Green Roofing

Bio-Diverse Green Roofing – Christian Reformed Church in North America

A green roof, replete with plants and grasses native to Michigan, was installed late last week and now greets people who approach the front doors of the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s office in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Covering the triangle-shaped overhang above the entrance, the roof was constructed by Weather Shield Roofing Systems in cooperation with Advanced Green Architecture, both located in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Unlike many other green roof projects, this one focuses on bio-diversity and focuses on flowers and plants that naturally attract insects and birds native to West Michigan.

The project was built for free, as a demonstration of the green-roofing system that Weather Shield and Advanced Green Architecture plan to be doing in many other locations.

“This is a dream project,” said James Bush, CEO of Weather Shield. “We have a rock bed, a log and different plantings. We’re mixing it up…I think we’ve taken an unattractive portion of the roof and made it more interesting and created an environment that is pleasant.”

Bush’s company installed the roof on the CRC office building several years ago – and since that time Bush has dreamed of using the small piece of roof for a green roof. He wasn’t sure when it would happen or what exactly would be planted, but it was a space just made for a green roof, he said.

When he met a few months ago with Jeremy Monsma and Jeremiah Johnson of Advanced Green Architecture and learned of the green-roofing system the Michigan State University graduates had developed, Bush decided it was time to contact the CRC and talk about putting in the green roof.

John Bolt, director of finance for the denomination, was excited when he heard the proposal. The companies were given the go ahead to install the environmentally friendly roof.

“The idea is to put plants (ground cover) on the roof as a way to deal with the rain water run-off. Usually this is done on a larger scale, but as you can imagine, there is a significant issue about the added weight a roof would need to deal with,” said Bolt.

“The new roof is being installed for free and the company will provide free ongoing care of the plants once installed. In return, they will use this as a showcase for other potential customers.”

A plaque describing the roof will be placed near the front entrance of the building.

Many green roofs are simply created out of ground cover, while the one at the CRC office has a mixture of plantings, placed into specially developed soil and held into place by an inter-locking system of trays into which the various items are planted.

“Instead of having a roof that simply covers the building, we’ve installed one that can help rebuild the environment,” said Monsma, a green roof consultant. “You have true landscape architecture on the roof.”

Johnson, also a green roof consultant, says this type of process can be used to install green roofs on many buildings, and especially on churches that are seeking ways in which they can show that caring for creation is important to them.

Next spring, when the weather is right, they will plant perennial flowers on the CRC roof.

In order to install the roof, workers needed to put down a protective layer over the existing roof, snap together the trays and then have a truck come and pump soil through a hose into the trays. Then they planted grasses and sedges and arranged other aspects of the roof.

“This is the first time the system is being installed in this way,” said Bush. “This will be one of a kind in terms of biodiversity.”

–Chris Meehan, CRC Communications

Keeping On Top of Leaks

Services & Maintenance: Keeping On Top Of Leaks:
Roofs of all ages require proactive maintenance.

By Richard L. Cook, Jr., RRC, RWC, CCS, LEED® AP
Published in the November 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
The roof is an important facility asset. It serves as a capstone of sorts to the building envelope, yet its importance is often overlooked—as what is out of sight is frequently out of mind. However, in a time of tighter budgets and increased emphasis on sustainability, it makes more sense than ever for facility managers (fms) to take a proactive approach to maintaining their roofs. They can hire skilled designers and contractors, use quality materials, and develop a long-term roof maintenance plan (RMP) that will positively affect their organizations’ bottom lines.

According to the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) Project Pinpoint (a survey derived database intended to compile information regarding the use and performance of roof systems in the United States), while most roofs are designed for a 20 year life cycle, the average age of those replaced is 13 to 17 years. Often because of a lack of proactive maintenance, roofs are not reaching their maximum useful lives.

“In the long run, fms wind up spending more by deferring maintenance, because they will need to replace the roof sooner,” says Douglas R. Stieve, Region I Director at RCI, a professional association of building envelope consultants.

By getting organized, fms can prevent water infiltration crises and ensure the maximum value of a roof installation. The foremost consideration is the age of the roof and its maintenance history. Improper installation or deferred maintenance can result in slow leaks undetectable in the interior. ∫By the time water infiltration appears inside, structural decay can be well underway. But many roof failures, such as membrane tears, can be repaired fairly easily if caught early.

Other factors to consider in preventing water infiltration are:

  • type of roof;
  • prevalence of snow, ice, rain, and thunderstorms in a given climate;
  • and if the membrane is exposed to sunlight and the aging effects of heat and UV radiation.

Additionally, the vast majority of water infiltration occurs through the penetrations and terminations on a roof. (A penetration is an interruption in the membrane for vent stacks, chimneys, skylights, and the like.) Examples of terminations and penetrations are parapet walls, joints, curbs, pipes, perimeters, and areas where one roof level or angle intersects with another.

Water may be forced through building members by hydrostatic pressure, water vapor gradient, capillary action, or wind driven rain. This is aggravated by porous concrete, cracks, or structural defects or by joints that are improperly designed or installed.

Any time in a roof’s lifespan is a good time to reinforce and strengthen it. Often overlooked is that fms and their staff should be involved in the design of a new roof or retrofit from the start. They will want to know, “can I change these filters?” or “what safe access means will be available?” And designers should know if the roof will create challenges for the fm.

Watch For Potential Leaks

“The most important thing is diligence—getting up and inspecting the roof,” says Thomas M. Gernetzke, RCI secretary/treasurer. Fms should have a complete inspection conducted at least twice each year—once in autumn and again in spring; they may want to do this more often if trees or foliage overhang the roof. Also, fms should visit the roof before and after any expected storms to make sure drains are not blocked, flashings are in place, and loose objects that could fly around and puncture holes in the membrane are removed.

When establishing an RMP, a well trained individual should make a thorough first inspection to establish a benchmark. Then the fm can decide who will be responsible for regular inspections. The most important thing is to have an objective, knowledgeable person visually surveying the roof on a regular basis.

If fms cannot afford to put every roof in an RMP, they can prioritize and begin with the most problematic ones. RMP tools range from a simple paper file, to manual systems using a word processor for the report, a spreadsheet for the database, and AutoCAD for the drawings, to propriety RMP software. The choice of tools depends on the organization and the types and number of roofs.

Once a benchmark has been established, it is important for fms to cover the following during routine inspections:

  • Check for standing or ponding water. Is the roof getting dry as soon as possible? It should be dry at least 48 hours later when there has been no precipitation.
  • Clear away debris.
  • Notice the condition of the membrane. Are there any splits, punctures, damage?
  • Hop on the surface. Are there any soft spots underfoot?
  • Are seams and laps well adhered?
  • Are flashings tight? Are drains clear?
  • Are there any invasive plants that could split through the membrane?

When Water Has Infiltrated

The first step after discovering water entry is for fms to contain and catch it to mitigate interior damage. Next, the fm should look at how the water manifests itself to identify the source. If the onset is sudden or it’s at the level closest to the roof, staff should look to the most obvious first (e.g., broken sprinkler valve, broken pipe, overflowing condensate catch pan in an HVAC unit, mechanical duct door left open, or clogged drain).

Next, the roof should be inspected carefully for loose flashings, cracks, or punctures. If there is a slow, recurring leak that appears during storms, the source is likely systemic and hidden, and more expertise may be required.

Visual inspection is more difficult for systems in which the waterproofing membrane is covered with an overburden—such as soil with vegetation, ballast, or pavers. A greater emphasis in inspection and testing during construction is justified for these systems.

To find the cause of water infiltration with these and other types of situations, it may be necessary for fms to employ non-destructive testing (NDT) tools. This includes infrared imaging, nuclear, and capacitance/impedance testing methods that meet ASTM standards. NDT often needs to be employed after deferred maintenance has allowed problems to develop undetected.

Whatever action is called for, fms should document exterior conditions in their RMPs. This proves valuable should a professional roof consultant be called in, and fms should be sure to note:

  • date of month and time of day;
  • temperature;
  • precipitation (amount, intensity, and duration);
  • wind (direction, intensity, and duration); and
  • who noticed the leak and what they were doing at the time they noticed it.

Depending on the difficulty of identifying the source of the leak, repairs can be handled in-house, with the assistance of a roofing contractor, or, after further testing and diagnosis, by a roof consultant.

Who Does The Work?

Cleaning and inspecting a new roof twice a year can be done by most in-house staff. Once a roof is five to 10 years old, the matter of who should survey it has a lot to do with the fm and the number and age of buildings being maintained. Facility management departments that employ 20 to 30 people may have the expertise in-house. Otherwise, it is worth considering a relationship with a qualified independent roof consultant trained to assess and customize the RMP, inspect membranes and flashings, and deploy NDT equipment as needed.

One issue for fms to keep in mind, according to David R. Hawn, RCI immediate past president, is the perception that roofing contractors are in the best position to identify water infiltration problems and then make repairs. Not all contractors have the expertise to solve what may be a complex problem. A contractor might notice a number of places on the roof that could be sources and repair them without getting to the deeper problem.

This is where roof consultants can be valuable. They are trained to identify the water entry conditions precisely, isolate causes, and rectify them by detailing specifically how to make the repair. A consultant can track and design a solution to the problem.

A maintenance issue unto itself, a leaky roof can impact other facility components and the operations inside. Fms who conduct regular inspections are in a better position to keep operations and budgets under control.

Web Exclusive Information From This Article’s Author

With modern infrastructure increasingly being installed on today’s roofs, closer inspection and additonal maintenance is often required. It is beneficial to bring a consultant or the manufacturer on board from the beginning to inspect ancillary roof installations such as photovoltaics, landscaping, cell phone antennas, and windmills at least twice a year. Those formerly empty spaces on roofs become income producing space and call for a necessary line item for maintenance on the balance sheet.

An expert’s advice is also valuable with many modern or green roof overburdened systems, because these roofs are more difficult to visually inspect. The elaborateness of these systems places greater emphasis on quality control during installation and getting things right the first time. Knowledgeable supervision can ensure the best use of materials, careful installation techniques, and current technology for adaptability with high and low voltage, electric field vector mapping systems.

For all types of roofs, the maintenance needs for the entire system should be included in the life cycle/cost scenario of the facility’s financial accounting. When looking at how much money to invest annually, maintenance has to be part of that budget. The roof should be considered for what it is: an asset; owners should invest throughout the year to get the most life out of it.

Fms should consider manufacturer and contractor warranties, their value and limitations. Most warranties are valid for 20 years, but only if operations and management stay compliant with the terms. It is essential to use a contractor licensed by the manufacturer if any modifications are to be made to the roof after installation. For example, if an HVAC, communications (e.g., satellite dish, cell phone tower), window washer, or repair contractor punches holes in the roof, it will void the warranty. The fm is the responsible party for maintaining the integrity of the roof warranty. And they should photodocument before and after conditions occur, and keep a record of the work that was done. A skilled roof consultant can perform these services as well.

It is often worthwhile to have a local contractor and a roof consultant under contract and on call for emergencies, as in right after a big storm hits, says Stieve. The fm is best served by having pre-approved service providers available; the facility gets immediate, quality service at an agreed upon rate, and providers have assurance of prompt payment after coming out on short notice.

Cook is a principal of ADC Engineering Inc. in Hanahan, SC and is first vice president of RCI, Inc.. RCI is a professional association of roofing, exterior wall, and waterproofing consultants that developed the Registered Roof Consultant® (RRC), Registered Roof Observer® (RRO), and Registered Waterproofing Consultant® (RWC) professional designations.

Want Free Electricity?

What if you could use the sun to throw away your electric bill and could do it without installing those ghastly looking previous generation solar panels?

Weather Shield Roofing Systems, Versico, UniSolar, and Greenville Schools are joining forces to make that happen.This small town of 8000 people located 25 miles north of Grand Rapids, MI has a vision of leading the nation with their “green” plan and their ability to harvest the sun’s bountiful energy. Thus their nickname “Green-er-ville.”

What better way to tap into the sun’s energy than to call on one of the local experts, James Bush, CEO of Weather Shield Roofing Systems. Jim’s work ethic and creative drive has grown his innovative roofing company from a small start up company 30 years ago into the premier commercial re-roofing company in Michigan. Who could have imagined that a young 19 year old with a borrowed ladder tied to the roof of his two door, ‘68 Chevelle Malibu would be speaking about energy harvesting and future trends three decades later.

The city of Greenville, along with their schools are attempting to turn every public roof into an energy producing station by utilizing UniSolar’s newest solar panels. These products are unique because of their flexibility, light weight, durability and real world efficiency. The marriage of Weather Shield’s commercial roofing knowledge with Uni-Solar’s innovation creates a system that can provide more than 25 years of reliable energy harvesting. Even Uni-Solar was shocked by the efficiencies of the Weather Shield team.

Jim Bush explains how this panel creates a higher surface temperature which makes most manufacturers “uncomfortable.” His recommendation is Versico, which has twice the roofing history with TPO compared to the other manufacturers. Their 60 mil TPO requires no modification to handle the extra heat over its lifetime. Understanding how a roof works and how it reacts in extreme weather conditions gives Weather Shield a huge advantage.

As a featured industry expert and motivational speaker, Jim Bush predicts that this is only the beginning. He states, “Just as advances in transportation were the driving force of the last century, advances in energy production will be the driving force of the coming century. A hundred years ago someone could have foreseen that innovations in transportation would revolutionize the economies of the world and lead to advances for all of civilization. Today, we are on the cusp of that same thing happening again, only this time it will be revolutionary innovations in energy production that will change the economies of the world yet again.”

In part that future isn’t tomorrow but is already here today.

Uni-Solar is currently testing in New Jersey one of their photovoltaic systems that disguises itself as a shingle so that it can work unnoticed in residential areas. Roofs will cease being unused decorative spaces and soon become value-generating assets. Turn on the lights. It’s free!