of the warranty.
  • Using stopgap measures: If a problem does crop up, owners might try to repair it themselves and cause more harm than good. As the roof becomes a platform for not only HVAC equipment but solar arrays, cell towers and satellite dishes, damage to the roof becomes more and more likely.
  • Not consulting a professional: Roofs face potential damage from extreme weather, debris, foot traffic, and a host of other problems. To get the most out of their investment, building owners need expert advice. Planning ahead can make budgeting a future repair or roof replacement much easier.
  • If you are a roofing professional with clients who might not be getting the most out of their roofing assets, stop by and talk to them about the benefits of a roof inspection or a maintenance program. Invite them out for a beer to talk it over. Of course, drinking alcoholic beverages on the job is never advisable under any circumstances, but a beer after work never hurt anyone. Who knows, it just might save someone’s life.