Using Engineered Geofoam for Garden Roofs

For most of the past century, the rooftops of commercial and institutional buildings have largely been places to locate unsightly mechanical systems. Architectural treatments, such as parapets and screens, provide visual relief from such equipment. Now, roofing professionals and building owners increasingly look at the roof as “found space”—a place to be planted and used, instead of hidden.

Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed MPK 20 building sports a 9-acre green roof using EPS geofoam from Insulfoam.

Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed MPK 20 building sports a 9-acre green roof using EPS geofoam from Insulfoam.

Throughout the U.S., garden roofs (or living roofs) are growing in popularity with more than 5.5 million square feet installed in 2014, according to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. Most of that total was for private rather than public projects, indicating this is not just a government trend. In addition to providing attractive and usable open space, garden roofs offer environmental benefits, such as helping to slow and filter urban run-off.

Some of America’s largest companies have installed green roofs. Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., truck plant final assembly building sports one of the world’s largest living roofs at 454,000 square feet. In 2015, Facebook opened its MPK 20 office building in Menlo Park, Calif., with a 9-acre living roof featuring a 1/2-mile walking trail and more than 400 trees.

If you haven’t worked on a garden roof yet, it is likely only a matter of time until you do.

Addressing the Challenges of Garden Roofs

Weighing a fraction of soil, EPS geofoam fill creates ultra-lightweight landscaped features on Facebook’s garden roof.

Weighing a fraction of soil, EPS geofoam fill creates ultra-lightweight landscaped features on Facebook’s garden roof.


Adding plants and park-like amenities to a roof increases the complexity of the roofing assembly. Garden roofs present two primary challenges for roofing professionals to solve: minimizing the dead load and preventing moisture intrusion.

The project team for the Facebook MPK 20 building’s green roof met this two-fold need—and more—with expanded polystyrene (EPS) geofoam.

Weighing considerably less than soil, EPS geofoam is an ultra-lightweight engineered fill that can be used to create contoured landscape features, such as hills and valleys. The material weighs from 0.7 to 2.85 pounds per cubic foot, depending on the product type specified, compared to 110 to 120 pounds per cubic foot for soil.

Despite its low weight, EPS geofoam is designed for strength and has better load bearing capacity than most foundation soils. Geofoam’s compressive resistance ranges from approximately 2.2 psi to 18.6 psi (317 to 2,678 pounds per square foot) at a 1 percent deformation, depending on the product.

The garden roof on Facebook’s MPK 20 building provides ample open space and a half-mile walking trail for employees.

The garden roof on Facebook’s MPK 20 building provides ample open space and a 1/2-mile walking trail for employees.

EPS geofoam is also effective at addressing the second challenge of garden roofs: managing moisture absorption. The moisture performance of the various components in a green roof assembly is critical; retained water imposes additional loads on the roof and increases the risk of water damage to the roof assembly. EPS geofoam meeting ASTM D6817 standards works well here as it only absorbs 2 to 4 percent moisture by volume, even over long-term exposure, and it dries quickly. The moisture performance of EPS has been demonstrated in extensive in-situ applications and real-world testing, including research conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. After burying EPS in wetted soil for nearly three years, the lab found that the material absorbed only 1.7 percent moisture by volume.

In addition to enabling lightweight, durable landscape features and helping to defend against water, EPS geofoam provides thermal insulation in garden roofs. Roofing professionals have used EPS insulation in roof assemblies for decades because it offers the highest R-value per dollar among rigid foam insulations.

Expect More Demand

Although green roofs currently account for a small portion of the billions of square feet of roofs in the U.S., expect to see more demand for them given their aesthetic and environmental benefits. High-performance materials, like EPS geofoam, can help provide a long-lasting, durable green roof assembly.

PHOTOS: Insulfoam

Composite Slate Roofing Achieves Historic Look for Rehab of 160-year-old Restaurant

A 164-year-old Michigan restaurant is soon to be reborn, thanks to the inspired, never-say-die efforts of a husband-and-wife restaurateur team.

The White Horse Inn, a 164-year-old Michigan restaurant is soon to be reborn, thanks to the inspired, never-say-die efforts of a husband-and-wife restaurateur team.

The White Horse Inn, a 164-year-old Michigan restaurant is soon to be reborn, thanks to the inspired, never-say-die efforts of a husband-and-wife restaurateur team.

In restoring the White Horse Inn, an equestrian-themed eatery in Metamora, Mich., the pair profited from the untiring efforts of local craftsmen who viewed the restoration as a personal challenge, a timely mix of grants and tax credits and a distinctive roofing product manufactured by a Michigan manufacturer at its Metamora facility. The story starts with the decision of Victor Dzenowagis and his wife, Linda Egeland, to shepherd the inn’s restoration.

The White Horse Inn had been the Wolverine State’s longest-operating restaurant before closing in late 2012. The logical folks to revive the eatery were Dzenowagis and Egeland, who were not only 24-year Metamora residents, but also own and operate five upscale dining restaurants in the Detroit Metro area.

“It had fallen into disrepair and had been seriously neglected over the prior 20 years,” Dzenowagis says. “Given the magnitude of the renovations necessary to bring back the White Horse, we weren’t initially interested in taking on the challenge. After five months of watching the building sit idle and the village decline, we began to look into ways to get some financial support so as to make the massive investment. What it all came down to was that old saying, ‘Somebody ought to do something’, and that somebody was us.”

Once they’d taken on the task of restoring the White Horse, Dzenowagis and Egeland came face to face with the many challenges that effort would involve. “Getting the financing together was difficult,” Dzenowagis says. “We needed grant money. We needed community financial support. We needed to come up with money of our own. And we needed to convince our bank that this was a bankable project. Fortunately, we were able to do all that.”

The owners preferred slate for the restaurant's roof but couldn't afford it. They chose Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing instead.

The owners preferred slate for the restaurant’s roof but couldn’t afford it. They chose Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing instead.

After a lot of hard work, the couple was able to garner enough grant funding to make the project feasible from their standpoint. Still, Dzenowagis says, “This is more a labor of love than it will be a financial windfall.”

The total budget, including property purchase, is $2.5 million. Funding includes a State of Michigan grant for job creation of $570,000, a Metamora Downtown Development Authority grant of $300,000 and a Federal Historic Tax Credit of $80,000 with the remainder from private money and a bank loan.

A big hurdle was creating a building design that kept the 1850s character of the White Horse but blended in modern amenities, like working bathrooms and a large kitchen to handle expected overflow weekend crowds. “The deterioration of the original building was, and still is, a big challenge,” Dzenowagis says. “The foundation is failing, the wood siding is rotten in many areas, the original windows are in tough shape. It is in the kind of condition you would expect from something built over 160 years ago. Dealing with structural problems within the scope of a historic renovation has been time consuming and expensive. But it’s just part of the challenge when one signs on to a project like this.”

One of the serendipitous early occurrences that helped smooth the process was the discovery of “the perfect architect for the project,” Dzenowagis says. Architect Charlie Veneklase and his architect wife own a Royal Oak, Mich., boutique firm called Von Staden Architects. Veneklase grew up in a 250-year-old house in Connecticut, has an affinity for historic buildings and a love for challenges like marrying an authentic look with up-to-date functionality.

The Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing fits in nicely with all the other historic details of the building.

The Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing fits in nicely with all the other historic details of the building.

“Beyond that, we spent a lot of time doing period research to come up with architectural elements, such as lighting and furniture that work in the realm of our renovation,” Dzenowagis says. “Next, we sought out true craftsmen who wanted to work on this project—who either live in the area or are passionate about retaining historic buildings—to help with the restoration.”

Historic touches have been just as ingeniously incorporated. Dzenowagis and Egeland hired a third generation mason who is using stones reclaimed from a nearby 1880s barn foundation to create the massive, real wood-burning fireplace.

Floors are being hand done by a nationally renowned artisan and fellow Metamora resident named John Yarema, who has worked for the Kennedy family estate. “He has been helping with all the woodwork—floors, beams, columns—and at a price a fraction of what he would normally charge,” Dzenowagis says. “Craftsmen who are as passionate as we are about this project [are] the key to making this all come together.”

Speaking of serendipity, another fortuitous happenstance took place around the time Dzenowagis and Egeland were convening on the topic of the roof of the White Horse with their builder and architect. They discussed cedar shake, standard three-tab shingles, standing seam and slate.

“Our preference was slate,” Dzenowagis recalls. “The characteristics of slate really fit with what we are doing here. Slate is substantial, historic and fits the materials we are using. Slate, though, is expensive, hard to install and relatively high maintenance.”

Not two days after that meeting, a roofing product manager introduced himself to the general manager at the Moose Preserve in Bloomfield Hills, one of the couple’s other restaurants. He told the G.M. that the Inspire brand of composite slate and cedar shake roofing products is manufactured in a Metamora factory and that he was interested in supporting the project.

The Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing is manufactured in the same town in which the restaurant stands.

The Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing is manufactured in the same town in which the restaurant stands.

Dzenowagis soon met with him, and was shown Inspire Aledora Slate composite roofing and immediately fell in love with the product. When the product manager handed a section of Inspire Aledora Slate to Dzenowagis, Dzenowagis braced himself for the heavy weight he knew was coming.
“When he let go of the product sample, my hand flew up in a counter motion because I thought it would be heavier than it was,” he recalls. “It was really amazing. It had the authentic look and the feel of real slate but without all of the inherent negatives of slate. I was concerned that it would be difficult to install. He showed me how it was done and that it was foolproof because of the way the tiles are scribed and marked. I was concerned about performance and durability, and he just started laughing. He said if it was installed properly, the roof would likely be there for the next generation.”

Dzenowagis adds that it achieved the historic look he and Egeland were seeking for the restaurant. “It looks like real slate,” he says. “Roofs don’t get more historic than that. People will probably not believe it isn’t real slate. The engineered variability in the edges makes it look real. With a historic building, we don’t want the roof to stand out and take center stage, but we don’t want it to disappear either. We want it to fit with all other architectural elements of the project: the wood, the stones, the fireplace and others. And Inspire not only fits in seamlessly, it looks just as natural as the original pieces of the restaurant.”

Converting Existing Carports to Solar Carports with Flexible PV Modules

Rooftop solar has become commonplace on commercial buildings and homes. Although a residential home often has sufficient rooftop area to power the home 100 percent with solar, this is not always true with multi-story commercial buildings, apartments and condominiums. The properties often do not have the necessary roof space to offset their energy needs with solar. This situation can also apply to low-rise buildings with high electrical usage, such as factories, big-box stores and warehouses.

The Miasole FLEX Series PV Modules

The Miasole FLEX Series PV Modules

Carports have become a standard feature on many commercial and multifamily properties. Even buildings without carports have parking lots with space for them. Carports provide users the benefit of shading cars and protecting cars and people from rain and snow. Carports keep cars cool, reducing the power required to air condition them when they’re started and reducing sun damage to the car finish. From an environmental standpoint, carports help migrate the heat island effect in which large concrete and asphalt parking lots absorb heat during the day and release the heat at night. This additional heat can drastically change local weather patterns, especially in metropolitan areas.

In recent years, building owners have been installing new carports with solar PV modules. These solar carports have all the benefits of traditional carports with the added advantage of producing clean renewable solar energy while reducing the need to add rooftop solar to buildings.

In many places, existing carports were designed and built with minimal steel support structures and the metal roof and deck panels are already spanning the maximum distance between supports to keep costs down. Most were built to meet the minimum local wind and live-load code requirements. With the cost of solar installations falling, utility energy costs rising and increased interest in improving the environment while reducing a building’s carbon footprint, building owners are interested in retrofitting their existing carports with solar modules. Unfortunately, many of these existing carport structures cannot support the additional 4- to 6-pounds-per-square-foot weight of standard crystalline PV modules and associated racking and rails. The only solution available to the owner is to structurally upgrade the carport or tear it down and replace it with a carport designed for the extra weight of solar. Even if the existing carport structure can support the weight, retrofitting the carport with solar can be technically challenging and expensive.

MiaSolé has developed two solar application solutions to solve the live-load limitations of many existing carports. MiaSolé manufactures a flexible lightweight high-efficiency (16 percent plus) CIGS-based flexible PV module weighing less than 9 ounces per square foot in two format sizes: the narrow-format FLEX-N series designed for traditional architectural standing-seam metal roof panels and the wide-format FLEX-W series. Both can be applied to the carport roof with a simple peel-n-stick adhesive.

Standing-seam Panel

Miasole FLEX-N on standing-seam metal panels.

Miasole FLEX-N on standing-seam metal panels.


Two roofers can easily apply the FLEX-N series to the existing carport metal panels:

  • Power wash the roof.
  • Wipe down the areas where the FLEX-N modules will be applied with rubbing alcohol.
  • On the standing-seam metal panel (16- to 18-inches wide) lay down the module.
  • One roofer lifts up the module at the j-box end, removes the release film from the adhesive and sets the module down.
  • The second roofer at the other end lifts up and supports the module.
  • The first roofer continues to remove the release film and lays down the module, rubbing the module with his hand to ensure full contact.
  • Once the module is fully adhered, both roofers use a silicone roller to bond the module to the metal pan surface.

Trapezoidal Rib Panel

Although architectural standing-seam panels are frequently used on carports, the 7.2 trapezoidal rib panel is the metal roof industry’s most commonly used corrugated roof panel for carports. Nearly every major metal roof and steel building manufacturer offers a 7.2 rib panel type profile.

The 7.2 corrugated rib panel is economical, strong and aesthetically pleasing while offering excellent spanning and cantilever capabilities, making it an excellent choice for carports and walkway canopies. The 7.2 rib panel with its long-spanning performance helps lower costs by reducing the number of purlins and structural steel needed. The ability to use long metal panels and fastening with exposed fasteners on slopes as low as 1:12 greatly reduces labor costs.

Installing the Miasole FLEX W on a 7.2 Metal panel

Installing the Miasole FLEX-W on a 7.2 metal panel.

Working with several major metal roof manufacturers such as McElroy Metal and one of the solar carport leading builders, Baja Construction, MiaSolé modified the adhesive patterns on the MiaSolé FLEX-W, the large-format PV module originally designed for low-slope single-ply roofs. The new adhesive pattern makes it simple to bond the MiaSolé Flex-W module directly across the standard 7.2 corrugated rib profile. By eliminating the need for racks and rails, the powerful 360-watt FLEX-W PV module can be rapidly installed by just two roofers over any existing carport or walkway. With a low-slope roof canopy, solar orientation—the direction the carport is facing—is less critical.

Two roofers can easier apply the FLEX-W series to the existing carport metal panels:

  • The existing carport is power washed to remove any dirt and debris from the metal roof surface.
  • Any loose panel fasteners are tightened and missing fasteners replaced.
  • The areas where the FLEX modules are to be installed are cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
  • The FLEX modules are laid down across the corrugated ribs, and the adhesive strips are aligned with the ribs.
  • On one end, the roofer lifts up the module, peels back the adhesive release film, lays the module back down on the 7.2 panel ribs and presses down to bond the module to the ribs.
  • The second roofer on the other end repeats the same process.
  • Both roofers finish bonding the module by rolling the adhesive areas with a silicone roller to ensure complete adhesion to the metal panel.

MiaSolé FLEX series PV modules make it possible to economically convert existing carports with live-load limitations into new solar carports without having to make any major structural modifications. Even on new solar carports, the MiaSolé FLEX series modules can reduce labor and construction cost by reducing the need for heavy steel support structures and allowing longer metal panels with fewer support purlins.

The peel-and-stick adhesive system reduces labor costs while speeding up installation time. Unlike conventional rigid crystalline panels, the flexible MiaSolé FLEX modules work over curved roof structures for solar carports, solar walkways and solar awnings.

Manufacturer Donates Roofing Materials and More to Camp that Assists Veterans Suffering from Brain Trauma

Rick Briggs is in his element. The retired Air Force major has just spent the better part of the afternoon chatting with a steady stream of military veterans and their families, all of whom have come to get a closer look at Camp Liberty, a rehab facility of sorts designed to help wounded soldiers and those suffering from brain trauma.

Camp Liberty, Brooklyn, Mich., is a rehab facility designed to help wounded soldiers and those suffering from brain trauma.

Camp Liberty, Brooklyn, Mich., is a rehab facility designed to help wounded soldiers and those suffering from brain trauma.

Now, he’s enjoying a drive through the property’s northwest end in a Polaris multi-seat ATV. He is away from the crowds. Away from the rumblings of the nearby roads. Away from the jack-hammering of the nearby construction. All that can be heard now is the gurgling of the nearby Raisin River and the wind gently bending the wildflowers in a vast field within the 137-acre complex. Briggs points to a landmark in the distance and begins to tell one of his favorite stories. It’s apparent that he’s told this tale many times in the past year.

Just last year, Briggs recalls, Britani Lafferty, a 29-year-old veteran who spent time in Iraq as a combat medic, visited the Camp Liberty site. Suffering from debilitating physical and mental wounds from her tour, Lafferty tried countless medical treatments to no avail. Desperate for something that might work, Lafferty turned to the healing power of nature. Invited to spend time at Camp Liberty, Lafferty tried her hand at deer hunting. From a blind overlooking the Raisin River, Lafferty bagged her very first buck. And for Camp Liberty, it marked the first successful hunt for their program.

To Briggs, the moment symbolized that Lafferty could overcome her own afflictions, that she was still able to do things without the help of others. This is the sort of therapy Briggs and the Camp Liberty project hope to impart. “I know vets who are really dealing with severe difficulties,” Briggs says. “They don’t want to be around people. They won’t go to a mall. They won’t go to a movie. We have actually gotten them out here and back to where they can get out and start doing stuff.”

And that’s Camp Liberty’s ultimate goal. “When we get out here doing recreation with guys, it gives them the opportunity to listen and realize that PTSD is treatable,” Briggs adds. “These guys don’t want to believe it. They don’t want to think about it. They don’t want to admit they’re dealing with it. ”

The story of Lafferty is just one example of what Briggs thinks could be a new way to tackle the effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) to the body and mind. With the construction of a new program facility, scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, the full vision of Briggs and his childhood friend Allan Lutes is within reach.

Lutes and Briggs aim to construct a wilderness recreation facility focused on helping military veterans recover from debilitating injuries, brain trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Frustrated by the lack of attention paid to veterans (just two years ago, Michigan ranked dead last in the U.S. in military spending on vets), the two vowed to make a difference. And after years of planning, preparation and fundraising, the project, which is located just a few miles from the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, is nearly complete.

From hunting to fishing to kayaking, Camp Liberty offers veterans a quiet, tranquil location where rehabilitation can flourish.

From hunting to fishing to kayaking, Camp Liberty offers veterans a quiet, tranquil location where rehabilitation can flourish.

With the help of volunteer crews, Lutes and Briggs are overseeing one of the last steps of the project, the construction of a 2,880-square-foot, handicapped accessible lodge that has taken shape over the past five months. Upon completion, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom structure will allow injured veterans and their families to lengthen their stay and take advantage of all of the outdoor activities the massive site has to offer—and it won’t cost them a cent.

Amidst this huge habitat stand 10 state-of-the-art hunting blinds and wildlife observation towers, all fully handicapped accessible. Along with guided hunting expeditions, the veterans can fish in the nearby Raisin River, hike along numerous nature trails, and enjoy the serenity of a reflection area and outdoor chapel. From hunting to fishing to kayaking, Camp Liberty offers veterans—particularly those who have suffered injuries in combat or are challenged by traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder—a quiet, tranquil location where rehabilitation can flourish.

“Hunting is just a small part of what we offer here,” Lutes notes. “Every inch of this facility has been thought through as a way of something that is going to make someone feel comfortable, feel at peace, feel part of nature, and be able to reflect on their life.”

An ambitious project like this doesn’t just happen, of course. The financial barriers would be too daunting for most people, even if they were smart enough to come up with such a unique vision. Briggs, Lutes and the Camp Liberty team have raised close to $300,000 toward their building projects and have recruited volunteers to help with completing the site’s projects. The primary contributor, Lutes adds, has been the Eisenhower Center, the country’s leading brain injury facility, which has donated more than $200,000 to the project. Among a bevy of donors, Atlas Roofing Corp. has provided almost $30,000 in building products for the construction of the program facility, including the ThermalStar Radiant Comfort in-floor heat panels that will regulate heating within the complex, ThermalStar LCI-SS insulated structural sheathing, AC Foam Crossvent Insulation roofing product, WeatherMaster Ice and Water Shield, Gorilla Guard EverFelt Underlayment and Pinnacle Pristine Green Shingles.

“I think the right word [to describe his reaction to the financial support] would be overjoyed,” Lutes says. “Overjoyed that other people have bought into our vision, that other people have seen the value and need for helping our veterans and to help people who have mobility issues enjoy the outdoors. I mean, that is really heartwarming.”

Atlas Roofing Corp. has provided almost $30,000 in building products for the construction of the program facility.

Atlas Roofing Corp. has provided almost $30,000 in building products for the construction of the program facility.

To Charlene Zezawa, the project would have been stalled from the outset had it not been for Briggs’ uncanny ability to advocate for the camp’s vision. She was so taken by a presentation by Briggs at a golf fundraiser several years ago, Zezawa signed on to help out. Before she knew it, she was asked to serve on Camp Liberty’s board of directors as its secretary. Briggs’ passion is contagious, she said. “Rick is the best fundraising person I have ever met in my entire life,” Zezawa states. “He will go after it. You have to have heart and Rick has heart. That’s what drives him.”

Zezawa is among a steady stream of volunteers who have lent a hand. Throughout the summer, members of the Jackson County Habitat for Humanity jumped on board to lead the construction of the program facility’s foundation, structure and roof. The crew, ranging in age from 60 to 93, spent the better part of the summer in what crew chief David Behnke called “a wonderful experience”. “If you can’t get behind this project, you can’t get behind anything,” he says.

A.J. Mikulka is a 33-year old Army National Guard veteran who has been hunting since she was a kid, learning how to carry a shotgun from her father. She is not unlike many of the veterans that Lutes and Briggs hope to help. On Aug. 9, 2007, Mikulka, serving in Mosul, Iraq, was in the midst of helping to train Iraqi police when the station started taking enemy fire. When she stepped out from behind a barricade, insurgent forces launched a rocket-propelled grenade. “It was a direct hit. It took my leg clean off,” she recalls. Mikulka now walks with a prosthetic, which is attached to her leg just below the knee.

Her physical recovery didn’t take nearly as long as the emotional recovery, though. Mikulka believes the mental recuperation offered by Camp Liberty will have a “profound effect” on wounded veterans like herself. “There’s always going to be stuff that you deal with [emotionally],” she says. “I know a lot of [injured veterans] who are still dealing with it years later. The hard part for me was [dealing with] the loss of career.”

Lutes and Briggs hope that Camp Liberty will be a place that people like Mikulka can come to heal and feel “normal again.” Research supports their hunch. A 2013 study by the University of Michigan indicated that time spent in nature can improve cognitive abilities, particularly for those who suffer from post-deployment issues. “The research clearly shows that extended outdoor recreation helps combat-injured veterans,” Briggs notes. “And the more severe their injuries, the more significant the outcomes.”

It’s nearly impossible to not come away impressed by what has happened in this remote area in southeastern Michigan. Roger Barnett, a 66-year-old veteran, who was “in the mud” in Vietnam, spent an afternoon with his wife Dottie chatting with other visitors at a recent Camp Liberty open house. “It’s just really great to have for these guys with disabilities,” Barnett states. “It’s all set up for them. It’s all set up for recreation, for them [to have] some kind of an outlet and get together and spend time in front of the fireplace and relax. It’s great. It’s just what they need.”

Now, Briggs and Lutes are just antsy to get the construction completed. While they enjoy bringing attention to Camp Liberty, raising funds and chatting with the press, they’re eager for the property to begin hosting those who need it the most. “We hope to be able to help the veterans realize that they may have a TBI issue or a PTSD issue and that there is a treatment option that can improve it without them sacrificing their jobs, their military rating or their relationships,” Lutes says. “We’ve proven to ourselves that what we do can change lives for the better.”

Creating Visual Impact with Copper and Silver Roofing Membranes

Whether you’re re-roofing a historic building that needs to maintain its aesthetics or you’re working on a new roof construction that has to make a statement, there are many instances in which a building owner would want his or her roof to generate a specific architectural appeal. The most difficult part of this is balancing durability and beauty with cost. Roof systems today have evolved to solve this conundrum. Now, copper and silver synthetic PVC membranes are being used to achieve the desired appearance of a metal standing-seam roof at a fraction of the cost without sacrificing performance.

Alternatives to Metal Roof Systems

Michigan State University replaced the existing slate roof system with SOPREMA SENTINEL Copper Art to provide the desired appearance and required long-term performance.

Michigan State University replaced the existing slate roof system with SOPREMA SENTINEL Copper Art to provide the desired appearance and required long-term performance.


Copper and silver synthetic membranes are great cost-effective alternatives to metal roofs. As flexible synthetic systems, these roof membranes are economical and easy to install by conforming to complex geometries.

Certain synthetic PVC roof membranes on the market today are offered in a variety of colors, some of which can mimic the look of metal roofing. While these roof membranes offer the proven long-term performance of flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC), they provide the metal appearance via the addition of pigments that can chalk or fade as the pigmented membrane ages, therefore losing the desired aesthetic feature.

Conversely, SOPREMA SENTINEL Copper and Silver Art PVC membranes incorporate copper or aluminum metallic powder into the PVC formulation, producing an enhanced metallic look. Unlike pigmented membranes, SENTINEL Copper Art provides the same weathering capabilities as traditional standing seam copper—the SENTINEL Copper Art will patina as a traditional copper roof would. Silver Art is unique because the color will not fade due to the addition of metallic powder, and its surface layer is factory embedded with an acrylic shield treatment to resist dirt pickup and chalking. Copper Art and Silver Art membranes provide the long-lasting aesthetic appearance and waterproofing abilities of a metal roof.

Applications for Copper and Silver Membranes

Copper and silver roof membranes are often used on buildings where aesthetics are important. Historic buildings, churches, schools, government buildings and army bases are a few examples of where this type of roof membrane has been installed. These buildings may require a particular appearance or designers may simply wish to update the appearance or provide some panache. Mansards or other areas of visible existing light-gauge metal roof systems may be present on these buildings and flexible copper and silver roof membranes may be used as an alternative aesthetic solution.

SENTINEL Silver Art met Glenside Public Library’s leak-free and architectural needs, plus the roofing contractor liked that the SENTINEL membrane was easy to install and looked great upon completion.

SENTINEL Silver Art met Glenside Public Library’s leak-free and architectural needs, plus the roofing contractor liked that the SENTINEL membrane was easy to install and looked great upon completion.

For example, since 2007, the slate roof of the Snyder-Phillips residence hall at Michigan State University had been leaking. The university needed to replace the existing slate roofing system with a new system that would meet the aesthetic requirements of the historic building. SOPREMA SENTINEL Copper Art was installed as a cap sheet to provide the desired appearance and the required long-term performance.

In addition, the Glenside Public Library had an existing standing-seam roof that was tied-in to a low-slope ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) roof. The tie-in between the two materials was problematic and continuously leaked. The library wanted to preserve the standing-seam appearance, but the noise created by wind and rain on the metal roof was a concern.

SOPREMA SENTINEL Silver Art was selected because it could provide the desired look while eliminating the tie-in issues between the steep- and low-slope roofing materials. SENTINEL Silver Art met the library’s leak-free and architectural needs, plus the roofing contractor liked that the SENTINEL membrane was easy to install and looked great upon completion. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, SENTINEL Silver Art also offered the benefit of significant noise reduction when compared to the former metal roof system.

Roofing Technology Advancements

As roofing technology advances, the options for creating a desired aesthetic have evolved. SENTINEL PVC Copper and Silver Art are high-performance roof membranes that provide the appearance of metal with the flexible, long-term performance of PVC, without the weight, expense or complexity of a traditional metal roof.

Polymer Shakes Mimic Cedar while Protecting Historic Estates

When it was time for homeowners at the historic Fleur du Lac Estates in Homewood, Calif., to select new roofing materials, they looked for a product that would mimic the look of cedar but bring them advantages to protect their homes and buildings from Mother Nature. After a comprehensive search, they determined that the Class A fire and Class 4 impact ratings of Bellaforté polymer shake tiles from DaVinci Roofscapes met their needs.

The Class A fire and Class 4 impact ratings of the Bellaforté tiles bring peace-of-mind to residents within the Fleur du Lac Estates, Homewood, Calif.

The Class A fire and Class 4 impact ratings of the Bellaforté tiles bring peace-of-mind to residents within the Fleur du Lac Estates, Homewood, Calif.

A prime filming location for the 1974 movie “Godfather II,” Fleur du Lac Estates is now a private condominium development located on the beautiful west shore of Lake Tahoe. A Yacht Club and Boat House, 22 individual homeowner units and a variety of shared recreational facilities make the historic 1938 compound a much-sought-after retreat.

Fire Resistance a Prime Benefit

Years of harsh weather conditions took their toll on the real cedar shake roofs at Fleur du Lac Estates. Damage from repeated leaks, hail, ice dam issues, snow and other weather conditions recently convinced the board of directors it was time to invest in new roofs for the entire estate.

“We started with our two most valuable community structures, the Yacht Club and Boat House,” says Stewart Dalie, maintenance supervisor and project manager at Fleur du Lac Estates. “Our plans are to reroof all of the buildings in the Tahoe Blend over the next five to seven years. We did a tremendous amount of research to determine what roofing products would look realistic in this setting, meet the new codes required for roofs in our area, yet offer us superior qualities and a long life span.

“Selecting the fire- and impact-resistant Bellaforté shake material from DaVinci Roofscapes means we won’t have to be concerned with the potential spread of flames should our area ever be touched by wildfires. That’s a huge concern for our geographic area. However, not having to worry about wind-blown embers landing on a roof and then catching the building on fire is a tremendous relief.”

The Class A fire and Class 4 impact ratings of the Bellaforté tiles bring peace-of-mind to residents within the community. The durable roofing tiles have the appearance of natural hand-split cedar shake with slanted sawn edges and staggered lengths, but with the hassle-free qualities of a manufactured product. At a 1-inch average tile thickness, Bellaforté Shake roofing tiles remind many residents of jumbo cedar shakes prevalent in the Lake Tahoe area.

The Bruce Olson Construction team incorporated snow fences and snow guards from Rocky Mountain Snow Guards into the structures.

The Bruce Olson Construction team incorporated snow fences and snow guards from Rocky Mountain Snow Guards into the structures.

Safeguarding a Historic Setting

It’s not surprising that homeowners at the upscale Fleur du Lac Estates want to invest in the best possible roofing material. This is a mountain and lakeside homeowners association where every home has a deeded slip in the marina, resort-style services are the norm and aesthetics of the community are vigilantly upheld.

Originally the summer home of famous industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, the 15-acre lake-shore site was constructed beginning in 1938. After Kaiser sold the estate, it went through a series of transitional uses from the 1960s to 1979, including serving as a private school and as the site for many on-location scenes for Francis Ford Coppola’s film, “The Godfather II.” Only in the 1980s did the current project begin to refurbish existing key structures and transform original homes on the property to individually owned homes.

“Our community has always embraced the history of this setting while looking toward protecting its future,” says Lane Murray, general manager at Fleur du Lac Estates. “That’s one of the key reasons we wanted a roofing product that has the look of real cedar shakes but with manmade advantages like resistance to fire, impact and high winds.”

Superior Roofing Installation

Despite a variety of challenges with removing the old roofs and prepping for the new synthetic shake tiles, the team at Bruce Olson Construction, Olympic Valley, Calif., has successfully tackled their first DaVinci Roofscapes installation project at Fleur du Lac Estates.

“The roofing surface for the Yacht Club and Boat House were in bad shape and very uneven,” says Taylor Greene, general manager of Bruce Olson Construction. “We had to plane these into workable surfaces before getting started. Once we got started the product installed beautifully. We added flashing material to cover some valley locations, which made the project look exceptional. To achieve the realistic look, gable end flashing that concealed the manufactured edge of the DaVinci product was added.”

The company, which does residential and multifamily new construction, works in several states, including Hawaii. It has already started work on several additional roofs in the Fleur du Lac complex.

“The Bellaforté roofing looks amazing,” Greene says. “Best of all, these polymer shakes are perfect for this geographic area. Traditional wood shakes ‘hold’ the water from melting snow. Those saturated shakes weigh more and cause the freeze line to be a part of the shake. With the DaVinci product, the water is not absorbed into the tile, so snow melting is faster and more efficient. This can also help reduce the ice damming effect in many locations.”

Laughing at Mother Nature

Nestled amidst stunning mountain peaks and world-famous ski conditions, Fleur du Lac Estates can experience heavy snowfall during the winter months. The property is just five minutes from Homewood Mountain Ski Resort and the area usually sees snow in excess of 180 inches total. That’s one reason why the community decided to have the Bruce Olson Construction team incorporate snow fences and snow guards from Rocky Mountain Snow Guards into the structures.

“In our area it’s very common to use snow guards and fences to help keep snow from falling on individuals and property,” Greene explains. “The previous structures at Fleur du Lac Estates didn’t have any type of snow-retention system. We believe having these products in place now—which were very simple to put in during the polymer shake installation—will make life much easier for property owners no matter how much snow Mother Nature delivers each season.”

Rocky Mountain Snow Guards custom designed the snow-retention system for Fleur du Lac Estates, incorporating its Drift III+ snow fences and Rocky Guard RG10 snow guards. The system was developed to handle the 180-PSF snow load that can occur in this geographic location.

“The snow guards are attached in a pattern above the snow fence that creates friction to hold the snow ‘slab’ in place while the snow fence provides a barrier beyond which the snow slab won’t slide,” says Lars Walberg, president of Rocky Mountain Snow Guards. “Using the combination of snow guards and snow fences gives this project a balanced snow-retention system that has the ‘look’ the owners desired.”

For homeowners, the new Bellaforté roofs on the Yacht Club and Boat House are tempting reminders of what will be on their own homes in the years to come.

“Now that the Yacht Club and Boat House roofs are complete we’re hearing very positive comments from our residents,” Murray says. “Folks are eager for the work to continue in the common areas so that their individual homes can soon get these terrific-looking new roofs!”

A Watertight Warranty Convinces HOA to Select Standing-seam Metal Roofing

When you know you can do a good job and you know you’re working with good products, you don’t mind being held accountable. On Top Roofing of Park City, Utah, recently completed a demanding roofing project and supplied the homeowners association with a watertight warranty.

With a strict spec from the consultant and a watertight warranty to back up the work, a standing-seam metal roofing system installed by On Top Roofing was selected for Cache Condos

With a strict spec from the consultant and a watertight warranty to back up the work, a standing-seam metal roofing system installed by On Top Roofing was selected for Cache Condos.

Homeowners associations, or HOAs, have been known to provide challenges to roofers, especially metal roofing installers. The only thing more daunting than an uneducated HOA board is an HOA board that was forced to learn about roofing. The HOA board at the Cache Condos in Park City knows roofing.

The original roof on the condos was a cedar shake that lasted more than 20 years, but a little more than five years ago, it was starting to fail. The board elected to go with a corrugated metal roof with a rusty look.

“In the five years they had that corrugated roof, they had more trouble with leaks than they did in 20 years with the shake roof,” says Jeremy Russell of On Top Roofing. “It was a bad install by a company no longer in business. So they hired a consultant—a consultant who insisted that all details be installed to specification. That’s what we do.”

First, the consultant and the board had to be re-sold on metal roofing for the Cache Condos. The rusty 7/8-inch corrugated metal roof installed just five years ago was installed with exposed fasteners, was rusting in flashing areas and leaking in the laps when snow built up on the roof. With a strict spec from the consultant and a watertight warranty from Drexel Metals to back up the work, a standing-seam metal roofing system installed by On Top Roofing was selected.

“One of the requirements was we had to inject the seams with butyl,” Russell says. “So we purchased a Hot Melt [Technologies] system. It was a huge investment, but we were happy to do it. It was something we’ve wanted to do and this project got us to take that step.

“We received plenty of support from Drexel, putting everything together to meet the requirements of the consultant,” he adds. “We worked out all the details to spec and added some of our own that were above spec.”

One requirement was to use no exposed fasteners. That meant employing stainless-steel material in many of the details: skylights, chimneys, roof to wall flashings. “We etched it, primed it and painted it with automotive paint to match,” Russell notes. “It took more time, but it will not leak.”

One requirement was to avoid exposed fasteners, which meant employing stainless-steel material in many of the details: skylights, chimneys, roof to wall flashings.

One requirement was to avoid exposed fasteners, which meant employing stainless-steel material in many of the details: skylights, chimneys, roof to wall flashings.

More than 33,500 square feet of 22-gauge Galvalume 1 3/4-inch snap-lock standing-seam panels—all formed onsite—were installed by Russell’s crew. The roofing panels, rollformed on one of On Top Roofing’s two New Tech Machinery rollformers, were PVDF-painted in Medium Bronze. The project took about eight months to complete and On Top Roofing wrapped up in November 2014.

“We issued the warranty in December 2014,” says Frank Oswald, warranty inspector for Drexel Metals. “I’d say Jeremy went above and beyond what a typical installer would have done on this project. I was at this site on three different occasions because this project was really under a microscope. Ultimately, we’re quite satisfied with the work and the install.”

Forty Years of Roof Leaks Solved with Standing-seam Copper

Because the show must go on, what served as a canopy-style roof at the Miller Outdoor Theater, Houston, needed repairs in short order. Byrne Metals, Humble, Texas, installed more than 18,000 square feet of copper 238T standing-seam panels during the five-month off season by calling in the rollformer from McElroy Metal that runs panels right onto the roof deck.

Improvements included replacements of the east and west wings, a new soffit for the main sloped roof and the new 20-ounce copper standing-seam roof.

Improvements included replacements of the east and west wings, a new soffit for the main sloped roof and the new 20-ounce copper standing-seam roof.

“Everyone else who had tried to fix the problems focused on trying not to change the appearance,” says Karl Schaack, P.E., president of Price Consulting, Houston. “We realized providing a leak-free solution required some change in the appearance. We got a little pushback at first, but when we explained our design, they were just happy to know it wasn’t going to leak anymore.”

“It was a very challenging job,” says Neil Byrne, president of Byrne Metals. “This is an iconic structure in Houston, originally built in 1968. At the time, it won several awards for its design.”

Unfortunately, right from the start, the design didn’t hold up against the Texas rains. For more than 40 years, anyone who was hired to fix the problem, failed.

Schaack chose 238T symmetrical panels from McElroy Metal for the project. “It’s rigid and it meets high-wind requirements,” he says. “The 238T is symmetrical so if a panel gets damaged, you only have to replace one panel.”

BEFORE: The multi-million dollar renovation in Hermann Park served to correct canopy deficiencies that caused leaks above the stage and audience.

BEFORE: The multi-million dollar renovation in Hermann Park served to correct canopy deficiencies that caused leaks above the stage and audience.

The multi-million dollar renovation in Hermann Park served to correct canopy deficiencies that caused leaks above the stage as well as the audience, putting a real damper on the theater’s cultural and educational event offerings.

Byrne Metals went to work as soon as the 2013 season concluded in early November. Improvements included replacements of the east and west wings, a new soffit for the main sloped roof and the new 20-ounce copper standing-seam roof. The profile was McElroy Metal’s 238T symmetrical standing-seam panel. “Using copper helped the new roof blend in with the original framework,” Schaack says. “Especially as it ages, it will look great, like it’s been there all along.”

Changes in design to the updated roof, as well as a watertight standing seam installation, will help prevent future leaks.

Using copper helped the new roof blend in with the original framework. The profile was McElroy Metal’s 238T symmetrical standing-seam panel.

Using copper helped the new roof blend in with the original framework. The profile was McElroy Metal’s 238T symmetrical standing-seam panel.

The roof area between the existing Corten superstructure was framed with purlins, a metal deck was installed on top of the purlins, then a 1 1/2-inch nail base was installed over the deck along with ice and water shield. A giant reverse-slope diverter was built at the intersection, where the sloping roof connected to the stage wall. Valleys were lowered below the roof plane and there was a slight change in pitch that was overcome by rounding the insulation/plywood over the pitch change.

McElroy Metal’s job-site production equipment simplified the process of installation and made the job site safer. The rollformer was hoisted to the eaves on a scissor lift where panels were conveniently run onto the roof. Not only did this method eliminate the need for an expensive crane to get panels on the roof, it was safer as some of the panels were up to 110-feet long. Because of the unique shape of the roof, panels were cut to fit on the roof.

“We specialize in the unique and difficult,” Byrne says. “This is the kind of job we like. We generally have about 20 to 30 projects under contract at any one time, but this one required a lot of personal attention from our upper management, myself included. We had as many as 30 crew members onsite, working 10-hour days and some weekends, when necessary.”

A rollformer was hoisted to the eaves on a scissor lift where panels were conveniently run onto the roof.

A rollformer was hoisted to the eaves on a scissor lift where panels were conveniently run onto the roof.

As with all Byrne Metals jobs, safety was a major consideration during the evaluation and installation. “There are three things we consider important to staying in business,” Byrne says. “Safety, quality and productivity. We have a fulltime safety person on staff making sure we’re working safely on all jobs. This job required us to take into consideration some other factors like guys working long days, getting fatigued and the speed at which we had to work to complete the job on time. We enjoy a good challenge and Miller Outdoor Theater falls into that category.”

PHOTOS: McElroy Metal

The Attic Needs Ventilation but How Much Exactly?

Good news, roofing contractors: You do not have to be good with numbers nor do you have to enjoy math to be able to quickly—and accurately—calculate the amount of attic ventilation needed for residential attics. Here it is, a handy shortcut for quick calculations:

Intake exhaust airflow in a house

Intake exhaust airflow in a house

Attic square footage ÷ 2 = square inches of EXHAUST and square inches of INTAKE Net Free Area (NFA) needed. (NFA is the unobstructed area through which air can pass through a vent, usually measured in square inches. Ventilation manufacturers assign an NFA value to the non-motorized vents they make.)

This shortcut conveniently calculates the 2015 International Residential Building Code MINIMUM (IRC Section R806 – Roof Ventilation 1, which states, in part, 1 square foot of Net Free Area for every 150 square feet of attic floor space with the attic defined as length x width floor of the attic). The shortcut actually overestimates a bit but that’s OK. It puts the roofing contractor in the ballpark which is useful when estimating.

To calculate the allowable IRC EXCEPTION to the MINIUMUM (that is, 1/300 ratio) here’s the shortcut:

Attic square footage ÷ 4 = square inches of EXHAUST and square inches of INTAKE Net Free Area needed.

Here’s an example using the shortcut for the 1/150 Code Minimum.
Say the contractor is standing in front of a house that has an attic with 2,200 square feet.

    2,200 ÷ 2 =

  • 1,100 square inches of EXHAUST net free area needed
  • 1,100 square inches of INTAKE net free area needed
  • The next step is to select a suitable exhaust vent and intake vent that fits the roof design for best performance and best aesthetics. After that, find out the vent’s NFA as rated by the manufacturer. Divide the vent’s NFA into 1,100 to yield the number of vents needed (either in linear feet or units/pieces). That’s it. It’s time to install.

There is a longer “official” formula based on building code you can reference or point your clients to for reassurance that you know what you’re talking about. Most attic ventilation manufacturers list the longer formula on their websites and inside key product brochures. But the shortcut is just as good and faster!

Calculation Q & A

Here are the answers to the five most frequent questions pertaining to calculating attic ventilation.

1. “Why is it important that the amount of intake ventilation matches the amount of exhaust?”
The goal of an effective attic ventilation system is to help fight heat buildup inside the attic during the warmer months and moisture buildup in the colder months. Additionally, in climates where snow and ice are common, attic ventilation can help fight the formation of ice dams. To achieve these goals the attic needs cooler, dryer air entering low (near the eave or the roof’s lowest edge) so it can flush out any warm, moist air that may have built up inside, pushing it out through the roof’s exhaust vents positioned as close to the peak as possible. This balanced-airflow approach allows the air to “wash” the entire underside of the roof deck from low to high.

2. “What if it’s not possible to balance the attic ventilation system 50 percent intake/50 percent exhaust?”
If it cannot be balanced it’s better to have more intake than exhaust because it has been our experience most attics lack proper intake ventilation, which is the leading cause of venting callbacks. Additionally, any excess intake will become exhaust on the leeward side of the house because the intake vents on the windward side of the house will have “pressurized” the attic. As a result, the intake vents on the leeward side of the house will work “with” the exhaust vents to release air.

However, if the attic has more exhaust than intake it potentially can cause the extra exhaust to pull its missing intake from itself (if it’s a ridge vent) or from another nearby exhaust vent (from one wind turbine to another or one roof louver to another), which means possible weather ingestion.

3. “What if the roof has 40 feet of available ridge length but the math calls for only 30 feet of ridge vent needed?”
It is OK to install all 40 feet of ridge vent as long as it can be balanced with intake ventilation. If the amount of intake ventilation cannot match the entire 40 feet of ridge vent, consider reducing the width of the ridge vent slot (thereby reducing the vent’s NFA per linear foot) to accommodate the amount of intake NFA available. Doing this keeps the airflow continuous along the entire horizontal ridge and balanced high and low. As always, be sure the overall amount of ventilation meets code requirements.

4. “If attic access is not practical is there another way to measure the attic square footage?”
Ideally, the attic square footage would be measured at the attic floor length x width (regardless of roof pitch, by the way). If this is not possible, and the homeowner does not have any documentation on file listing attic square footage, you could use the footprint of the house (aerial view of the house) or the number of shingle squares (one shingle square equals 100 square feet) to estimate the attic square footage. Neither of the alternate measuring tactics, however, is as accurate as an attic floor measurement.

5. “How does roof pitch come into play when calculating attic ventilation?”
Current IRC requirements do not factor the role a roof’s pitch plays in the amount of attic ventilation needed, but ventilation manufacturers do. Generally, as the roof pitch increases the volume inside the attic also increases along with the amount of needed attic ventilation. Here’s a rule of thumb to follow:

  • Up to 6:12 roof pitch use the standard formula as explained in this article.
  • 7:12 to 10:12 roof pitches increase the amount of ventilation by 20 percent.
  • 11:12 roof pitch and higher increase the amount of ventilation by 30 percent.

For projects involving vents with motors, the calculation formula is different.

Runners’ Haven Receives New Aluminum Roof

Coxe Cage is the home of the Yale men's and women's indoor track and field teams.

Coxe Cage is the home of the Yale men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams.

Coxe Cage at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., is the home of the Yale men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams. The building is said to have one of the largest skylights in the world at roughly 26,000 square feet. The reroofing project began July 2013 and was completed in late 2013. Approximately 25,981 square feet of Tite-Loc Plus, 16-inches on-center, 0.040 aluminum was installed on the building. The 75-foot panels feature the color Zinc.

Team

The building is said to have one of the largest skylights in the world at roughly 26,000 square feet.

The building is said to have one of the largest skylights in the world at roughly 26,000 square feet.


Roofing contractor: Silktown Roofing, Manchester, Conn.

Architect: Kiss + Cathcart Architects, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Roofing distributor: ABC Supply, Beloit, Wis.

General contractor: Giordano Construction, Brandford, Conn.

Aluminum supplier: Petersen Aluminum Corp.

Approximately 25,981 square feet of Tite-Loc Plus, 16-inches on-center, 0.040 aluminum was installed on the building.

Approximately 25,981 square feet of Tite-Loc Plus, 16-inches on-center, 0.040 aluminum was installed on the building.

Photos: Petersen Aluminum Corp.