Nothing Boosts Lead Generation Like a Strong SEO Plan and Solid Rankings

What better way to attract potential customers for your roofing business than to rank at the top of Google, Bing and Yahoo for your products and services! Ranking organically in “search” is the ultimate form of inbound lead generation.

However, common laments heard in business circles are that SEO, or search engine optimization, is dead, it no longer works or it just costs too much to get results. All three statements couldn’t be further from the truth. Business people know that paid ads are a quick way to show up at the top of the search engine results pages, which are commonly called SERPs. But research shows that most savvy searchers bypass these paid ads at the top and opt to click on the first few organic results.

Many so-called SEO experts have given up on the tried-and-true SEO tactics in favor of other avenues, like social media, to direct relevant traffic. Although social media has its place in an online marketing strategy, nothing truly helps boost lead generation like a strong SEO plan and solid rankings. Every business needs to take advantage of the potential results SEO may achieve by doing what it takes to compete and start collecting that low-hanging fruit of new customers on the web.

Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of websites are created every single year, making it more difficult to rank well—in the top 10 spots on page one of a SERP. Getting those coveted, top spots on search engines for related searches may seem inaccessible, but there are some SEO strategies that can help.

Because the original algorithms to rank websites on SERPs was easily manipulated, constant changes were made to increase the complexity of the algorithms and weed out SPAM websites that deliver little to no value to users. The constant evolution of these algorithms has made it a real necessity for every business to have a serious, ongoing SEO strategy. As business owners, we all know that worthy achievements rarely come without deliberate and concerted efforts. The good news is there are some basic on-page SEO tactics that can deliver real results in today’s competitive internet landscape.

Focus Keywords

The foundation of ranking well with a website should center around a list of words or phrases that are targeted. These keywords should be relevant to the business, brand or service. It helps to have a specific keyword or phrase in mind for each and every web page that is created. For instance, a roofing company may have a separate page for “roof repairs”, “new roof” and “replacement roof”. By focusing the keywords in each page around each specific topic, the chances of ranking for searches that include those words increases.

Be sure to include information about your service area, naming the towns in which you work. The keywords or phrases that are targeted will ultimately determine the focus of the content, meta tags and the entire architecture of a website. Start with the keywords you hope to rank for and build content around them.

Instead of trying to rank for generic terms, like “roofer” or “roofing”, which have lots of competition, try ranking for long-tail keyword phrases, like “new roof in Stockbridge Massachusetts” or “roofing repair contractor near Chicago” for more achievable results. Long-tail keyword phrases should be highly valued because they give businesses a better chance at reaching customers that are close to the point-of-purchase. Being more specific with keyword phrases will yield less competition and higher results for the pages. Remember, potential customers who use these more specific terms in their search are more likely to convert into paying customers.

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Contemporary Materials Are Used to Preserve a Historically Significant 1889 House

In my capacity as a historic preservation contractor and consultant, I am often afforded the opportunity to become involved in exciting and challenging projects. Recently, my firm was awarded the contract to restore the clay tile roof turrets at Boston’s Longy School of Music’s Zabriskie House. Now part of Bard College, Longy School’s Zabriskie House is actually the historic Edwin H. Abbot House with a sympathetically designed addition built in the 1980s. The deteriorated condition of the original house’s turrets, as well as lead-coated copper gutter linings and masonry dormers, had attracted the attention of the Cambridge Historic Commission, and a commitment to the proper restoration of these systems was struck between the commission, building owner and a private donor.

The hipped roof turret on the building’s primary façade was in need of serious attention.

The hipped roof turret on the building’s primary façade was in need of serious attention.

BUILDING HISTORY

Before I can specify historically appropriate treatments, I need to don my consultant’s cap and dig into the history of a building to best understand its evolution. Developing the background story will typically answer questions and fill in the blanks when examining traditional building systems. An 1890 newspaper clipping held by the Cambridge Historic Commission re- ports that “[t]he stately home of Mr. Abbot, with its walled-in grounds, on the site of the old Arsenal, promises to be the most costly private dwelling in the city.” An examination of records held by the Massachusetts Historical Commission and from the Library of Congress’ Historic American Buildings Survey reveals that the firm of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow designed the Richardsonian Romanesque portion of the building and that Norcross Brothers Contractors and Builders was the builder of record.

Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr. (of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow) was the nephew of the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and an important figure in U.S. architectural history. After graduating from Harvard University in 1876, he studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, after which he worked as a senior draftsman in Henry Hobson Richardson’s office. After Richardson’s death in 1886, Longfellow partnered with Frank Ellis Alden and Alfred Branch Harlow to found the firm of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow. With offices in Boston and Pittsburgh, the firm designed many important buildings, including the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh and the City Hall in Cambridge.

Norcross Brothers Contractors and Builders was a prominent 19th century American construction company, especially noted for its work, mostly in stone, for the architectural firms of Henry Hobson Richardson and McKim, Mead & White. Much of the value of the Norcross Brothers to architectural firms derived from Orlando Norcross’ engineering skill. Although largely self- taught, he had developed the skills needed to solve the vast engineering problems brought to him by his clients. For example, the size of the dome at the Rhode Island Capitol was expanded very late in the design process, perhaps even after construction had begun, so that it would be larger than the one just completed by Cass Gilbert for the Minnesota Capitol. Norcross was able to execute the new design.

BUILDING STYLE

The Edwin Abbot House is an interesting interpretation of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Whereas the great majority of such buildings feature rusticated, pink Milford granite in an ashlar pattern, trimmed with East Longmeadow brownstone, Longfellow created a unique spin for Mr. Abbot. Although the building is trimmed with brownstone, the field of the walls features coursed Weymouth granite of slightly varying heights. The motif of orange, brown and golden hues of the stone is continued in the brick wall surrounding the property.

Scaffolding was erected that would make the otherwise dangerous, heavy nature of the work safe and manageable.

Scaffolding was erected that would make the otherwise dangerous, heavy nature of the work safe and manageable.

The roof is covered in a flat, square orange-red clay tile. Richardsonian Romanesque buildings are almost exclusively roofed in clay tile; Monson black slate; Granville, N.Y., red slate; or some combination thereof. It should be noted that because their need for stone was outpacing the supply, Norcross Brothers eventually acquired its own quarries in Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts and New York.

The roof framing system of steel and terra-cotta blocks is relatively rare but makes perfect sense when considered in context with the latest flooring technologies of the era. A network of steel beams was bolted together to form the rafters, hips and ridges of the frame. Across each is welded rows of double angle irons (or inverted T beams). Within these channels, in beds of Portland cement, the terra-cotta block was laid. The tile was then fastened directly to the blocks with steel nails. Because of the ferrous nature of the fasteners, the normal passage of moisture vapor caused the nails to rust and expand slightly, anchoring them securely in place. Whether this element of the design was intentional or simply fortunate happenstance, the result made for a long-lasting roof.

What doesn’t last forever in traditional slate and clay tile roofing systems is the sheet-metal flashing assemblies. Over the years, there must have been numerous failures, which led to the decision to remove the clay tiles from the broad fields of the roof and replace them with red asphalt shingles in the 1980s. Confronted with the dilemma of securing the shingles to the terra-cotta substrate, a decision was made to sheathe the roof with plywood. Holes were punched through the blocks and toggles used to fasten the plywood to the roof. In an area where the asphalt shingles were removed, more than 50 percent of the plywood exhibited varying degrees of rot caused by the normal passage of vapor from the interior spaces.

Fortunately, the turrets had survived the renovations from 30 years before. A conical turret in the rear and an eight-sided hip-roofed turret on the north side needed only repairs which, while extensive, did not require addressing issues with the substrate. The 16-sided turret on the primary façade of the building was in poor condition. Over the years, prior “repairs” included the use of non-matching tiles, red roofing cement, tar, caulk and even red slate. A scaffold was erected to allow safe, unfettered access to the entire turret and the process of removing the tile began. Care was taken to conserve as many tiles as possible for use in repairing the previously described turrets.

As the clay-tile roof covering was removed, the materials of the substrate were revealed and conditions were assessed.

As the clay-tile roof covering was removed, the materials of the substrate were revealed and conditions were assessed.

The substrate was examined closely and, save for thousands of tiny craters created by the original nails, found to be sound. A new system had to be devised that could be attached to the terra-cotta blocks and allow for the replacement tiles to be securely fastened, as well as resist the damaging forces of escaping moisture vapor. Cement board, comprised of 90 percent Portland cement and ground sand, was fastened to the blocks with ceramic-coated masonry screws. The entire turret was then covered with a self-adhering membrane. The replacement tiles were carefully matched and sourced from a salvage deal- er in Illinois and secured with stain- less-steel fasteners. The flat tiles, no longer manufactured new, are referred to as “Cambridge” tiles for their prevalence on the roofs of great homes and institutional buildings in and around Cambridge.

CONTEMPORARY UPDATES

Although I typically advocate for the retainage of all historic fabric when preserving and restoring traditional building systems, there are exceptions. In the case of the Abbot House roof, we encountered “modern” technologies that pointed us toward contemporary means and methods. Rusting steel nails in the terra-cotta block were brilliant for initial installation but seemed ill conceived for a second-go-round. Instead, using non-ferrous fasteners and a new substrate that is impervious to moisture infiltration will guarantee the turret’s new service life for the next 125 years or more.

ROOF MATERIALS

Self-adhering Membrane: Grace Ice & Water Shield
Masonry Anchors: Tapcon
Cement Board: James Hardie
Stainless-steel Roofing Nails: Grip Rite
Replacement Tiles: Renaissance Roofing Inc.

PHOTOS: Ward Hamilton

Maximize Risk Transfer to Your Commercial General Liability Insurance

Roofing contractors face potential liability from numerous aspects of their businesses, including employee-operated company vehicles and equipment; work-related injuries; property and equipment damage; “disappearing” materials; defective work and materials; and a multitude of employment issues, such as wrongful termination claims. All reputable contractors protect themselves and others by purchasing Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance. The scope of available coverage runs from basic policies to wide-ranging “multi-peril” policies, which bundle multiple coverages to address a number of potential risks. A multi-peril policy for roofing contractors may include coverage for damage arising from defective work, operation of vehicles or equipment, worker’s compensation, employment practices and even employee theft.

Insurance simply represents the transfer of risk from the insured to the insurance company. Taking a proactive approach to understanding the insurance you purchase allows you to maximize that risk transfer or at least know where you bear the majority of risk.

The Basics

A CGL insurance policy generally consists of three primary sections:

  • The insuring agreement.
  • The exclusions.
  • The endorsements.

The insuring agreement defines what the policy covers and is generally written quite broadly. Virtually all CGL insurance policies require that such property damage or personal injury result from an “occurrence,” typically defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions”. Many of the terms within the insuring agreement are specifically defined for purposes of the policy and require analysis, depending on the claim asserted and the particular coverage implicated.

The exclusions are simply that— claims and/or damages the insurance company will not cover. For example, CGL insurance policies commonly contain exclusions for “Contractual Liability”, defined as “bodily injury or property damage the insured is obligated to pay by reason of the assumption of liability in a contract or agreement”. Since many subcontracts include express indemnification clauses, this can be a major area of concern for the contractor.

Endorsements are documents attached to a policy that amend the terms in some way and can expand or restrict coverage or even modify the definitions. One common misperception is the belief that endorsements are synonymous with exclusions. To the contrary, it is not uncommon for an endorsement to narrow the scope of an exclusion or eliminate an exclusion entirely. Endorsements can be used to tailor a policy to a particular industry or trade, and insurance companies use them to modify standard Insurance Services Office (ISO) policies to comport to their particular philosophy, such as cancellation and non-renewal provisions or requiring binding arbitration to settle coverage disputes. Endorsements are usually identified by description and form number as part of the Declarations Page.

There are common Endorsements that result in additional exclusions. One of particular concern to any contractor is the “Independent Contractors and Subcontractors Limitation”, which provides that claims for bodily injury or property damage caused by independent contractors/subcontractors used by the insured are not covered unless that independent contractor/subcontractor maintains its own insurance coverage with limits equal to the insureds and names the insured as an Additional Insured on its policy.

To limit your personal exposure, it is imperative you do not ignore the Endorsements! It is an important part of your policy and you need to understand the terms.

Duty to Defend Versus Duty to Indemnify

An insurance policy creates two separate and distinct obligations for the insurance company: the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify.

The duty to defend consists of the insurance company’s obligation to hire counsel to defend the insured in response to a claim. That obligation is not
dependent upon the insured’s liability but whether the allegations made by the plaintiff states a claim potentially triggering coverage. The duty to defend
exists even if the claim is groundless, false or fraudulent.

The duty to indemnify is the insurance company’s obligation to pay the successful plaintiff when that claim falls within the scope of the insurance policy.
In the insuring agreement, the insurer promises to “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which this insurance applies.”

It’s often said that the duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. The carrier’s duty to defend exists when the claim potentially triggers overage, while the duty to pay exists only when the insured is obligated to pay damages and the claim falls within the coverage provided by the policy.

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NRCA’s ProForeman Certificate Program Helps Field Leaders Become Excellent Foremen

Brian Draper completes the ProForeman Certificate Program.

Brian Draper completes the ProForeman Certificate Program.

When the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) debuted its ProForeman Certificate Program in 2014, Brian Draper, Superintendent at Queen City Roofing, Springfield, Mo., was the first to apply for the program.

Because he was the only participant from Queen City Roofing, Draper navigated the elements of the program completely on his own. He enjoyed the support of his boss, the company owner, Larry Stock, who is a big believer in training and education. It was no small undertaking for either of them.

The ProForeman Certificate Program is a robust, multi-faceted program aimed at helping field leaders become excellent foremen. It also enables them to become company ambassadors, as well as well-rounded and knowledgeable employees within the roofing industry as a whole. The six areas of emphasis are general education, roofing technology, construction/business practices, leadership, safety and training others.

Roofing Technology

The roofing technology portion of the certificate program required Draper to complete two programs about codes, write a recent job report and watch a technical issues webinar conducted by Mark Graham, NRCA’s vice president of technical services. The purpose of the codes programs is to expose field managers to their complexity and purpose rather than for participants to learn all the codes that affect roofing. Similarly the technical webinar is a snapshot of issues roofing contractors have to deal with every day. Each of these three programs help turn field managers, like Draper, into better-educated employees who can appreciate the complexities of their industry and, therefore, be better representatives of their companies and more understanding team members.

Draper’s recent job report discussed aspects of a TPO installation. He was required to anticipate methods, safety concerns and common problems, as well as share specific concerns for one job. Because he is a more experienced field manager, he was able to accurately demonstrate his knowledge and experience.

Construction/Business Practices

This segment of the certificate program is designed specifically to help field managers appreciate the roles and concerns of management. Draper reported aspects of these segments to be helpful to him and some others in the office. Three elements comprise this section—a webinar about customer service, a webinar about foreman daily planning and a company-based activity during which participants shadow several key management employees—from which participants learn the responsibilities and concerns of many office employees. For instance, a “daily huddles” webinar helps field managers appreciate the financial picture of the company, seen through the lenses of a job. It explains the impact a field manager’s leadership can have on a job and the company’s bottom line.

Leadership

ProForeman leadership components are the heart of the program. They are comprised of two day-long, in-person programs and two follow-up webinars. Each of these elements is aimed at teaching leadership awareness and skills.

NRCA’s premise is that most field managers already are excellent managers. They know what it takes to successfully install a roof system and are drive to achieve goals. Where roofing industry field managers often lack awareness is how to effectively influence the people who work for them.

Queen City Roofing is lightyears ahead of many companies. According to Draper, Stock is committed to creating an atmosphere in which people enjoy their jobs and want to come to work, and he wants people to be committed to customer service. To that end, being part of the ProForeman Certificate Program was not Draper’s first exposure to leadership concepts. He has been talking to the foremen at Queen City Roofing about concepts like this for some time. NRCA’s For Foremen Only programs, which are part of the certificate program under the leadership section, helped provide Draper with additional material to discuss with the company’s field leaders. Draper notes that over time he has seen foremen come to treat their crews differently, and he reports that hardly anyone manages by yelling anymore.

Safety

It was the position of NRCA legal counsel that no one should be able to earn the ProForeman certificate without having expertise in safety. To that end, there are more requirements in this section than any other. When the program first debuted, NRCA required a roofing-specific OSHA 10-hour card, which could be substituted by a non-specific 30-hour card. There was lots of confusion over the way this was worded, so the requirement was changed to simply require an OSHA 30-hour card. Although a roofing-specific 10-hour can still satisfy, the idea is that ProForeman certificate holders be “above and beyond” when it comes to safety.

Other elements in this section include a webinar about what it means to be a competent person, a fall-protection video and assessment, job-site inspections of current jobs and a full-day NRCA program about fall protection: Roofing Industry Fall Protection A to Z.

Draper successfully completed all the requirements. In a conversation with him, he stated that Queen City Roofing experienced a transformation in its safety culture four to five years ago. Since that time, leadership and safety have taken a front seat. Draper has embraced learning and training as a way to keep these things in front of the employees at Queen City Roofing.

Training Others

The final section of the certificate program focuses on helping field managers to become excellent trainers for their employees. Not many companies have someone skilled in being a trainer, though all foremen fill this role to some extent. The intent behind these elements is to help foremen be more comfortable in their role as teachers, which is a huge advantage to the individual and the company.

The three items Draper was required to complete in this section were the following:

  • Watch an online module about what it means to be an excellent trainer.
  • Record a video of himself doing a teaching demonstration, such as part of a safety talk (a participant who is a current authorized CERTA trainer does not need to do this exercise).
  • Teach an actual classroom training session.

The classroom training exercise is an opportunity to train new (or newer) field employees on the basics of roofing. The session includes classroom time, demonstration and hands-on activities. NRCA recognizes roofing involves a lot of on-the-job training but does not believe sending new employees up on to the roof right away to learn everything is the best approach. It often frustrates busy foremen, slows down crews that need to work around what they perceive to be dead weight, and tends to weed out workers who might be highly successful if they were provided with a more structured or methodical way of learning a new skill.

Draper reported this classroom training experience to be positive for him and those who participated in the class. Queen City Roofing celebrated participants’ completion by awarding certificates and making a splash of their successes. The company is committed to using this program with future new employees.

First of Many

Draper was the first person to complete the NRCA ProForeman Certificate Program and it helped solidify and improve his skills in many existing Queen City Roofing initiatives. In many ways, Draper was ahead of the curve, coming from a company with an existing commitment to leadership development and a thriving safety culture. It was NRCA’s pleasure to award the jointly held certificate to Draper and Queen City Roofing. NRCA mailed the certificate and, with it, some award items to Draper, such as a Carhartt vest and Thermos mug with the ProForeman logo. NRCA does not expect certificate holders to attend the International Roofing Expo, but finishers are recognized at the award ceremony by name and company.

Learn More
To learn more about the ProForeman certificate program, email Janice Davis at jdavis@nrca.netor Amy Staska at astaska@nrca.net.

The Integration of Roof and Brick Requires Concise Details

PHOTO 1: The through-wall flashing stainless-steel drip can be observed projecting nicely from the wall—but the termination of the roof base flashing more than 1-inch below resulted in a section of the brick wall that allows water to pass into the wall below the through-wall flashing and behind the roof base flashing, resulting in the damage seen in Photo 2.

PHOTO 1: The through-wall flashing stainless-steel drip can be observed projecting nicely from the wall—but the termination of the roof base flashing more than 1-inch below resulted in a section of the brick wall that allows water to pass into the wall below the through-wall flashing and behind the roof base flashing, resulting in the damage seen in Photo 2.

Projects are perceived to be successful by their ability to prevent disturbance from weather, including rain. Have you ever heard two architects talking about Frank Lloyd Wright?

“What a genius! His spatial conception is magnificent, even after 100 years.”

“But all his buildings leak!”

I used to give a talk to University of Illinois architecture students in which I told them the quickest way to go out of business is to be sued. The quickest way to be sued is to have a building allow moisture intrusion. If he were alive today, Frank Lloyd Wright—God rest his soul—would be in jail (and a few current architects may be well on their way). Owners are not very kind when their “babies” leak.

Many roof termination interfaces are never even thought about by designers and are left to the roofing contractor to work out. This is not a recommended practice. One such condition—that every architect should be able to detail—is how the roof base flashing terminates at a masonry wall that has through-wall flashing and weeps at the base of the wall above the roof. I believe so fervently that architects should be proficient in detailing these conditions that I believe it should be required to procure their license.

WHY THE IMPORTANCE

The interface of roof base flashing and masonry through-wall systems occurs on a majority of commercial construction projects. If this transition is not performed correctly, moisture intrusion behind the roof base flashing to the interior will occur (see Photo 2). When this occurs, besides angering owners, it befuddles the architect. Photo 1 (left) shows a nice through-wall flashing drip extended out from the wall, weeps and roofing terminated with a termination bar and sealant. What could be wrong?

PHOTO 2: Moisture intrusion at the base of this wall was the result of water circumventing the through-wall flashing and roof base flashing termination seen in Photo 1. A big concern with conditions, such as this, is the propensity of the materials to promote mold growth.

PHOTO 2: Moisture intrusion at the base of this wall was the result of water circumventing the through-wall flashing
and roof base flashing termination seen in Photo 1. A big concern with conditions, such as this, is the propensity of the materials to promote mold growth.

The exposed brick above the termination bar and below the stain- less-steel drip of the through-wall flashing is susceptible to water flowing down the surface of the brick. Water passing through the brick above is supposed to be weeped out; however, at the exposed brick above the termination bar, the water moves into the wall and has nowhere to go but inward.

The cost to repair these conditions can be, depending on the conditions, expensive. Repairs often require brick removal and through-wall flashing mitigation. In this particular case, be- cause there is a stainless-steel drip, my team recommended a stainless-steel counterflashing be pop-riveted to the drip and extended over the termination bar.

CHALLENGES

Why is the interface of roof base flashing and masonry through-wall systems so difficult for architects and roof consultants to detail? I believe it is because they have no clue it needs to be detailed as an interface, especially because detailing of appropriate through-wall systems is so sporadic. I endeavor in this article to change at least the knowledge part.

The detailing of this condition not only requires the ability to interface two building systems, but also requires considerable time to ensure specification of wall sectional details and roofing details are appropriately placed where the responsible trades will see them.

PHOTO 3: Still under construction, the stainless-steel counterflashing has been installed. The roof base flashing will terminate below the stainless-steel counterflashing receiver. Hutch prefers brick below the through-wall flashing and above the roof deck, though the masonry mortar joints below the through-wall flashing should have been struck flush.

PHOTO 3: Still under construction, the stainless-steel counterflashing has
been installed. The roof base flashing will terminate below the stainless-steel counterflashing receiver. Hutch prefers brick below the through-wall flashing and above the roof deck, though the masonry mortar joints below the through-wall flashing should have been struck flush.

NEW CONSTRUCTION

New construction provides us a clean slate to “do it right the first time”. The first order of business is to determine the height of the base flashing. This can be tricky with tapered insulation and slope structures with saddles. Let’s consider the following examples (see Detail 4, page 3):

EXAMPLE 1
We are dealing with a flat roof, tapered insulation, cover board and bead-foam insulation in ASHRAE Climate Zone 5, which has an R-30 minimum.

  • The roof drain is 32-feet away from the wall. Code requires 5.2 inches of insulation at 4 feet from the drain, so let’s assume 5 inches at the drain.
  • 1/4-inch tapered starts at 1/2 inch at 32 feet. That’s 8 inches, plus the starting thickness of 1/2 inch, which equals 8 1/2 inches.
  • Cover-board thickness is 1/2 inch.
  • Bead foam thickness is 3/16 inch for each layer. Let’s assume five layers, so 1 foot of bead foam.
  • Thus, the surface of the roof at the wall will be 15 inches above the roof deck.

Because you would like to work at the masonry coursing level and given that concrete masonry units (CMU) are nominal 8 inches, you are looking at placing the through-wall flashing 24 inches above the roof deck.

This 24-inch dimension of where to place the through-wall flashing needs to be placed on the building section and/or wall section because the mason, which will be onsite prior to the roofing contractor, will need to know this information.

This 24-inch height begs another termination question: What occurs at the roof edge with this height? Hold that thought for now. Terminations at intersections will be discussed in future articles.

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There Is Evidence Cool Roofs Provide Benefits to Buildings in Climate Zones 4 through 8

FIGURE 1: Reflective roof requirements in ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC only apply in Climate Zones 1 through 3, shown here on the ASHRAE Climate Zone Map. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Energy

FIGURE 1: Reflective roof requirements in ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC only apply in Climate Zones 1 through 3, shown here on the ASHRAE Climate Zone Map. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Energy

Reflective roofs are a tried and true way to improve building energy efficiency and comfort, generate net energy savings and help mitigate summer urban heat islands. Reflective roofs work by reflecting solar energy off the roof surface, rather than absorbing the energy as heat that can be transmitted into the building and surrounding community.

The simple act of switching from a dark to a light-colored roof surface has a number of benefits. Buildings protected by these types of roofs require less energy to cool and help building owners and residents save money. Cool roofs on buildings without air conditioning can save lives during heat waves by lowering indoor temperatures. Cooler city air is safer to breathe and less polluted, which makes cities more livable and less vulnerable during heat waves. Increasing the reflectivity of urban surfaces can also offset the warming effect of green- house gases already in the atmosphere and help us address the challenges of climate change. Taken together, these benefits are worth billions of dollars to the growing number of people that live and work in U.S. cities.

The energy-savings case for cool roofs in warm climates is clear. Widely adopted model building-code systems, ASHRAE and the IECC, address roof reflectivity. ASHRAE 90.1-1999 added a credit for highly reflective roofs with IECC allowing compliance via ASHRAE in 2003. ASHRAE 90.1-2010 added reflectivity requirements for new and replacement commercial roofs in Climate Zones 1 through 3. IECC added the same requirements in its 2012 version. (Figure 1 shows the ASHRAE climate zone map for the U.S.)

There is, however, an ongoing debate about whether cool roofs deliver net energy benefits in northern climates that experience cold winters and warm to hot summers (Climate Zones 4 through 8). Do reflective roofs remain beneficial as the cold weather season kicks in? The same properties that allow reflective roofs to keep buildings cooler in the summer may also cause them to make buildings colder in the winter. Theoretically, buildings with cool roofs could require more energy to reach a comfortable temperature in winter—a consequence known as the “winter heating penalty.” Furthermore, building codes tend to require more roof insulation in colder climates than warmer climates, potentially reducing the energy-efficiency benefits of roof surface reflectivity.

FIGURE 2A: Annual energy-cost savings ($1 per 100 square meters) from cool roofs on newly constructed, code-compliant buildings with all-electric HVAC. SOURCE: Energy and Buildings

FIGURE 2A: Annual energy-cost savings ($1 per 100 square meters) from cool roofs on newly constructed, code-compliant buildings with all-electric HVAC.
SOURCE: Energy and Buildings

The “winter heating penalty” and the impact of insulation are considerations when installing reflective roofs in some cold climates, but their negative effects are often greatly exaggerated. The sun is generally at a lower angle and days are shorter in winter months than summer months. In fact, in northern locations winter solar irradiance is only 20 to 35 percent of what is experienced in summer months, which means the sun has a reduced impact on roof surface temperature during the winter. Heating loads and expenditures are typically more pronounced in evenings, whereas the benefit of a darker roof in winter is mostly realized during daylight hours. Many commercial buildings require space cooling all year because of human activity or equipment usage, thereby negating the little—if any—heating benefit achieved by a dark roof.

Two new studies, along with decades of real-world examples from the marketplace, indicate that reflective roofs are an effective net energy (and money) saver even in our coldest cities.

SNOW’S IMPACT

In a study recently published in Energy and Buildings, researchers from Concordia University in Montreal evaluated the energy-consumption impact of adding cool roofs to a number of retail and commercial buildings in Anchorage, Alaska; Milwaukee; Montreal; and Toronto. The researchers looked at older, less insulated building prototypes, as well as newer buildings built with code-compliant levels of insulation. Unlike earlier work evaluating the impact of roof reflectivity on building energy consumption in cold climates, this new analysis also accounted for the impact of snow on the roof during winter months.

FIGURE 2B: Annual energy-cost savings ($1 per 100 square meters) from cool roofs installed on older buildings with all- electric HVAC. SOURCE: Energy and Buildings

FIGURE 2B: Annual energy-cost savings ($1 per 100 square meters) from cool roofs installed on older buildings with all- electric HVAC.
SOURCE: Energy and Buildings

Snow has two impacts on the roof that are relevant to understanding the true impact of roof surface reflectivity on energy consumption. First, snow helps insulate the roof. As a porous medium with high air content, snow conducts less heat than soil. This effect generally increases with snow density and thickness. Second, snow is white and, therefore, reflective. At a thickness of about 4 inches, snow will turn even a dark roof into a highly reflective surface (approximately 0.6 to 0.9 solar reflectance).

When snow is factored in, the benefits of cool roofs in cold climates be- come much clearer. Figure 2a shows the net energy savings and peak electricity reduction with and without snow for cool roofs installed on newly constructed, code-compliant buildings, assuming all-electric HVAC. Figure 2b shows savings from cool roofs installed on existing, older vintage buildings. The paper, available from the journal Energy and Buildings also includes results with gas HVAC systems.

INSULATION’S EFFECTS

Another argument often heard against reflective roofing in cold climates is that buildings in northern climates tend to have higher levels of roof insulation that reduce or negate the energy-savings impact of roof surface color. A new field study and model analysis of black and white roof membranes over various levels of insulation by the City University of New York and Princeton University and Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, the latter two of Princeton, N.J., clearly rebuts the “insulation versus reflectivity” tradeoff.

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Contractors Should Be Aware of Regulations Before Using Drones on Construction Sites

This article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice about the use of drones, contact an attorney.

The 21st century has brought with it explosive growth in technology that is changing the world we live in on a daily basis. New innovations are allowing for more efficient ways to do business in various industries; the construction industry is no exception.

Among the more controversial innovations with vast potential to revolutionize construction work is the Unmanned Aircraft System, or UAS, which is more commonly known as a drone. These remote-controlled flying robots have already found their way onto construction sites around the country, and use is proliferating as entrepreneurs discover more ways to apply drones to commercial uses. Although drones may yield numerous benefits to contractors, they have also created a need for new regulations to allow them to fit into the national legal landscape. As a result, contractors wishing to employ drones on their construction sites must be aware of such regulations.

BENEFITS OF DRONES

The application of drones to construction work has begun to yield advantages in several areas, including marketing, inspections and surveys.

Traditionally contractors have presented their ideas and progress to their customers through a combination of diagrams and photographs of the site. Drones allow contractors to show off their work in a new way. By attaching a video camera to a drone and sending it through and around a construction site, contractors can provide customers a fully immersive virtual tour of the site, including aerial views and observations of areas that otherwise would be difficult to reach. This new marketing tool will surely be a boon by visually enhancing the viewer’s experience.

Drones also have the potential to more efficiently monitor the activities of workers on a job site for progress and ensure all workplace policies are being followed. Because construction sites involve the work of many people, usually in different areas that can be difficult to reach, a small flying camera can quickly and efficiently aid site superintendents in monitoring projects.

Another area in which drones have begun to make an impact is surveys. In the past, surveyors have completed their work by carefully drawing lines and manually measuring distances. Today, drone technology allows for much larger areas to be covered in much less time. A drone can be synced with GPS technology to create a quick, reliable, mobile mapping system or with thermal imaging systems for thermodiagnostics, assessment of damage and estimating of projects.

LEGAL CONCERNS FOR CONTRACTORS

Before applying drones to a worksite, however, construction professionals must be aware of several laws that will affect their use. Many laws that have been considered common practice with regard to drone use thus far have recently been nullified by a comprehensive new set of rules finalized by the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Aviation Administration on June 21. These new rules follow:

HIRE A CERTIFIED PILOT IN ADVANCE
Not just anyone can operate a drone commercially; a pilot must be certi- fied in advance. The new rules issued by the FAA include a new system for certifying drone pilots. The new system creates a certified position, “Remote Pilot in Command”, a title which can only be obtained via receiving a remote pilot certificate. Any person operating a drone must possess this certification or be under the direct supervision of someone who is certified. To qualify for the remote pilot certificate, a person must meet the following requirements:

  • Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
  • — Passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
    — Holding a Part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot, completing a flight review within the previous 24 months and completing a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, Washington.
  • Be at least 16-years old.

This certification system also allows for temporary early access in certain circumstances. For example, any person certified as a Part 61 pilot will, upon submission of an application for a permanent certificate, immediately receive a temporary remote pilot certificate so he or she does not have to wait before continuing drone work. All applicants not certified under Part 61 can still receive temporary early permission; they will receive a temporary certificate after being satisfactorily vetted by the TSA. In addition, foreign pilots must meet these requirements at least until international standards are developed.

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Choosing the Right Roof Coatings for Substrates Can Extend Roof Service Lives, Cool Temperatures and Save Energy

Roof coatings are a fast-growing market segment in the roofing industry—and it makes good sense why that is the case. Application of a roof coating on a new or existing roof can provide
added durability, extend roof service life, save on energy costs, and avoid the hassle and expense of a full tear-off and replacement.

COATING TYPES

Roof coatings come in many formulations and are appropriate for installation over all roof system types. The first question many have is which coating is appropriate for which substrate?

A reflective coating has been applied to a hybrid asphaltic roof. PHOTO: GAF

A reflective coating has been applied to a hybrid asphaltic roof.
PHOTO: GAF

Coatings are most broadly divided into asphaltic- and polymer-based materials. Asphaltic-based coatings are solvent-based “cut backs” or water-based emulsions. They can be black or aluminized. They have the ability to be used in cold and inclement weather. Aluminized coatings are used when a reflective and ultraviolet-, or UV-, stable asphalt coating is needed.

The most common polymer-based coatings include acrylics, polyurethanes and silicone coatings. Acrylic water-based coatings are ideal for high UV environments where a reflective roof is desired. They can be colored but generally are sold in white, tan and gray. Many specialized versions are made to be compatible with specific substrates. Polyurethane coatings are typically solvent-based and come in two main types, aromatic and aliphatic. Urethanes have good mechanical properties and high abrasion resistance. They are suggested for use in hail-prone regions or where a roof is exposed to heavy foot traffic.

Silicone coatings, like acrylic coatings, perform well in high UV environments where a reflective roof is desired. Often silicone is used in locations where rain is a daily occurrence or if the roof is often wet and experiences excessive amounts of ponded water. In addition, butyl, fluoropolymer, PMMA, polyester, STPE, SEBS and styrene-acrylics can be used to formulate roof coatings.

Coating thickness (dry film thickness) has an effect on performance. In general, thicker coatings will have increased service life and will provide additional durability regardless of coating type. Also very important is the specification written for each project. Every project is different and every specification should be tailored to every project to ensure the correct coating and application is appropriate for the roof and coating type. Coating manufacturers’ specifications should be the basis for every coating project and be coordinated with project specifications.

SUBSTRATES

Asphaltic-based coatings are most commonly used on built-up roof (BUR) and modified bitumen (MB) membranes; they are rarely, if ever, used on single-ply roof membranes. All types of polymer-based coatings are used on BUR, MB, metal and single-ply roofs. There is information to assist with the evaluation and preparation of the substrate in the ASTM standard titled, “Standard Guide for Evaluation and Preparation of Roof Membranes for Coating Application”.

From a material-quality standpoint, it is important to use products that meet or exceed their ASTM material standards, which are listed in the International Building Code and International Residential Code. Meeting the building-code requirements provides the minimum safeguards for materials used for construction.

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Code-mandated Thermal Insulation Thicknesses Require Raising Roof Access Door and Clerestory Sill Details

PHOTO 1: The new roof has been installed at SD 73 Middle School North and it can clearly be seen that the door and louver need to be raised. On this project, there were four such conditions.

PHOTO 1: The new roof has been installed at SD 73 Middle School North and it can clearly be seen that the door and louver need to be raised. On this project, there were four such conditions.

The most common concern I hear related to increasing insulation thickness (a result of increased thermal values of tapered insulation), especially in regard to roofing removal and replacement, is, “OMG! What about the roof access door and/or clerestory?” You can also include, for those knowledgeable enough to consider it, existing through-wall flashing systems and weeps.

I’m a bit taken aback by this concern; I have been dealing with roof access doors and clerestory sills for the past 30 years and, for the most part, have had no problems. My first thought is that roof system designers are now being forced to take these conditions seriously. This is a big deal! They just have no clue.

In the next few pages, I’ll review several possible solutions to these dilemmas, provide some detailing suggestions and give you, the designer, some confidence to make these design and detailing solutions. For the purpose of this article, I will assume reroofing scenarios where the challenge is the greatest because the conditions requiring modification are existing.

THE ACCESS DOOR

For many and perhaps most contractors who sell and, dare I say, design roofs, it is the perceived “large” expense of modifying existing conditions that is most daunting. Often, these conditions are not recognized until the door sill is several inches below the new roof sur- face. Not a good predicament. Planning for and incorporating such details into the roof system design will go a long way to minimizing costs, easing coordination and bringing less tension to a project.

PHOTO 2: The sill has been raised and new hollow metal door, frame and louver have been installed at SD 73 Middle School North. Door sill and louver sill flashing are yet to be installed, as are protective rubber roof pavers.

PHOTO 2: The sill has been raised and new hollow metal door, frame and louver have been installed at SD 73 Middle School North. Door sill and louver sill flashing are yet to be installed, as are protective rubber roof pavers.

Door access to the roof is the easiest method to access a roof. These doors are typically off a stair tower or mechanical penthouse and most often less than 12 inches above the existing roof as foresight was not often provided (see photos 1, 2 and 6 through 9). With tapered insulation thickness easily exceeding 12 inches, one can see that door sills can be issues with new roof systems and need to be considered.

Designers should first assess the condition of the door and frame, typically hollow metal. Doors and frames that are heavily rusted should not be modified and reused, but discarded, and new ones should be specified. The hardware too needs to be assessed: Are the hinges free of corrosion and distortion? Is the closure still in use or detached and hanging off the door frame? The condition of door sweeps, knobs, lockset and weather stripping should also be determined. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is prudent to replace these parts.

As the roof system design develops, the designer should start to get a feel for the thickness of insulation at the door. It is very important the designer also consider the thicknesses that vapor retarders, bead and spray-foam adhesives, cover and board and protective pavers will add. These can easily be an additional 4 inches.

PHOTO 3A: The new roofing at SD 73 Elementary North was encroaching on this clerestory sill and required that it be raised. As part of this project, the steel lintel was exposed. It was prepped, primed and painted and new through-wall flashing was installed.

PHOTO 3A: The new roofing at SD 73 Elementary North was encroaching on this clerestory sill and required that it be raised. As part of this project, the steel lintel was exposed. It was prepped, primed and painted and new through-wall flashing was installed.

Once the sill height is determined, the design of the sill, door and frame can commence. If the sill height to be raised is small—1 1/2 to 3 inches—it can often be raised with wood blocking cut to fit the hollow metal frame, flashed with the roofing membrane, metal sill flashing and a new door threshold installed, and the door and frame painted. This will, of course, require the removal of the existing threshold and door which will need to be cut down to fit and then bottom-sealed with a new metal closure (see details A and B, page 3).

When the door sill needs to be raised above 3 inches, the design and door considerations increase. Let’s consider that the door and frame is set into a masonry wall of face brick with CMU backup. Although most hollow metal doors are 7 feet 2 inches to match masonry coursing, after the modification the door may be shorter. For example, if a door is 7 feet 2 inches and you must raise the sill 5 inches, the new door and frame will need to be 6 foot 9 inches.
PHOTOS & ILLUSTRATIONS: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

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RICOWI Provides Unbiased Research on Recent Hail Damage

Each time weather reports and news stories warn of impending heavy rains and hail, the Hail Investigation Program (HIP) Committee of the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues (RICOWI) Inc., Clinton, Ohio, begins a process to determine whether the hail damage is sufficient to meet the HIP requirements for deployment of volunteer research teams.

Before the daily assignments began, the volunteers reviewed the various research requirements, met their team members and learned their responsibilities.

Before the daily assignments began, the volunteers reviewed the various research requirements, met their team members and learned their responsibilities.

Mobilization criteria is met when “An event is identified as a hailstorm with hail stones greater than 1 1/2 inches in diameter causing significant damage covering an area of 5 square miles or more on one of the target- ed areas.” Once a storm that meets the criteria has been confirmed and meteorological data and local input have been obtained by HIP, a conference call with RICOWI’s Executive Committee is held to discuss HIP’s recommendation and review information. The Executive Committee decides whether to deploy.

On April 11, 2016, the hailstorm that damaged the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex met the requirements for mobilization.

RESEARCH TEAMS AND BUILDINGS

Volunteer recruitment is an ongoing process throughout the year. RICOWI members are encouraged to volunteer as a deployment team member by completing forms online or at HIP committee meetings held twice a year in conjunction with RICOWI seminars and meetings.

Once a deployment is called, an email is sent to RICOWI members to alert the volunteers and encourage new volunteers. RICOWI sponsoring organizations also promote the investigation to their memberships. Volunteers are a mixture of new and returning personnel.

On May 2, 2016, 30 industry professionals traveled from across the U.S. to assemble in Texas. These volunteers were alerted to bring their trucks, ladders and safety equipment. To provide an impartial review, 10 teams of three volunteers were balanced with roofing material representatives, roofing consultants or engineers, meteorologists, contractors and researchers. Team members volunteered to be their team’s photographer, data collector or team leader.

When the deployment was called, press releases were sent to various media in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to alert local companies and homeowners of the research investigation. RICOWI staff began making calls immediately to the local area’s government officials to seek approval for the investigation teams to conduct research. Staff also made calls throughout the research week to help identify additional buildings.

A large area in and around Wylie, Texas, had hail as large as 4 inches in diameter.

A large area in and around Wylie, Texas, had hail as large as 4 inches in diameter.

Several methods are used to help determine which areas and roofs are chosen. A list of building permits were provided to RICOWI by local building officials to assist with roof choice. In addition, one of RICOWI’s members from the area did preliminary research and provided addresses for the teams. These site owners were contacted through phone and email to notify them of the research project.

Teams were assigned low- or steep- slope research and were assigned addresses accordingly. Team members carried copies of the press release and additional information to help introduce the investigation to business owners and homeowners.

Ultimately, the objective of the re- search project in Dallas/Fort Worth included the following:

  • Investigate the field performance of roofing assemblies after this major hail event.
  • Factually describe roof assembly performance and modes of damage.
  • Formally report the results for substantiated hail events.

DAY-TO-DAY DUTIES

Before the daily assignments began, the volunteers reviewed the various research requirements, met their team members and learned their responsibilities. The teams were briefed on safety, how to take proper photos and how to capture important data.

As each day began, a briefing was held providing assignments for the day. This included addresses for investigation based on whether the team was focused on low- or steep-slope research. The teams were encouraged to stop at other homes and facilities that were undergoing roof repairs in addition to their assigned inspections.

The days were hot and long for the teams. Volunteers began each day at 8 a.m. and many did not return until 5 or 6 p.m., depending on the number of roofs they were assigned. The temperature during the day was around 80 F and humid; the temperatures on the roofs were much worse.

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