After Years of Roof Leaks, a Laboratory That Produces Theatrical Equipment and Software Undergoes a Complex Reroofing

Founded in 1910, Rosco Laboratories is a multi-national producer of equipment, software and products for the theatrical, film, and television industries and architectural environment. As with every aging flat roofing system, water leakage was becoming a recurring problem at Rosco’s Stamford, Conn., facility. The severity of the leakage was further exacerbated by the lack of roof drainage (only two roof drains serviced the entire building) and poor deck slope conditions (less than 1/16 inch per foot).

The gypsum decking was cut out within the limits of the entire framing “bay” and infilled with galvanized metal decking. The longitudinal deck panel edge was seated atop the horizontal leg of the bulb-tee section (visible in the center of the photograph) and mechanically fastened using self-tapping screws. The ends were supported by the steel purlins. The underside of the decking was prepainted to match the ceiling finish. Supplemental structural support consisting of strips of 14-gauge galvanized sheet metal were attached to the bottom of each bulb-tee section contiguous to the repair to provide additional support for the adjacent gypsum roof decking segment.

The gypsum decking was cut out within the limits of the entire framing “bay” and infilled with galvanized metal decking. The longitudinal deck panel edge was seated atop the horizontal leg of the bulb-tee section (visible in the center of the photograph) and mechanically fastened using self-tapping screws. The ends were supported by the steel purlins. The underside of the decking was prepainted to match the ceiling finish. Supplemental structural support consisting of strips of 14-gauge galvanized sheet metal were attached to the bottom of each bulb-tee section contiguous to the repair to provide additional support for the adjacent gypsum roof decking segment.


Rosco representatives employed traditional methods to control and/or collect the moisture within the building by use of several water diverters. This technique was effective but Rosco representatives soon recognized this was not a viable long term solution as the physical integrity of the roof structure (deck) became a principal concern to the safety of the building occupants.

The Fisher Group LLC, an Oxford, Conn.-based building envelope consulting firm was retained by Rosco in March 2009 to survey the existing site conditions and determine the need for roofing replacement. The existing roofing construction, which consisted of a conventional two-ply, smooth-surfaced BUR with aluminized coating, exhibited numerous deficiencies (most notably severe alligatoring) and was deemed unserviceable. Construction documents, including drawings and specifications and a project phasing plan were developed by Fisher Group to address the planned roof replacement.

Bid proposals were solicited from prequalified contractors in June 2010, and F.J. Dahill Co. Inc., New Haven, Conn., was awarded the contract on the basis of lowest bid.

Existing Conditions

The building basically consists of a 1-story steel-framed structure constructed in the 1970s. It is a simple “box”-style configuration, which is conducive to manufacturing.

In conjunction with design services, destructive test cuts were made by Fisher Group in several roof sections as necessary to verify the existing roofing composition, insulation substrate, moisture entrapment, and substrate/deck construction. A total of four distinct “layers” of roofing were encountered at each test cut. The existing roofing construction consisted of alternating layers of smooth- and gravel-surfaced, multi-ply felt and bitumen built-up roofing. The bitumen contained throughout the construction was fortunately asphalt-based. Succeeding layers of roofing were spot mopped or fully mopped to the preceding layer (system). The combined weight of the roofing construction was estimated to be upwards of 20 to 22 pounds per square foot when considering the moisture content. This is excessive weight.

The roof insulation panels were set into ribbons of low-rise polyurethane foam insulation adhesive. The adhesive was applied in a continuous serpentine bead, spaced 6 inches on-center throughout the field of the roof.

The roof insulation panels were set into ribbons of low-rise polyurethane foam insulation adhesive. The adhesive was applied in a continuous serpentine bead, spaced 6 inches on-center throughout the field of the roof.


It is interesting to note that a minimal amount of roof insulation was present in the existing construction. Insulation was limited to a single layer of 1/2-inch-thick fiberboard. Additional insulation would need to be provided as part of the replacement roofing construction to increase the roof’s thermal performance and comply with the prescriptive requirements of the Connecticut State Energy Conservation Construction Code.

The structural substrate, or decking, is conventional in nature, comprised of poured gypsum roof decking. The roof decking incorporates 1/2-inch gypsum formboard loose laid between steel bulb-tee supports spaced about 32 inches on-center. The poured gypsum roof decking in this instance was utilized as the structural substrate and for insulating purposes. Poured gypsum roof decking has a minimal insulating value of perhaps R-2 to R-3, which is obviously considered to be minimal by present standards.

A representative number of bulk material samples were obtained by Fisher Group from the existing roofing construction as necessary to determine the material composition. The sampling included field membrane roofing plies, coatings and cements, and associated roof penetration and perimeter flashings. Laboratory analysis revealed that the second, third and, in some instances, fourth roofing “layers” (field membrane plies) contained varying amounts—5 to 10 percent—of asbestos (chrysotile) which would necessitate full abatement of the roofing construction.

PHOTOS: The Fisher Group LLC

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Concise Details and Coordination between Trades Will Lead to a Quality Long-term Solution for Roof Drains

PHOTO 1: Roof drains should be set into a sump receiver provided and installed by the plumbing contractor.

PHOTO 1: Roof drains should be set into a sump receiver provided and installed by the plumbing contractor.

The 2015 IECC roof thermal insulation codes have forced roof system designers to actually think through the roof system design rather than rely on generic manufacturers’ details or the old built-up roof detail that has been used in the office. Don’t laugh! I see it all the time. For the purpose of this article, I will deal with new construction so I can address the coordination of the interrelated disciplines: plumbing, steel and roof design. In roofing removal and replacement projects, the process and design elements would be similar but the existing roof deck and structural framing would be in place. The existing roof drain would need to be evaluated as to whether it could remain or needs to be replaced. My firm typically replaces 85 percent of all old roof drains for a variety of reasons.

The new 2015 IECC has made two distinctive changes to the 2012 IECC in regard to the thermal insulation requirements for low-slope roofs with the continuous insulation on the exterior side of the roof deck:

  • 1. It increased the minimum requirement of thermal R-value in each of the ASHRAE regions.
  • 2. It now requires that this minimum R-value be attained within 4 feet of the roof drain.

Item two is the game changer. If you consider that with tapered insulation you now need to meet the minimum near the drain, as opposed to an aver- age, the total insulation thickness can increase substantially.

PHOTO 2: Roof drains need to be secured to the roof deck with under-deck clamps so they cannot move.

PHOTO 2: Roof drains need to be secured to the roof deck with under-deck clamps so they cannot move.

THE ROOF DRAIN CHALLENGE

The challenge I see for designers is how to properly achieve a roof system design that will accommodate the new insulation thicknesses (without holding the drain off the roof deck, which I believe is below the designer’s standard of care), transition the roof membrane into the drain and coordinate with the related disciplines.

For the purpose of this tutorial, let’s make the following assumptions:

  • Steel roof deck, level, no slope
  • Internal roof drains
  • Vapor/air retarder required, placed on sheathing
  • Base layer and tapered insulation will be required
  • Cover board
  • Fully adhered 60-mil EPDM
  • ASHRAE Zone 5: Chicago area

FIGURE 1: Your detail should show the steel roof deck, steel angle framing coped to the structure, the metal sump receiver (manufactured by the roof drain manufacturer), roof drain and underdeck clamp to hold the roof drain to the roof deck.

FIGURE 1: Your detail should show the steel roof deck, steel angle framing coped to the structure, the metal sump receiver (manufactured by the roof drain manufacturer), roof drain and underdeck clamp to hold the roof drain to the roof deck.

Once the roof drain locations have been selected (for those new to this, the roof system designer should select the roof drain locations to best suit the tapered insulation layout), one should try to locate the roof drain in linear alignment to reduce tapered insulation offsets. The drain outlets should be of good size, 4-inch minimum, even if the plumbing engineer says they can be smaller. Don’t place them hundreds of feet apart. Once the roof drain location is selected, inform the plumbing and structural engineers.

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER COORDINATION
The first order of business would be to give the structural engineer a call and tell him the plumbing engineer will specify the roof drain sump pan and that the structural engineer should not specify an archaic, out-of-date sump pan for built-up roofs incorporating minimal insulation.

When located in the field of the roof, the roof drains should be at structural mid spans, not at columns. When a structural roof slope is used and sloped to an exterior roof edge, the roof drains should be located as close to walls as possible. Do not locate drains sever- al or more feet off the roof edge; it is just too difficult to back slope to them. Inform the structural engineer that the steel angles used to frame the opening need to be coped to the structure, not laid atop the structure. There’s no need to raise the roof deck right where all the water is to drain.

FIGURE 2: A threaded roof drain extension is required to make up the distance from deck up to the top of the insulation and must be screwed to a proper location (top of the insulation is recommended). To do so, the insulation below the drain will need to be slightly beveled. This is shown in the detail.

FIGURE 2: A threaded roof drain extension is required
to make up the distance from deck up to the top of the insulation and must be screwed to a proper location (top of the insulation is recommended). To do so, the insulation below the drain will need to be slightly beveled. This is shown in the detail.

PLUMBING COORDINATION
Now call the plumbing engineer and tell him you need a metal sump receiver (see Photo 1), underdeck clamp (see Photo 2), cast-iron roof drain with reversible collar, threaded extension ring capable of expanding upward 5 inches, and cast-iron roof drain clamping ring and dome.

Send the structural and plumbing engineer your schematic roof drain detail so they know exactly what you are thinking. Then suggest they place your detail on their drawings. Why? Because you cannot believe how much the plumbing roof-related details and architectural roof details often differ! Because details differ, the trade that works on the project first—plumbing— leaves the roofing contractor to deal with any inconsistencies.

Your detail at this point should show the steel roof deck, steel angle framing coped to the structure, the metal sump receiver (manufactured by the roof drain manufacturer), roof drain and underdeck clamp to hold the roof drain to the roof deck (see Figure 1).

PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATIONS: HUTCHINSON DESIGN GROUP LLC

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From Green to Blue: Making Roof Systems Sustainable in Urban Environments

Municipal storm-water managers historically have focused on controlling runoff from ground-level impervious surfaces, such as roadways, sidewalks and parking areas. However, the next frontier in storm-water management is rooftops. In urban storm-water management, roofs are part of the problem and potential solution. An exciting new technology to control rooftop runoff is known as blue roofs. Over the next several years, New York City alone will spend several billion dollars on green infrastructure solutions to address its storm-water-control problem, and blue roofs will be a key part of these efforts.

Blue-roof trays are held in place with stone ballast and hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events in a New York pilot project.

Blue-roof trays are held in place with stone ballast and hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events in a New York pilot project.

Blue Roofs

The roofing industry has become very familiar with the use of vegetated, or green, roofs. The vegetative layer grown on a rooftop provides shade and removes heat from the air through evapotranspiration, ultimately reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air. By reducing the heat-island effect, these buildings require less energy to cool in the summer and use fewer natural resources (oil or other fuel) in the process.

However, an even newer and less-well-known sustainable technology applicable to roofs is the blue roof. A blue roof temporarily stores rainwater in any of a number of types of detention systems on the roof. They are most applicable and provide the most benefit in highly urbanized cities that are serviced by combined sewers. Combined sewers handle sewage and rainwater runoff from roofs, streets and other impervious surfaces. On dry days, these combined sewers can easily handle the amount of sewage flowing through them to the local treatment plant. However, on days with heavy rain, these combined systems can easily overflow with rainwater and raw, untreated sewage. This combined sewer overflow, or CSO, can flow into local sensitive receptors, like streams, ponds and oceans, contaminating the natural resources and killing fish and other wildlife dependent on them.

The beauty of blue roofs is they can store much of this rainwater during and immediately after a rainstorm, temporarily preventing it from reaching the sewer system. In this way, CSOs are minimized and local natural resources are protected. When the storm is over and the sewer system has the capacity to handle it, the blue-roof retention materials are designed to slowly release the stored rainwater back into the storm-drain system.

This blue roof in New York uses a check dam to retain storm water.

This blue roof in New York uses a check dam to retain storm water.

NYC Pilot Program

Our firm, Geosyntec Consultants, along with environmental engineers Hazen and Sawyer and HydroQual and water-management firm Biohabitats, designed and implemented a groundbreaking blue-roof system in New York. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) retained the team to implement a sustainable green infrastructure retrofit pilot program to demonstrate how rooftops can reduce the frequency and volume of CSOs in the city. The objective was to design and install storm-water controls to quantify the benefits of sustainable approaches as a viable solution to reduce storm-water flows to the city’s CSO system. Rainfall of less than 1/2 inch can overload the system and result in untreated discharges. The use of sustainable green infrastructure, like blue roofs, to reduce storm-water inputs to the combined system is one of many approaches New York City is considering to help solve this problem.

Geosyntec’s role on the team was to design several storm-water pilot studies, including blue roofs. Our blue-roof designs included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets, small dams on the roof surface using check dams of angle-iron to create ponding and the most successful technique—blue-roof trays. We developed specially designed trays, held in-place with stone ballast, to hold up to 2 inches of water. The tray systems resulted in a 45 percent reduction in roof runoff during rainfall events. If blue-roof trays were installed on all roofs in an entire drainage area to a CSO, the results would be significant in solving the CSO problem. In addition, trays are more practical because they can be spaced around existing equipment on roofs and moved during repairs and maintenance of other rooftop systems.

Geosyntec Consultants designed a blue roof that included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets.

Geosyntec Consultants designed a blue roof
that included installing risers on rooftop outlets that would result in ponding of water around the outlets.

Roof-system Protection

Protecting the integrity of a roof membrane is an important consideration for roofing and building contractors that are considering installing a blue roof. Blue-roof-tray systems offer the best protection because they rest on top of existing membranes and ballast systems and do not result in any membrane perforations that require additional waterproofing. Other blue-roof systems, like check dams or new drain inserts, may require additional waterproofing. The bottom line is if the roof membrane is old, compromised or currently leaking, any type of blue roof would be problematic until a new membrane is installed.

In addition, during the pilot projects, we took great care to inspect and test the roofs for load-bearing support—a step that should be conducted for all blue and green roof systems.

As we look to the future, roofs in urban areas will most definitely become a major part of the storm-water solution, and blue-roof technologies will evolve to become a common practice.

Learn More

NYCDEP has posted information about blue roofs and other urban green infrastructure for CSO control on its website.
The U.S. Green Building Council offers an online course about blue roofs for storm-water management.

PHOTOS: Geosyntec Consultants