Prevent Roof Fires During Torch-Down Projects

While driving to work recently, I heard a news story on the radio: An unlicensed roofer was charged with causing a fire at a local apartment complex. When I arrived at the office, I Googled “fires caused by roofers”. The results included stories from across the nation:

  • Roofing crew blamed for a Chicago strip-mall fire.
  • Roofer’s torch likely cause of huge Arizona construction-site blaze.
  • Roofer’s blowtorch sparks a six-alarm fire in Hamilton Township, N.J.

Obviously, building fires can be caused by roofers using an open-flame torch to install torch-down roofing systems.

Torch-down roofing is a type of roofing that consists of layers of modified bitumen adhered to layers of fiberglass with a flame torch. Torch-down roofing is used only for flat or low-slope roofs. This process is popular with many contractors, mainly because of its ease of installation and its adaptability. With this system, the modified bitumen can bond tightly to metal flashings while the rubbery additives in the asphalt allow the roofing to expand and contract when other roofing systems may crack. In addition, roofers like torch-down roofing because it is easy to apply. Unfortunately, it also is dangerous!

It is extremely easy to make a mistake with the torch that will result in disaster. Consider roofers that are torching down a roof and accidentally overheat something in the attic—insulation, for instance. They end their work for the day, not noticing the smoke coming out of soffit vents. Before long, that smoldering material in the attic heats up and starts a fire that quickly spreads throughout the dry, hot attic and, often, to the rest of the structure.

According to the Emmitsburg, Md.-based U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System, there are an estimated 10,000 residential roofing attic fires each year, resulting in approximately 30 deaths, 125 injuries and $477 million worth of property damage.

OSHA has developed standards that can help prevent these fires. Here are some of OSHA’s fire-protection and -prevention rules:

  • A fire extinguisher must be immediately accessible for all torch-down operations.
  • A fire extinguisher is needed within 50 feet of anywhere where more than 5 gallons of flammable or combustible liquids or 5 pounds of flammable gas are being used on the job site.
  • No one on a job site can be more than 100 feet from a fire extinguisher at all times.
  • There must be at least one fire extinguisher for 3,000 square feet of work area.
  • All flammable or combustible debris must be located well away from flammable liquids or gases.
  • Combustible scrap and debris must be removed regularly during the course of a job.
  • Piles of scrap and debris must be kept at least 10 feet from any building.
  • A fire watch person should be posted to immediately address any possible smolders or flare-ups.
  • The fire watch person should remain on post for 30 minutes after the torch-down job is finished for the day.

Following these simple rules for fire prevention and protection can save roofers money and time, as well as protect them from lawsuits and other legal charges.

Visit this site to learn more about OSHA’s Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, Welding and Cutting, Fire Prevention.

UL-listed Smoke Vent Skylights Minimize Warehouse’s Power Consumption

Trojan Battery, a manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries, occupies a 160,000-square-foot industrial facility in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., along with several other large industrial buildings in California. Each facility consumes a significant amount of electrical power each month. By adding 100 polycarbonate dome UL-listed smoke vent skylights, Trojan Battery will be able to save upwards of 40 percent on its power consumption for its warehouse in Santa Fe Springs.

By adding 100 polycarbonate dome UL-listed smoke vent skylights, Trojan Battery will be able to save upwards of 40 percent on its power consumption for its warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

By adding 100 polycarbonate dome UL-listed smoke vent skylights, Trojan Battery will be able to save upwards of 40 percent on its power consumption for its warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

According to a representative of Santa Ana, Calif.-based IRC (Independent Roofing Consultants), a roofing consulting firm: “Typically, a 2 percent density of skylight units are utilized for effective energy reduction. Densities of 2.5 to 3 percent are being provided for newer buildings and being installed in conjunction with roof replacements to reduce energy costs associated with building lighting.”

The roof originally consisted of outdated skylights significantly reducing the benefits of natural lighting. New polycarbonate dome skylights and smoke vents from SKYCO Skylights allow owners to maximize the use of free daylighting. Additional benefits include 10 years against yellowing and breakage.

Aside from the energy benefits, Trojan Battery was able to reduce its safety liability. UL-listed smoke vents with polycarbonate domes not only provide ample daylighting, but they are life-saving devices. The smoke vent is designed with two thermal triggered hatches that automatically open up in the event of a fire.

Fire marshals and insurance companies recognize the benefits of a UL-listed smoke vent skylight because they allow the smoke, heat and hot gasses inside a burning warehouse to escape providing trapped workers a visible route for safe exit. They also reduce smoke damage to warehouse inventories. In many cases, insurance companies will provide a much needed break on rates when UL-listed smoke vents are added to the rooftop.

The smoke vent is designed with two thermal triggered hatches that automatically open up in the event of a fire.

The smoke vent is designed with two thermal triggered hatches that automatically open up in the event of a fire.

The reroof was performed by Highland Commercial Roofing, Baldwin Park, Calif. The commercial roofer specializes in and provided Trojan Battery headquarters with a RainShield seamless single-ply roofing system. The RainShield system, reinforced with a tough polyester mat, uses waterproofing-grade asphalts and highly reflective elastomeric acrylic surfacing to create a seamless, waterproof, highly reflective membrane providing a permanent, high-performance roofing system guaranteed not to leak for at least 20 years. The cool roof system chosen reflects more than 80 percent of the sun’s radiant heat, which can reduce a building’s cooling cost by as much as 50 percent.

With average temperatures and power costs rising, building owners and occupant are looking for new innovative ways to save money. Highland Commercial Roofing recommends a complete analysis of the skylights when owners consider reroofing their building. Replacing old, ineffective skylights at the time of reroof is the most cost effective method for the investment.

Traditional Wood Shakes Are Made of High-strength Steel

The Roser Stone Wood Shake pairs the aesthetic beauty of the traditional wood shake with the low maintenance and exceptional performance of high-strength steel.

The Roser Stone Wood Shake pairs the aesthetic beauty of the traditional wood shake with the low maintenance and exceptional performance of high-strength steel.

The Roser Stone Wood Shake pairs the aesthetic beauty of the traditional wood shake with the low maintenance and exceptional performance of high-strength steel. Tested against the elements, Stone Wood Shake by Roser has been tempered against hurricanes, fires, hail storms and earthquakes and has proven its durability and protection for your greatest investment—your home.

The roofing system includes:

  • Clear acrylic over-glaze protective coating
  • Roofing granule coating
  • Adhesive basecoat
  • Protective surface coating
  • Aluminum/zinc coating
  • Commercial-grade steel core
  • Protective surface coating

The Stone Coated Steel Roofing System, manufactured by Roser, offers the advantage of high-strength steel with a look a variety of traditional and innovative architectural styles. When compared to asphalt shingles and concrete roofing products, which can weigh 350 to 1,000 pounds per square, the Roser Stone Coated Roofing System, at only 150 pounds per square, effectively reduces the overhead weight on the house structure. This provides for a much safer building during an earthquake, fire or a hurricane. While the standard shingle and shake roofs naturally deteriorate over time, the Roser Roofing System will continue to maintain its beautiful appearance and requires the least amount of maintenance in the roofing industry. An eco-friendly Roser roof will increase the resale value of your home not only with its elegance, but also with its proven durability.

About Roser Roofing System:

  • Installs direct to deck or over battens.
  • Stone surface resists fading and provides for a quiet roof.
  • Fastener design features a confirmed and a locking profile.
  • Low-maintenance roof system with water-shedding performance.
  • Storm driven engineering design is proven throughout the world.
  • Includes the stringent Miami-Dade Approval.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standards for Testing Solar PV Modules and Panels

For more than a decade, the demand for grid-connected solar installations in the U.S. has been on the rise, in part, because of economic and legislative incentives that encourage and often subsidize the installation of photovoltaic (PV) modules for residential and commercial applications. In the interest of improving energy efficiency, property owners, including businesses and homeowners, are turning to their roofs to support the PV systems.

Solar PV panels are installed on a roof by a mounting or racking system. Building-integrated PV modules replace the roofing material and become a part of the roof.

Solar PV panels are installed on
a roof by a mounting or racking
system. Building-integrated PV
modules replace the roofing material
and become a part of the roof.

A U.S. Solar Market Insight report published this year by the Solar Energy Industries Association, Washington, D.C., found that grid-connected solar electric installations were producing 13 GW of energy through the end of 2013—enough to power nearly 2.2 million homes in the U.S. That’s equivalent to 4,751 MW of solar PV installed in 2013.

There are two main types of PV modules that are being installed on steep- and low-slope roofs today: PV modules that are secured to the roof by a mounting or racking system and building-integrated PV modules (BIPV) that replace the roofing material and become part of the roof. The variety of components and installation techniques lends itself to closer scrutiny in testing each PV module.

ANSI/UL 1703

For more than a decade, manufacturers of flat-plate PV modules and solar panels have had their products tested and certified to meet the ANSI/UL 1703 regulatory standard to ensure their safety, performance and reliability before entering the market.

However, following recent field failures in which fire impacted the module differently than anticipated because of the way it was installed or interacted with the roof, as well as how the PV performed in extreme weather conditions, the ANSI/UL 1703 standard was updated for fire-resistance testing and classification requirements.

The changes to ANSI/UL 1703 require that testing for PV systems not solely be based on the rating for the individual modules, but instead that it takes into account a combined system rating. Stand-alone PV modules and PV modules with mounting or racking systems in combination with the roof covering must receive a fire rating, denoted by Class A, B or C. However, the same testing procedures do not apply for BIPV systems. They will continue to be tested to ANSI/UL 790, “Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Roof Coverings”.

Fire resistance testing, such as Spread of Flames and Burning Brand tests, on solar PV roofing installations are tested in a lab and in the field.

Fire resistance testing, such as Spread of Flames and Burning Brand tests, on solar PV roofing installations are tested in a lab and in the field.

Because of the changes to the ANSI/UL 1703 standard, manufacturers will be required to incorporate new and different testing procedures or potentially need to re-test previously tested products to comply with the standard. A PV panel will be required to obtain a classification “type” with construction review and testing, in addition to obtaining a fire rating for the PV system, which incorporates a module, mounting system and roof covering. The California State Fire Marshal announced the changes to ANSI/UL 1703 will go into effect in California starting Jan. 1, 2015, while changes to the code are set to go into effect in all states and other countries by Jan. 1, 2016.

THIRD-PARTY TESTING

Several solar PV manufacturers regularly work with companies, like Intertek, to ensure the quality and safety of their products, processes and systems. Intertek is one of the four Nationally Recognized Test Laboratories, including UL, CSA and TUV, recognized by Washington-based OSHA to conduct the ANSI/UL 1703 and ANSI/UL 790 testing in the U.S. Intertek has testing labs in Middleton, Wis., and Menlo Park, Calif., among others sites in the U.S. At Intertek, fire-resistance testing for steep-slope roofs is conducted using a “typical” roof as defined in the standard, which consists of 15/32-inch plywood (Spread of Flames) or 3/8-inch plywood (Burning Brand), 15-pound felt and Class A three-tab asphalt shingles. An alternate construction for the Spread of Flames test is to use any classified rolled asphalt membrane, mechanically secured over a non-combustible deck/material.

Low-slope roof testing has a slightly different construction, and the Spread of Flames test is the only test conducted. The low-slope roof consists of a 15/32-inch plywood substrate; 4 inches of polyisocyanurate insulation; and a single-ply, mechanically attached membrane. This membrane is required to have demonstrated a Class A fire rating. A typical membrane used for the testing is a 0.060-inch-thick EPDM roofing membrane.

Fire-resistance testing is just part of the rigorous testing criteria for PV modules; test requirements for the module’s power output, grounding, accelerated aging and conditioning, thermal cycling, UV exposure, and high humidity/freeze tests are also part of the performance testing process. To properly test and certify PV products for the solar market, third-party performance testing ensures independent verification of warranty claims, endurance, output, and functionality in a variety of climate or conditions.

ETL ListedProducts certified by Intertek will receive the ETL Listed Mark, which is required by the U.S. National Electrical Code for the sale of PV systems. Intertek certification provides assurance to roofing contractors, architects, and building owners that a product has not only been tested and met the necessary requirements, but also continues to do so even after installation. Further, Intertek’s ETL markings have long been recognized by regulatory bodies as a leading indicator of proof of conformance and quality for products throughout the U.S. and Canada. Code officials and inspectors, retailers and consumers across the U.S. accept the ETL Listed Mark as proof of product safety and quality. Today, the ETL Mark is the fastest-growing safety certification in North America and is featured on millions of products sold by major retailers and distributors every day.

PHOTOS: Intertek

Learn More

For more information about the testing and certification process, download Intertek’s free white paper: “Photovoltaic Panel and Module Fire Resistance Testing: Comprehensive Guide to ANSI/UL 1703” at Intertek.com/energy/photovoltaic.

MORE ABOUT INTERTEK

In December 2013, Intertek acquired York, Pa.-based Architectural Testing Inc. to become one of the world’s largest quality-solutions providers to the building and construction products’ industry worldwide. From code compliance, performance testing, product inspection, certification and building verification services, Intertek offers its customers everything needed to get their product to market quickly and efficiently by offering total solutions. With a total network of more than 1,000 laboratories and offices and more than 36,000 people in more than 100 countries, Intertek supports companies’ success in the global marketplace by helping customers to meet end users’ expectations for safety, sustainability, performance, integrity and desirability in virtually any market worldwide. For more information about Intertek’s building products’ business, visit Intertek.com/building.