Ballasted EPDM Roof Has Been in Service Since 1979

Rob Nelson is a 44-year-old software consultant who owns a multi-tenant, 137,000-square-foot building in Kingston, Pa. Rob’s dad bought the building in 1985, when it was an abandoned cigar factory and Rob took over management of it in 2002. He considers it to have been a good investment for many reasons. It has attracted a variety of tenants and currently houses about 25 businesses, including small, single-office enterprises, an engineering firm and a home-health nursing business. Rob’s family operates a furniture business and an indoor self-storage facility in the building, as well.

Roof Consultant Mark Sobeck inspects a 35-year-old ballasted EPDM roof on a multi-tenant building in Kingston, Pa.

Roof Consultant Mark Sobeck inspects a 35-year-old ballasted EPDM roof on a multi-tenant building in Kingston, Pa.

Besides its track record of attracting tenants, Rob also values his building for another very important reason: its ballasted EPDM roof has been in place since 1979. If you do the math, that’s 35 years. And Rob’s roofing consultant, Mark Sobeck, based in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., says he can realistically expect his building to get another 10 or 15 years of protection from the roof.

Rob and Mark emphasize that maintenance has been important to the roofing system as a whole. One-third of the original roof has been replaced for reasons not related to the membrane performance, and the flashing and expansion joints have been replaced on the original section of the roof. But the membrane itself, according to Sobeck, is still in great shape. “It’s amazing how the EPDM rubber is still lasting. At thirty-five years, it’s still stretchy and pliable and looks good.”

Nelson’s experience with the longevity of his roof is backed up by in-depth testing by the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA). ERA commissioned studies of five EPDM roofs that had been in use for between 28 and 32 years. The roofs, ballasted and fully-adhered, were first inspected in the field, and then small samples of the EPDM membrane were sent to Momentum Technologies, a testing facility for the roofing industry in Uniontown, Ohio. Five key performance characteristics of the samples were tested: elongation, tensile strength, cross-direction thickness, machine-direction thickness and factory-seam strength. The lab results showed that all the samples had physical characteristic properties above or just below the minimum physical characteristics of a newly manufactured 45-mil EPDM membrane. Put another way, after three decades of use, they were performing like new. Roofing experts point out that installation materials and methods have advanced considerably in the last 30 years, giving new roofing systems an expectation of an even longer service life.

A roof that lasts a long time will deliver obvious financial savings to building owners. In an era when environmental benefits must also be considered, experts say that its important to look at sustainability in the broadest possible terms. “If a roof lasts a very long time,” says John Geary, director of Education and Industry Relations for Firestone Building Products and chairman of the board of ERA, “that’s very good news for the environment. Compared to a roof that has to be replaced every 10 years or so, the choice of EPDM means fewer resources are ultimately used in the manufacturing and maintenance of the roofing system. Additionally, EPDM can be recycled, so it also means less materials winds up in a landfill.”

Rob Nelson may not have seen the results of EPDM lab tests, but he sees proof of the durability and longevity of EPDM every time he visits his building. “It’s pretty wild and definitely surprising that we are still kicking along after 35 years,” he says. Given consultant Mark Sobeck’s projections, Nelson can expect another 15 years or so of “wild” service from his EPDM roof.

French Kings, Solar Power and Sustainability

Louis XIV is not a frequent reference point in today’s discussions about the world’s energy and sustainability paths. However, this longest ruling French monarch (1643-1715) was known as the “Sun King” as he often referred to himself as the center of the universe and was enamored of the sun itself. He also was the builder of Versailles, the construction of which was viewed as very innovative for its day with gardens and roads that Louis XIV arrayed in a pattern to track the sun’s movements.

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

With this in mind, it is not such a stretch to understand why the organizers of the 2014 International Solar Decathlon chose the Versailles grounds in which to hold this extraordinary exhibition, from which I have recently returned. The 15-day exhibition featured more than 20 universities from around the world, with Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design and Appalachian State University as the two U.S. competitors.

During each day of the competition, the entrants were subjected to judges’ inspection to assess performance in categories, such as architecture, communications (ability to literally tell their house’s story to press and visitors), energy efficiency, engineering and construction, and sustainability.

PIMA’s sponsorship of Appalachian State and the providing of polyiso insulation by Atlas Roofing to ASU demonstrated the role high-performance insulation plays in the future of the built environment.

However, it is not individual product performance that most impresses the visitor to these extraordinary homes. Yes, they all make exceptional use of the solar power generated by their installed PV systems (they are limited by the rules to only 5 kWh of electricity production from which they must run refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers) and each home has an array of innovative products. But it is the synergistic result of the products’ application combined with the unbelievable ingenuity of the students and professors that excited me the most.

2014 International Solar Decathlon PHOTO: SDEurope

The “decathletes” at the 2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

Some buildings were representative of new construction. For example, the ASU entrant was a modular townhome with the potential to assemble into a collective urban building.

In addition, recognizing that existing buildings are the greatest energy challenge, the effort to improve our world’s retrofit capabilities truly caught my eye. For example, the Berlin Rooftop Project focuses on abandoned rooftop space in that city to create studios for younger urban dwellers, while the Dutch (Delft University) addressed the poorly insulated townhomes that make up over 60 percent of Dutch homes by applying a “second skin” while including a garden capability within the home.

The several days I spent at the event were educational, but nothing was more inspiring than speaking with the students themselves. Be they from Chile, France, Germany, Japan, the United States or any of the other countries involved, their passion was compelling. The intellect and commitment of these future architects, engineers, designers and urban planners to finding sustainable solutions for the planet gives me a distinct optimism for our future.

Roof Systems Contribute to Success of 2014 FIFA World Cup

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup is the king of soccer competitions, so it’s only appropriate that four of the 2014 venues are crowned with roof systems that are as strong as the competition inside the venues. Three venues feature lightweight tensile structures from Birdair and the fourth includes polycarbonate skylights from PALRAM.

Estadio Mineirão

Estadio Mineirão, built in 1965 and listed as a national monument of Brazil, underwent a three-year modernization project to prepare for hosting six of the FIFA World Cup matches.

Estadio Mineirão, built in 1965 and listed as a national monument of Brazil, underwent a three-year modernization project to prepare for hosting six of the FIFA World Cup matches.

Estadio Mineirão, built in 1965 and listed as a national monument of Brazil, underwent a three-year modernization project to prepare for hosting six of the FIFA World Cup matches. It was transformed into a modern stadium with a new tensile roofing system from Birdair. The 141,000-square-foot tensile roof was added to the concrete upper tier of the stadium to provide shelter for 70,000 spectators while meeting aesthetic, acoustic and environmental impact requirements.

Birdair fabricated and supplied TiO2-coated PTFE, a Teflon-coated woven fiberglass membrane for the facility. Taiyo Birdair do Brasil, a subsidiary of Birdair, was responsible for installing the PTFE tensile membrane. TiO2 (titanium dioxide), a non-toxic and flame-resistant coating allows fabric to break down any organic materials that settle on the membrane, such as dirt. It is capable of withstanding temperatures from -100 F to 500 F, is unaffected by UV rays, and requires less maintenance to retain its appearance due to its self-cleaning capabilities. Ultimately, this TiO2 membrane is an economic and environmentally sustainable renovation that will provide fans with much-needed comfort, as well as improve a national landmark.

Estádio Nacional

Estádio Nacional expanded its capacity from 42,200 to 70,042 to host seven World Cup matches.

Estádio Nacional expanded its capacity from 42,200 to 70,042 to host seven World Cup matches.

Estádio Nacional, originally built in 1974 and located in Brazil’s capital, also underwent major reconstruction for the World Cup, expanding its capacity from 42,200 to 70,042 to host seven World Cup matches. Birdair fabricated and supplied the PTFE fiberglass membrane, clamping and hardware for the facility. The consortium Taiyo Birdair do Brasil ­Entap ­Protende was responsible for installing the entire roof’s steel and cable structure, including the PTFE outer roof and liner membrane. The project involved building a new lower tier and retaining the upper tier with the addition of a new 920,000-square-foot double-layer suspended tensile roof.

Fonte Nova Stadium

Fonte Nova Stadium's oval-shape roof design will provide cover for 50,000 spectators during each of the six games it hosts during the tournament.

Fonte Nova Stadium’s oval-shape roof design will provide cover for 50,000 spectators during each of the six games it hosts during the tournament.

Birdair, through Taiyo Birdair do Brasil (TBB) Ltda., additionally was awarded a subcontract for the roof construction of Fonte Nova Stadium in Salvador, Brazil. The stadium is modeled on its predecessor, the Estadio Octavio Mangabeira, and features three levels of seating with a view of the magnificent Dique do Tororó. Its oval-shape roof design will provide cover for 50,000 spectators during each of the six games hosted at Fonte Nova during the tournament.

Birdair’s project role consisted of detailing, fabricating and supplying PTFE, a Teflon-coated woven fiberglass membrane that makes up the facility’s lightweight tensile roofing system. Taiyo Birdair do Brazil fully installed the PTFE membrane for the 301,399-square-foot tensile roof. The facility’s tensile roof provides natural daylighting, solar shading and minimal maintenance, as well as contributes to the unique aesthetics of the new Fonte Nova Stadium.

PTFE fiberglass membrane structures have received increased global recognition as green living is becoming more important. Upon completion, Estádio Mineirão and Estádio Nacional applied for LEED certification, which is given to projects that use less materials and increase daylighting to conserve resources and increase sustainability.

Plácido Castelo

PALRAM qualified for its second consecutive World Cup games, this time covering the Plácido Castelo stadium with SUNTUF 2-millimeter-thick roofing.

The Plácido Castelo Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, features SUNTUF corrugated polycarbonate.

The Plácido Castelo Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, is popularly known as “Castelão”, part of a local tradition to nickname popular stadiums.

The Plácido Castelo Stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, is popularly known as “Castelão”, part of a local tradition to nickname popular stadiums. Owned by the Brazilian government and inaugurated in 1973, the stadium was revamped for the 2014 World Cup.

“The Palram Project Support Team was given the task of providing an architectural solution for the roof skylight. The proposal implemented was a 7,000-square-meter transparent front edge roofing specially designed to allow natural daylight on the pitch,” says Tal Furman, Palram chief engineer.

The solution offered by PALRAM was based on its continuing worldwide stadium roofing trend using SUNTUF transparent corrugated polycarbonate sheets, as a front edge covering, providing a perfect cost effective watertight solution.

A 7,000-square-meter transparent front edge from PALRAM was specially designed to allow natural daylight on the pitch.

A 7,000-square-meter transparent front edge was specially designed to allow natural daylight on the pitch.

For the Castelão stadium roof, PALRAM specified 9-meter single length SUNTUF corrugated polycarbonate sheets that cover the entire roof length, thus ensuring long term transparency for the skylight and reduced risk for leakage.

The Arena Castelão will host six World Cup matches, including a first round match between Brazil and Mexico and one of the quarter-finals. It was the first Brazilian Stadium to obtain the LEED certification. Since its re-inauguration, the Arena Castelão has hosted more than 50 matches of the local league and of the Brazil Cup. The stadium also hosted matches of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and world-class concerts from artists like Paul McCartney and Beyoncé.

As part of PALRAM preparation for the World Cup, a polycarbonate roofing solutions professional seminar was held in front of Brazil top architects, engineers and construction professionals by Mr. Michel Allouch, Palram V.P. Marketing and development. As a result of this seminar, the same solution was implemented by PALRAM project team as well at the new Palmeiras Stadium in São Paulo, although this stadium is not hosting the World Cup games.

For over 50 years, PALRAM has been a global leader in manufacturing extruded thermoplastic sheets, offering an extensive product line for consumer, architectural, construction, sign & display, and agricultural applications.

The 20th FIFA World Cup is scheduled for June 12 through July 13, 2014 in 12 different Brazil host cities.

New Roof Must Last as Long as the Solar Panels It Supports

As thousands of Silicon Valley employees exited Hewlett-Packard (HP) global operations headquarters to head home for the evening, a crew of 25 roofers–under the glare of temporary spotlights–toiled diligently. They were fastening thousands of 1/2-inch DensDeck Prime coverboards to the 10-year-old insulation system covering the building’s metal deck.

Originally planned to be white, Hewlett-Packard ultimately selected a tan-colored membrane, to reduce glare because two levels of the building have glass-to-ceiling windows that allow visual access to the roof.

Originally planned to be white, Hewlett-Packard ultimately selected a tan-colored membrane, to reduce glare because two levels of the building have glass-to-ceiling windows that allow visual access to the roof.

Soon after, they adhered a single-ply, fleece-faced, tan-colored Sika Sarnafil EnergySmart roof membrane to the DensDeck Prime boards, creating a state-of-the-art 300,000-square-foot reroof. The added protection was much-needed, as it provided the durability and compressive strength to safely accommodate a massive system of solar panels that were installed atop 85 percent of the roof.

“We chose DensDeck Prime because it provides the best support for the new membrane, the existing roof and all the (solar) equipment that will go on top of it,” explains Steve Nash, vice president of Waterproofing Associates, who designed the reroof system in conjunction with Ted Christensen of Independent Roofing Consultants, and selected the materials to make it work. “With all the weight that will be bearing directly on the roof membrane, we need the ultimate roof substrate.”

Installing the massive, electricity-generating system of solar panels was an intricate endeavor, especially because its presence will complicate any repairs to the roof during the solar energy system’s anticipated 25-year life cycle. The building owner called on Nash to create a roof with a life cycle that would mirror the life of the solar panels.

The building owner desired a roof with a life cycle that would mirror the 25-year life span of the solar panels, which cover 85 percent of the roof.

The building owner desired a roof with a life cycle that would mirror the 25-year life span of the solar panels, which cover 85 percent of the roof.

“If the roof were to need repairs, the solar panels would have to be disassembled and out of service until the repairs are finished. And that can’t happen,” Nash adds. “Basically, we have to build a virtually maintenance-free roof.”

Protection—Above and Below

Cost-effective because of its energy efficiency and high levels of dimensional stability, the Sika Sarnafil G410 membrane is frequently installed over an underlayment of DensDeck Prime because its surface treatment provides a stronger bond for adhered membrane applications. Also, DensDeck Prime roof boards’ high pounds per square inch (PSI) compressive strength is an advantage as a durable platform for roofs with heavy equipment, like solar panels, on top.

Adding further complexity to the building’s new roofing system was the fact that the owner chose only to replace the original membrane—from another manufacturer—that had sprung a number of leaks in recent years. Keeping the remainder of the original roof—2 inches of fiberglass insulation, a built-up gravel surface and 1/2 inch of fiberboard—saved considerable time and money, as well as avoided having to send thousands of pounds of materials to landfills.

However, it did require adding the layer of DensDeck Prime to do double duty: carefully protect the layers of the original roof that would remain while forming the foundation for the Sika Sarnafil membrane.

Upon completion of the five-week project, which was conducted only at night and on weekends so the noise wouldn’t interrupt the HP employees during normal work hours, the new roof is aesthetically pleasing. Originally planned to be white, the owners ultimately selected a tan-colored membrane, to reduce glare because two levels of the building have glass-to-ceiling windows that allow visual access to the roof.

Nash notes the new roof’s beauty will only be exceeded by its durability. “With thousands of pounds of solar panels sitting on top of it, the roofing membrane cannot fail. So you get the best materials available to make it last—and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Reroofing Is One of the Few Opportunities to Improve the Built Environment

All of us get misled by catch-phrases, like “Save the Planet” or “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”. Although phrases like these are well intended, they can be misleading; they really are off topic. Something like “Save the Humans” is more to the point and truly the root of the entire sustainability movement. Let’s face it: The efforts to be more green are inherently aimed at a healthier you and me, as well as our children’s and grandchildren’s desire for continued healthful lives and opportunities.

The existing PVC roof on the GM After Sales Warehouse, Lansing, Mich., was removed and recycled into new PVC roofing material, a portion of which was reinstalled on this project and helped it achieve RoofPoint certification.

The existing PVC roof on the GM After Sales Warehouse, Lansing, Mich., was removed and recycled into new PVC roofing material, a portion of which was reinstalled on this project and helped it achieve RoofPoint certification.

The discussion about green and sustainability needs some context to make it real and effectual. The question to ask is: How does green construction help humans live a healthier and happier life? The answer is: It is because of the co-benefits of building (and living) in a more environmentally appropriate way.

One key component of building environmentally appropriate buildings is that, collectively, we use less energy. Less energy use means no need to build another power plant that creates electricity while spewing pollution into the air. Less pollution in the air means people are healthier. It also means the water and soil are less polluted. We drink that water and eat what grows in the ground. We also eat “stuff” from the rivers, lakes and oceans. Healthier people means reduced costs for health care. Reduced sickness means fewer sick days at the office, and fewer sick days means more productivity by employees—and, dare I say, happier employees all because of the environmentally appropriate building, or a “human appropriate” building.

So what does all this have to do with roofs? Rooftops, because they are a significant percentage of the building envelope, should not be overlooked as an important and truly significant energy-efficiency measure. Building owners and facility managers should always include energy-efficiency components in their roof system designs. There are few opportunities to improve the building envelope; reroofing is one of those opportunities, and it shouldn’t be missed.

According to the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing and building envelope research firm Tegnos Inc., roof systems have the potential to save 700-plus trillion Btus in annual energy use. Too many roofs are not insulated to current code-required levels. If our rooftops were better insulated, these energy-saving estimates would become reality. Imagine the co-benefits of such a significant reduction in energy use!

The RoofPoint certified Bucks County Community College roof, in Perkasie, Pa., features a high-performance multi-layer insulation system that provides high levels of energy efficiency. Staggered joints break thermal discontinuities and a coverboard provides R-value and a durable surface.

The RoofPoint certified Bucks County Community College roof, in Perkasie, Pa., features a high-performance multi-layer insulation system that provides high levels of energy efficiency. Staggered joints break thermal discontinuities and a coverboard provides R-value and a durable surface.

But how do we know we’re doing the right thing? RoofPoint and the RoofPoint Carbon Calculator will help. The RoofPoint Carbon Calculator uses seven inputs to compare an energy-efficient roof with a baseline roof: insulation, thermal performance, air barrier, roof surface, rooftop PV, solar thermal and roof daylighting. The outputs from the Carbon Calculator are total roof energy use, energy savings due to the energy-efficient roof design, energy savings during peak demand, and CO2 offset for the energy-efficient roof design. This can be used to compare an existing roof (the baseline roof) to a new roof design (the energy efficient roof), and this will help verify the energy savings and reduction of carbon output. It’s an excellent tool for verifying how green a new roof can be.

And don’t just take my word on this co-benefits idea. The Economist published an article about the EPA and rulings on interstate pollution. The article cited a claim that by this year, 2014—if pollution rates were half of those in 2005—hundreds of thousands of asthma cases each year could be prevented and nearly 2 million work and school days lost to respiratory illness could be eliminated. And just think, improving your roof’s energy efficiency is key to the reduction of power-plant use and the pollution that comes from them. So, yes, roofs can help your kids and your grandkids be healthy and happy.

Transite Roofing: Friend or Foe?

As Transite, or Asbestos-containing, Roofs Come to the End of their Life Cycle, Contractors Should Know When Retrofitting Is an Option

The use of asbestos dates back thousands of years. For millennia, cultures across the globe embraced asbestos’ super-strengthening properties. Asbestos’ popularity peaked in the late 19th century during the Industrial Revolution when commercial asbestos mines sprung up across the U.S. and Canada. Before its carcinogenic properties were discovered, asbestos was used in hundreds of applications, including walls, roofs, coatings, fireplaces, shingles, insulation, pipes, furniture, paper products, automobile parts, fabrics and packaging. In the construction industry, in particular, it was considered a “super-product.” Whether mixed as a binder with cement or used as a coating on steel panels, asbestos is insulating, non-combustible, corrosion-resistant, inert, humidity-tolerant and sound absorbent.

One major application of asbestos over the past 100 years has been transite roofing panels. Asbestos was essentially used as a binder in cement slurry and then formed into profiled or flat sheets. Transite roofing panels can still be found across the country; many are still in place after 50, 60 or even 70 years of life. Because transite panels acquired asbestos’ super-strengthening properties, they made (and in some cases continue to make) ideal roofing for foundries, forges, chemical plants, paper plants, wastewater treatment plants and sewage facilities. The roofing material withstands high heat, chemical emissions, humidity and other elements emitted by these facilities that other building products could not tolerate.

Transite roofing panels can still be found across the country; many are still in place after 50, 60 or even 70 years of life.

Transite roofing panels can still be found across the country; many are still in place after 50, 60 or even 70 years of life.

Despite the strength of asbestos, even transite roofs can deteriorate or require renovation. In fact, most roofing contractors have encountered or will soon encounter transite roof jobs. The job where transite is in good condition with no airborne particles may be a perfect candidate for a retrofit.

(For the purposes of simplicity, this article uniformly refers to corrugated, asbestos-containing cement roofing sheets as transite. Professionals may also encounter names like 4.2 cement asbestos or corrugated cement. It’s important to note not all corrugated cement roofing sheets contain asbestos; some manufacturers substituted wood fibers for asbestos during the height of asbestos panic in the 1980s. Few of these products successfully penetrated the market because performance did not match that of original transite.)

Leave It In Place

Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is still legally used in many commercial applications in the U.S. today, including roofing and flooring materials; in fireproofing; and in friction products, like brake shoes and clutches. With the surge of installation of transite roofs in the 1950s and 60s, the lifespan of many of these roofs’ components is just now ending. Common factors attributing to roof or structure deterioration may include longitudinal cracks along the panel highs, broken or brittle fasteners or washers, friable panel material, and/or building shifts due to expansion or contraction. Additionally, other renovations on a building may require that old roofs that are still intact be brought up to new codes.

Today, a good general rule about asbestos is “leave it on if you can,” meaning it must be in good condition with no airborne particles.

Today, a good general rule about asbestos is “leave it on if you can,” meaning it is in good condition with no airborne particles.

Professionals encountering transite roof jobs may feel confusion about how to handle asbestos-containing materials. Some may even avoid transite jobs altogether assuming they will equate to expensive asbestos-removal procedures and red tape. However, asbestos abatement (the process of removing or minimizing asbestos health hazards from a structure) can take many forms, including removal, enclosure, encapsulation or leaving the material undisturbed.

In the past, abatement through removal was the recommendation of many asbestos professionals. Traditionally, transite was replaced with fiberglass. This solution is imperfect, however, because of the expenses of asbestos removal and new fiberglass, as well as the lower heat tolerance of fiberglass-based materials. More recently, approaches have changed and several other options present themselves.

Today, a good general rule about asbestos (and in fact the position of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) is “leave it on if you can,” meaning it must be in good condition with no airborne particles. Although not always possible, when the contractor can leave the asbestos-containing material in place, asbestos should be considered friend, not foe. Regulations might prevent installation of a new asbestos transite roof, but old buildings that can keep their transite roofs in place will continue to reap the benefits of the product’s super-strengthening properties. [Read more…]

Insulation and Roof Replacements

When existing roofs (that are part of the building’s thermal envelope) are removed and replaced and when the roof assembly includes above-deck insulation, the energy code now requires that the insulation levels comply with the requirements for new construction, according to a proposal approved by International Code Council at public comment hearings held in October 2013.

This high-performance roof system was recently installed on a high school north of Chicago. It features two layers of 3-inch 25-psi, double-coated fiberglass-faced polyisocyanurate insulation set in bead-foam adhesive at 4 inches on center, weighted with five 5-gallon pails of adhesive per 4- by 4-foot board to ensure a positive bond into the bead foam until set. PHOTO: Hutchinson Design Group LLC

This high-performance roof system was recently installed on a high school north of Chicago. It features two layers of 3-inch 25-psi, double-coated fiberglass-faced polyisocyanurate insulation set in bead-foam adhesive at 4 inches on center, weighted with five 5-gallon pails of adhesive per 4- by 4-foot board to ensure a positive bond into the bead foam until set. PHOTO: Hutchinson Design Group LLC

As a result of this proposal approval, the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) provides new language that provides clear unambiguous direction on how the energy code provisions apply to roof repair, roof recover and roof replacement.

Until this update there was a great deal of confusion given the various terms—such as reroofing, roof repair, roof recover and roof replacement—used to describe roofing projects on existing buildings in the International Building Code and the IECC. The clarification will help to mitigate this confusion.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the energy savings provided by a well-insulated roofing system. It is critical to minimize energy losses and upgrade insulation levels when roofs are replaced to comply with code requirements for new construction.

Each year about 2.5 billion square feet of roof coverings are installed on existing buildings and the opportunity to upgrade the insulation levels on these roof systems occurs just once in several decades when the roof is replaced or even longer when existing roofs are “recovered”. Until recently this requirement was prescribed using vague and confusing language, as noted.

Moving forward the IECC will use the same definitions found in the International Building code:

  • Reroofing: The process of recovering or replacing an existing roof covering. See “Roof Recover” and “Roof Replacement”.
  • Roof Recover: The process of installing an additional roof covering over a prepared existing roof covering without removing the existing roof covering.
  • Roof Replacement: The process of removing the existing roof covering, repairing any damaged substrate and installing a new roof covering.
  • Roof Repair: Reconstruction or renewal of any part of an existing roof for the purposes of its maintenance.

A survey of building departments in many states and regions in the U.S. found that online roofing permit application forms rarely included any information on the energy code and required insulation levels. With the changes to the 2015 IECC, it will be easier for building departments to correlate the building code and energy code requirements for roof replacements.

The clarification to the 2015 IECC makes the code easier to interpret and enforce. Along the way, it will help ensure that the opportunity to save energy when replacing roofs is not lost.

Another benefit of this update is that the exemption for roof repair is now clearly defined making it easier for building owners and roofing contractors to perform routine maintenance without triggering energy-efficiency upgrades, which would add costs.