Water Is Construction’s Worst Enemy

I have a water phobia. When I was very young I fell into a pool and nearly drowned. Consequently, I never learned to swim out of sheer fear. Despite my attempts to avoid it, water continues to haunt me. (See an article I wrote about my Chicago condo’s construction defects for some background.) It’s ironic I now live along the nation’s southernmost glacial lake. I love the view from our home, but the lake’s recreational opportunities are lost on me.

To further substantiate my negative feelings toward water, 2015 was an especially wet year for the Midwest. In mid-December, my Iowa town received 5 inches of rain in a day and a half. Our basement—where my office is located—flooded (for the second time since August). My husband bought the house (which he planned to make his lifelong bachelor pad) knowing the basement might leak during heavy-rain events. He never planned to have anything down there. Then I came along.

As this issue was coming together—around the same time our basement was soaked—I read a line in “Tech Point” that really resonated with me: “… water is construction’s worst enemy, so when it goes where it shouldn’t, it’s causing damage—seen or unseen.” I shared that line, which was written by Armand T. Christopher Jr., AIA, with my husband. The next week we hired a basement waterproofing contractor to solve our ongoing water problems.

Christopher’s story likely will resonate with you, as well. He and his team had recently installed a PVC roof system on a high-profile government building in central New Jersey. Six months after the install, a three-day nor’easter exposed numerous leaks in the building, which the client thought were coming from the new roof. The ensuing “detective work” Christopher’s team completed was tedious but uncovered the cause of the leaks and made Christopher and his colleagues heroes.

Christopher points out a nice feature of the roof’s thermoplastic cap sheet is areas where water had pooled within the roof system were dried and resealed with heat-welded target patches. Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CSI, RRP, builds upon this idea in his “From the Hutchinson Files” article. Hutchinson notes today’s “new age” roofs may not require removing all system components during reroofing. Instead, it may be in the customer’s best interest to consider restoration; roof-cover removal, enhanced with additional insulation; using the existing roof membrane as a vapor retarder; or membrane removal before installation of a new roof cover.

My husband and I seem to have found the best solution to our basement water problems. Although we’re not looking forward to the construction ahead, we are excited about all the things we can do with a dry basement. Right now, we’re envisioning a mini spa in which we can relax after a stressful workday—another welcome upgrade my husband never imagined for his “bachelor pad”.

KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly

Editor Christina Koch married Bart Thoreson on Aug. 29 along the lake behind their Iowa home.

Editor Christina Koch married Bart Thoreson on Aug. 29 along the lake behind their Iowa home.

My new husband Bart is the one who shared the “work smart, not hard” mantra I related in my November/December 2014 “Raise the Roof” column, page 8. He’s constantly recommending ways to complete tasks that I have to admit are simpler than my own attempts. It’s not always easy for me to accept his suggestions because I’ve being doing things just fine on my own for a long time.

I can’t help but see the parallels to the construction industry—an industry that many say is slow to change. However, I think we can all agree that if a new way of doing things helps us work smarter, it’s worth a try. In “Business Sense”, Todd A. Jones and Katie Dunn discuss project delivery methods. Jones, an attorney with experience in construction law and litigation, points out that fewer contracts and more coordination with design-build lead to more efficient projects. Jones also thinks that as the construction industry continues to embrace design-build,we’ll see less litigation—a win-win for everyone.

Surely, as you’ve become more experienced in your position, you’ve developed “tricks of the trade” that help you complete tasks more efficiently. In “Tech Point”, John Jensen, president of Jensen Roofing Inc., Newcastle, Wash., and the training program manager for the Edmonds, Wash.-based Tile Roofing Institute, shares a couple “tricks” that will ease tile roofing layout. What are your “tricks of the trade”? Please share them with me!

Her Roofing family was in attendance (shown here at the rehearsal dinner). From left to right: John Riester, vice president of business development; Barrett Hahn, publisher, who served as the wedding photographer; and Becky Riester, who was a bridesmaid.

Koch’s Roofing family was in attendance (shown here at the rehearsal dinner). From left to right: John Riester, vice president of business development; Barrett Hahn, publisher, who served as the wedding photographer; and Becky Riester, who was a bridesmaid.

As winter approaches, it’s a good time to remind your customers how they can avoid emergency calls to your roofing company. In “On My Mind”, Connie Menard with Greenawalt Roofing Co., Landisville, Pa., shares seven tips your customers can complete to ensure their buildings are well protected this winter. Step No. 6 is “Clean your gutters”, something my husband does for our home and that of our elderly neighbor on a regular basis. Our neighbor says I’m lucky to have such a considerate husband. Bart says he’s just trying to avoid potential problems from arising. I’m pretty sure they’re both right.

Learning and Trying New Things

The start of a new school year is always an exciting time. As I see my friends post photos on Facebook of their kids’ first days of school, I am reminded of the excitement I felt way back when. I loved wearing a new outfit, seeing friends I hadn’t seen in awhile and anticipating all the fun—and learning—in the year ahead. In a way, I get to recreate those feelings each time I put together a new issue of Roofing. I’m continually learning about the industry and this issue is no different.

For example, in “From the Hutchinson Files”, Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CSI, RRP, principal of Hutchinson Design Group, Barrington, Ill., and a Roofing editorial advisor, explains the virtues of cover boards. As he points out in his article, the use of cover boards can now be considered a good roofing practice.

Meanwhile, Jared O. Blum, president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, Bethesda, Md., explains a new white paper about polyisocyanurate insulation R-values in “Cool Roofing”. He states the R-value of polyiso roof insulation is reduced at some point at lower temperatures, but within any reasonable temperature range associated with typical building operating conditions in almost any climate in North America the difference appears to be very small.

In addition, we here at Roofing like to learn and try new things. As a result, this issue is interactive! Please download the free Layar Augmented Reality app, which was designed to bring print to life. Then hover over page 45 in the print edition with your smartphone or tablet to view a video about Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Indoor Practice Facility in Blacksburg, Va., which features almost 1,000 squares of 238-foot-long, curved, standing-seam metal panels. We’re really excited about this new capability and would love to know what you think.

A Roof is a Building Owner and Homeowner’s First Line of Defense in a Storm

The Midwest has been battered by unrelenting storms this year. Last week, I spoke to a friend who had just returned from visiting mutual college friends in Minnesota. They experienced a strong storm during the visit, and while they were all sleeping, our friends’ house was struck by lightning. The acrid smell of smoke awoke them and the eight people (four of which were children) scurried outside in their pajamas, leaving all their belongings inside. The local fire department contained the fire to the garage, which is attached to the house. However, the smoke damage inside is so severe that the family of four is currently residing in a hotel while their house is professionally cleaned.

Stories like these are all too common recently and this one hit a little too close to home for me. It seems easier (and less scary) to think storm damage won’t happen to me when those who are affected are strangers on the news. However, according the Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc., extreme-weather events and natural disasters are becoming more prevalent. The organization reports that since 1987 there have been eight natural disasters with insured losses greater than $1 billion; before 1987, there was one.

Although the Greensburg, Kan., EF5 tornado that occurred in 2007 didn’t cost that much, it destroyed 95 percent of the town, which is scary enough. Greensburg is coming back as a model for the rest of the country—rebuilding stronger and more sustainably. Read about one of the town’s strong, sustainable projects—the BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership, which is a metal building featuring roof-integrated daylighting systems designed to withstand high-velocity impacts—in “Tech Point”.

About 550 miles to the east, an EF4 tornado inflicted $30 million in damage on the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in 2011. To rebuild four copper domes that were the crowning glory of Terminal 1, airport officials opted to use copper-clad stainless steel, specifically because they wanted something beautiful that could withstand harsh weather. Read about the roof system in “Tech Point”.

The other night, a clap of thunder actually shook my house for what seemed like a full minute. I’ve always been the type of person that enjoys storms but, after my friends’ incident, I have to admit I feel less safe in my home. I immediately looked online to determine whether I should move to the basement and then I stayed awake until the storm passed to ensure my roof didn’t catch on fire. I think it’s time I look into a better, stronger roof.

Long-term Performance of Roof Systems

The April e-newsletter distributed by Roofing contained an online exclusive about sustainability. The author, Brooks Gentleman, an owner of window refurbisher Re-View, Kansas City, Mo., questioned whether we’re talking about the right things when referring to a building as sustainable. He says, “During the past 10 years, there has been a great deal of talk about green buildings and sustainability, but how many of these ‘green’ commercial or residential buildings are designed or constructed to last for centuries? When will the life cycle of the structure and the construction materials themselves become factors in the sustainability criteria? It seems to me that more effort is placed on whether a material is recyclable than whether it can perform over the long haul. It is time that the design community, manufacturers and construction processes begin to consider the life of the building if we are truly going to incorporate sustainability in our industry.” (Read the entire article.)

Gentleman’s commentary is the perfect precursor to this issue, which has a focus on the long-term performance of a roof system. Three “Tech Point” articles explain the life spans of metal, EPDM and asphalt, respectively. The authors—Chuck Howard P.E., a Roofing editorial advisor; Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, CSI, FRCI, RRC, RRP, a Roofing editorial advisor; and James R. Kirby, AIA—share roof-cover characteristics that achieve and industry studies that prove long-term performance.

Insulation is a component that will help extend the life of a roof system. In “Cool Roofing”, Kyle Menard, president of Bloom Roofing, Brighton, Mich., shares insight about polyisocyanurate, specifically how it contributes to long-term roof performance and why the roofing industry should educate clients about its importance as part of a roof system.

As architects, building owners and occupants increase their expectations for the environmental performance of the buildings they design, operate and dwell in, building component manufacturers have begun rolling out environmental product declarations, or EPDs. EPDs are related to life-cycle assessments and product category rules, all of which are part of an ongoing effort to provide as much transparency as possible about what goes into the products that go in and on a building. In “Environmental Trends”, Allen Barry writes about the significance of EPDs for the roofing industry.

As a longtime proponent of sustainability, it’s wonderful to see the conversation turning toward the critical issue of durability and long-term performance. Yes, specifying materials with recycled content or from sustainably managed forests is a nice consideration, but if those materials will only last a few years and must be replaced, we’re expending more energy—and money—using them. There’s nothing sustainable about that.

The Honest Roofing Industry

I attended the recent International Roofing Expo where I was reminded of what I love about the roofing industry. The people are so real! Manufacturers and contractors alike shared with me how their businesses are doing, the mistakes they made this past year, their plans for the coming years and how they really feel about where business is headed. I must say this was one of the most optimistic shows I have attended in quite awhile. (Read a post-show wrap-up about IRE in “New & Notable”.) Everyone I spoke to during the show was positive and full of energy for what’s to come—a welcome change from previous years when the construction industry struggled.

Gaining perspectives like these is a huge reason we structured the magazine as we have. Our tagline, “The Industry’s Voice”, is meant to clarify what types of articles you’ll find within the issue: Our authors are part of this industry and are willing to be honest with you—their peers—about their successes and failures in the hopes that you’ll learn from them just as you would if you were networking at IRE or another industry event.

For example, in “Business Sense” you’ll hear from Iain Fergusson, owner of Highland Roofing Co., Wilmington, N.C., who recently purchased the assets of his competitor, a 133-year-old roofing contracting company with almost 30 full-time roofers. Fergusson admits he made some mistakes during the merger but, he says, “You will learn way more from one mistake than you will from 10 good decisions.”

Meanwhile, Kaney O’Neill, who overcame a spinal-cord injury that ended her military career but launched her roofing profession, shares how she perseveres in a tough business climate. In “Business Sense”, O’Neill describes how she embraces lifelong learning for herself and her employees. “No matter where you are in business, you have to keep learning and growing to persevere,” she says.

O’Neill notes her military training has helped her stay “mission focused” and committed to excellence. Seeking employees with that sort of work ethic drew Chad Muth, president of Muth & Co. Roofing, Westerville, Ohio, to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. The program, which is covered in “Special Report”, helps veterans, active service members and their spouses transition back into the workforce through nationwide hiring fairs and an online process. Muth successfully hired and has since promoted Grant Smith, a former Marine, and hopes to hire more veterans. “We’re hoping we can … showcase what we have to offer [veterans] for the long-term future,” Muth notes.

Helping prospective employees recognize there is a long-term future in roofing is one of many goals of The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress, a 501(c)3 organization that was established by the National Roofing Contractors Association, Rosemont, Ill. In “Education”, Alison L. LaValley, CAE, NRCA’s associate executive director of Member Services, highlights the partnerships, training initiatives, technical and educational programs, and awards the Alliance funds as part of its mission. According to Tom Saeli, CEO of Duro-Last Roofing Inc., Saginaw, Mich., everyone should consider supporting the Alliance: “The organization funds important scholarships, sponsors innovative research to advance the roofing industry and partners with members from all walks of the industry who really care about what the future holds. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Collaboration

This morning I awoke to our first real snowfall of the season—about 7 inches. I typically enjoy watching the snow flutter down, but as it fell yesterday afternoon into the night I began to dread shoveling my long driveway. As I was brewing my coffee this morning, I heard a motor outside my window and spotted my next-door neighbor walking up and down my driveway behind his snow blower. I immediately went outside to thank him. I plan to bake him cookies today and offer him gas for his snow blower to show my gratitude. And, in the future, if he needs me to walk his dog or check his mail when he’s away, I’m more than willing.

My neighbor’s kindness reminded me of this issue of the magazine. The concept of “having someone else’s back” came up again and again as I edited the contributed articles. For example, our editorial advisory board member Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CSI, RRP, principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd., Barrington, Ill., writes in his regular series, “From the Hutchinson Files”, about how communication and collaboration between roof system designers, installers and manufacturers will lead to roofs that withstand high-wind events. He shares two examples of roof system failures that he notes would not have occurred if all parties had collaborated—and taken care in their work.

You can read an example of extreme collaboration in this issue’s “Tech Point”. Contributor KJ Fields describes the reroofing of the 10.3-acre James W. Jardine Water Filtration Plant in Chicago. Not only did Chicago-based Trinity Roofing Service’s crews have to contend with a phased schedule to ensure the plant continued to supply fresh water to its 5 million customers, but they also dealt with roof-load restrictions, unique stainless- steel expansion joints, the Department of Homeland Security and Chicago’s wild weather. Constant communication between Trinity Roofing Service and the membrane manufacturer, Flex, ensured a successful project.

If you’re looking for tips to ensure quality on your next roofing project, Richard Biosca, vice president of operations and general counsel for McHenry, Ill.-based Metalmaster Roofmaster, shares insight into his contracting company’s processes in “On My Mind”. The firm ensures quality as early as the pre-award, bidding and estimating phase of the project. Metalmaster Roofmaster’s estimators, submittal department, project managers, crews and service department are encouraged to discuss and address issues and concerns. Biosca points out in his column, investing time and resources to collaborate all the way through a project has led to many returns for his company, including repeat customers, profitability and awards. Who doesn’t want that this year?

May you have much success in 2015!

Work Smart, Not Hard

My friend Bart was raised with the motto, “work smart, not hard.” When he was a teenager, Bart’s dad asked him to clean out a large cattle barn while his parents went away for a long weekend. Bart realized he would not be able to clean the barn himself with only a pitchfork in three days time. So he hired his family’s neighbor who had a skid loader to do the chore for him. When his father returned, Bart said his dad was proud (and surprised) he had accomplished the task. While bragging around town about what a good worker his son was, Bart’s dad learned from the neighbor that Bart had not cleaned out the barn himself. His dad returned home angry with him, but Bart reminded him that he had taught him to “work smart, not hard”. Bart explained he cleaned the barn using his brain instead of his back. His father couldn’t argue, and Bart carries this life lesson with him. He says he finds ways to work smarter every day.

As a roofing worker, the motto “work smart, not hard” seems easier said than done. Every day is physically demanding and consists of climbing, heavy-lifting and lots of bending. But there are ways roofers can work smarter, and Mark Carpenter, president of Tualatin, Ore.-based Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal, shares a few of his company’s techniques in our “Safety” column.

Carpenter notes safety is his roofing contracting company’s No. 1 priority and, as such, he strives to keep his workers healthy and safe. Among his tactics is a program called “Save A Back” in which his employees are taught how to prevent back injuries through specific lifting methods and education. In addition, Carpenter’s foremen lead crews every morning in “Stretch and Flex” activities, which further help prevent on-the-job injuries.

I think Carpenter’s proactive approach to protecting his workers’ health helps them to work smart, not hard. After all, back injuries are difficult to cure and are expensive. Consider the following:

    ▪▪ More than 1 million workers suffer back injuries each year. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C.)

    ▪▪ Back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    ▪▪ One-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    ▪▪ Thirteen percent of back injuries last two years or longer. (Source: National Council on Compensation Insurance, Boca Raton, Fla.)

    ▪▪ The average total cost of a back injury exceeds $24,000. (Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association)

As Carpenter states in his article, “You are never ‘money ahead’ making sacrifices related to safety. … The value of sending home employees and customers to their families in a healthy way—every day—is priceless.”

Construction Writing

I recently reconnected with an old friend. We’d been in touch via social media but we hadn’t had a chance to actually sit down in the same room and catch up for many years. As we were talking about our careers, she asked me whether I like writing about construction. I actually am asked this question quite often, and I always admit construction wasn’t what I had imagined myself writing about when I dreamt about a career in writing. However, I am always quick to say how much I love it. There are a couple reasons why:

First, I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world and hoped my career would allow me to give back to others. Construction writing does that. With each issue of the magazine and e-newsletter and post on the website, I am able to share innovative ideas that make buildings more energy efficient, help contractors find new ways of doing things and promote products that make everyone’s lives easier. I especially love when I hear someone completed one of his or her projects differently because of something that appeared in the magazine. For example, when Iain Fergusson, owner of Highland Roofing Co., Wilmington, N.C., first reached out to tell me about the Bermuda-style roofing project that became this issue’s cover story he shared the following with me:

    “You ran a series of articles a year or two back covering all aspects and types of metal roofing, including a section about traditional lead roofing. I had a custom builder at the time who wanted to use ‘something different’ than copper for 3,000 square feet of porches and dormers on a custom home. Having just read the article, I suggested lead and he liked it. We have just finished installing the 24-inch-wide flat lock and soldered lead panels. It’s very cool and different!”

Those of us who work on Roofing may not always know when an idea that appeared in the magazine is constructed somewhere in the country but I can tell you when we do hear about it, it makes for a very gratifying day!

Secondly, I have made a number of very special friends in this industry. I’ll admit I was a little intimidated when I attended my first construction trade shows and industry meetings many years ago. I assumed I was entering a “good ol’ boys club” where women weren’t readily welcomed. I was completely wrong. Everything I have learned about installing a roof, I’ve learned from industry professionals. I feel extremely lucky to work in an industry in which I look forward to trade shows and meetings because I know I’m going to see friends from all over the country. In fact, I’m excited about METALCON, which takes place Oct. 1-3 in Denver. Please say hello if you see my colleagues and me on the show floor.

Construction writing has been an extremely fulfilling career path. If given the choice again, I can’t think of anything I’d want to write about more.

Against the Wind

The city of Moore, Okla., recognizes it cannot keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. You may recall on May 20, 2013, an EF5 tornado did extensive damage to the town. The new residential construction codes are based on research and damage evaluation by Chris Ramseyer and Lisa Holliday, civil engineers who were part of the National Science Foundation Rapid Response team that evaluated residential structural damage after the May 2013 tornado.

“A home is deconstructed by a tornado, starting with the breaching of the garage door,” Ramseyer explains. “The uplift generated by the wind causes the roof to collapse until the pressure pulls the building apart. These new residential building codes could possibly prevent that in the future.”

The new codes require roof sheathing, hurricane clips or framing anchors, continuous plywood bracing and windresistant garage doors. Moore’s new homes are required to withstand winds up to 135 mph rather than the standard 90 mph.

Although the city of Moore deserves to be commended for passing a more stringent building code less than one year after the 2013 tornado, this wasn’t the first damaging tornadic event Moore had experienced. The town also made national headlines in 1999 when it was hit by what was then considered the deadliest tornado since 1971. Moore also was damaged by tornadoes in 1998, 2003 and 2010. In my opinion, it was time for the Moore City Council to do the right thing by its citizens.

As extreme weather events occur more frequently, more emphasis is being placed on commercial roof wind resistance, as well. Robb Davis, P.E., recently attended a continuing-education conference for civil/structural engineers that discussed changes in the 2012 International Building Code and the referenced ASCE 7-10 “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures”. During the seminar, it became clear to Davis that nobody is specifically responsible for the design of wind loading to rooftop equipment as defined in the IBC and Chapter 29 of ASCE 7-10. Therefore, Davis reached out to Roofing because he believes it’s important roofing professionals understand the code requirements for wind loading to rooftop equipment, how the load is determined and applied, and how the load is transferred to the building structure. Davis shares his insight in “Tech Point”.

As Davis points out in his article, by better understanding wind loads on rooftop equipment, roofing professionals will be even better positioned to lead the design and construction industry in creating more resilient roofs and, ultimately, strengthening the structure and protecting the people underneath.