Re-Roof of Busy Post Office Facility Becomes Award-Winning Project

Crews from Roofing Solutions replaced the 300,000-square-foot roof on the United States Post Office General Mail Facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photos: Sam Barnes

The United States Post Office General Mail Facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, manages mail for the entire Greater Baton Rouge area. When the roof on the 300,000-square-foot building was nearing the end of its useful life, it was clear the roof replacement project would pose some big challenges. It was a given that the new roof system must prove durable and reliable to protect the mail delivery system that businesses and individuals rely on every day. It was also critical that the re-roofing work would not interfere with mail processing at the facility, which operates around the clock.

Architect Crump Wilson and Wharry Engineering specified an asphalt roofing system for the project — a two-ply modified bitumen system manufactured by SOPREMA. All parties agreed that asphalt was the best roofing solution for the facility due to its longevity, durability, and long-term dependability.

Roofing Solutions, LLC, headquartered in Prairieville, Louisiana, was invited to bid on the project. “We were the successful low bidder,” says Tupac de la Cruz, the company’s founder and operations manager. “When we started working on the planning and phasing, we realized the job was going to be an undertaking because, number one, it was a big-size job, and number two, the facility works 24-7.”

Completing the project without interrupting operations would be the biggest challenge on the project. Crews could not interfere with traffic flow and mail deliveries, and would have to protect people and sensitive machinery inside.

“Before beginning the re-roof project, we were given a full tour of the facility,” de la Cruz says. “It was an eye-opening experience to see the equipment, systems, and personnel that manage the mail delivery process from start to finish. You had to coordinate with the facility manager, the transportation manager, and multiple stakeholders to make sure that you did not interrupt all of the conveyor lines sorting all of the mail coming in and out of that facility every day.”

Working in Sections

The deck was exposed to the interior, increasing the risk of dust falling onto the equipment, so Roofing Solutions crews installed a 6-mm protective film using a Spyder lift. “We installed special sheathing underneath the deck to protect the conveyor systems and all of the equipment,” noted de la Cruz. “We also had to protect the workers and make sure that there was no noise, no dust, or any disruptions from anything to do with the roof replacement.”

Sunbelt Vacuum Service was contracted to remove the rooftop gravel. Then the old built-up plies were then cut up and removed by hand. “We had a metal deck, and we couldn’t put any heavy equipment on it,” de la Cruz recalls.

Work proceeded in sections to ensure everything remained watertight. “You had to cover everything you’d demo the same day,” de la Cruz says. “In the summertime in Louisiana, it can rain almost every afternoon.”

The new roof system included two layers of mechanically attached polyiso insulation, which was topped with SOPRABOARD, an asphaltic cover board, which was adhered with COLPLY adhesive. The two ply system was comprised of a base play and a cap sheet Designers chose SOPREMA’s Solar Granule cap sheet membrane, which provides the benefit of high reflectivity. Torches were not allowed on the project, so the membrane was set in cold adhesive. “Because we could not use any torches, all of the laps for modified bitumen cap had to be sheet welded with a robot like you were doing single-ply,” notes de la Cruz.

The roof system specified for the project was a two-ply modified bitumen system topped with SOPREMA’s Solar Granule cap sheet membrane.

Most of the roof area was clear sailing, but access at the jobsite was limited due to the busy transportation routes. “It was a nice, wide roof,” says del la Cruz. “The hardest part was getting the material from one end of the roof to the other, because we only had access at one point. No motorized vehicles were allowed up there, but we were able to use carts to move material from one end to the other.”

The roof features four large raised sections framed with clerestory windows, and the multiple levels sometimes made moving material difficult. “In some cases, you had to bring the material across one level, bring it up to another level and back down again,” says de la Cruz.

The existing skylights were replaced with new single-slope skylights manufactured by KalWall.

Safety and Security

The safety plan utilized mix of guardrails, perimeter flagging, and safety monitors, depending on the configuration of each section. “We also had to have a flagging man on the bottom to make sure we were not interfering with the 18-wheelers coming in and out with their packages,” de la Cruz says. “The project extended over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you couldn’t imagine the amount of trucking that goes through that facility during Christmas.”

Making sure everyone was on the same page was crucial. Weekly planning meetings were supplemented with daily huddles. “We met with the facility manager every morning to make sure we let him know where we’d be and what we were going to do that day,” de la Cruz explains, “Every afternoon, we’d let him know what the plan for the next day was so they could plan ahead. It was a very proactive approach.”

The crew, which included 20 men during the peak of the project, usually accomplished 3,000 to 3,500 square feet of demo and roof replacement per day. The project was completed in seven months — three months ahead of schedule.

The project was recognized by the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association as the Silver Award winner in the 2020 ARMA Excellence In Asphalt Roofing Awards program, which recognizes industry professionals for their high-performing steep-slope and low-slope asphalt roofing projects across North America.

“We had such pride in completing that project because it was so large and we had zero injuries, no issues, and the client was very happy. We decided to submit it, and we got the award,” says de la Cruz.

“We finished the project about three months ahead of schedule, and we were able to complete the job with no interruptions to the facility. We knew if we could do that, in the end it would be a successful project.”

For more information about submitting a project for the Excellence in Asphalt Roofing Awards, visit www.asphaltroofing.org.

TEAM

Architect: Crump Wilson, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, www.crumpwilsonarchitects.com

Roof Consultant: Wharry Engineering, Garland, Texas, www.wharry.com

Roofing Contractor: Roofing Solutions LLC, Prairieville, Louisiana, www.roofingsolutionsla.com

MATERIALS

Membrane: SG Solar Granule Cap Sheet, SOPREMA, www.soprema.us

Cover Board: SOPRABOARD, SOPREMA

Skylights: Kalwall, www.kalwall.com

Contractor Overcomes Challenging Logistics to Re-Roof 16-Story Westin Savannah

The Westin Savannah site posed logistical challenges, as it is bordered by the Savannah River, a canal and the Savannah Convention Center. Photo: SOPREMA

Were you to visit Savannah, Georgia, the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa would be tough to miss. This landmark property, known for its 18-hole PGA golf course, secluded beach access and on-site spa, is the tallest building in the city at 16 stories. The aura of luxury surrounding the building was threatened, however, when Hurricane Matthew moved through the region, inundating the city with rainwater and causing the aging Westin Savannah roof to fail. With leaks resulting in the closure of a major portion of the hotel’s upper floor, it was clear the building owners would need to move quickly to restore a waterproof seal atop their building.

The job would not be easy. The Westin Savannah is surrounded by the Savannah River on one side, a canal on another and the Savannah Convention Center on a third. The only feasible area left to stage and load the roofing material onto a crane was the front parking loop and valet area — an area that would typically be avoided with any other roofing project. “We only had one spot where we could set up, and that was the biggest challenge,” says Larry Hoffman, the superintendent who oversaw the installation of the roof at the Westin Savannah on behalf of Whitco Roofing, the Westin’s chosen contractor. “We were very limited with regard to any mobility around that hotel, not to mention the fact that we had to get materials onto a roof that was 270 feet from the ground.” 

Envisioning an Approach

The Whitco Roofing team also had to deal with challenging application conditions, given that the roof had many penetrations due to the presence of air conditioning units, towers, exhaust vents, lighting, walkways, ladders, staircases and other equipment. Special care would have to be given to the installation of the flashing to ensure no opportunities for leak formation remained after the roofing job was done. Recognizing that the use of a liquid flashing material was the best bet to keep the roofing layer monolithic despite all the penetrations, the Whitco Roofing team set about selecting the right compatible materials for the job.

SOPREMA’s SENTINEL P150 60-mil PVC-based roofing membrane was selected for the projectbecause we wanted a durable roofing product that was compatible with a liquid flashing material for difficult base flashings encountered during this project,” explains Henri Brickey, director of business development for Whitco Roofing. “We recommended the SOPREMA PVC membrane for several reasons, the first of which is the superior chemical and UV resistance PVC offers over TPO. Since we also intended to wrap the large quantity of concrete and metal support column bases with SOPREMA’s ALSAN RS 230 Flash polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) liquid resin, we made sure the PVC membrane was compatible and that we could include those areas under the roof’s warranty.” 

The Installation Commences

The complex coordination required for a successful roofing installation began on the ground. One week’s worth of material was staged at a time, then a crane was brought in to upload materials to the roof on the same day trash was being downloaded from the old roof tear-off process. All debris had to be carefully bagged and secured with tarps to avoid pollution in the nearby Savannah River, and the delivery and removal of four dumpsters at a time had to be carefully coordinated so that no dumpster was left on the premises overnight, blocking entry to the building. “You had to be out of there by five o’clock with everything, and it had to be done in a particular sequence, further complicating matters,” explains Hoffman.

On the rooftop, existing asphalt-based roofing materials were stripped down to the concrete deck. SOPREMA SOPRA-ISO3.5-inch polyisocyanurate insulation was adhered using SOPREMA DUOTACK 365 foam adhesive to provide improved R-value to the building. Next, the PVC membrane was bonded onto the insulation, providing both a reliable waterproofing layer and a reflective white finish that would help diminish heat absorption compared to the older materials. The liquid resin coating was then applied to prevent water intrusion at all exposed concrete column bases — extending up and coating metal base plates — and at vertical flashing points where air handling units tied into the building’s walls. New tapered crickets were also installed between drains, improving the overall flow of water on the roof and reducing the opportunity for ponding water.

Safety and Communications Prioritized

Throughout the project, OSHA guidelines had to be followed carefully on the rooftop and on the ground to ensure both workers and bystanders entering and exiting the hotel were safe. Flagging and ground guides were used around the staging area, and strict adherence to timelines for deliveries and mobilizations were also critical to the safe execution of the project. The Whitco Roofing team worked closely with the hotel management throughout the process to prevent interference with hotel operations and to minimize risks to guests. 

The building now benefits from a superior roofing membrane that is Energy Star-compliant, upgraded insulation, a strong foam adhesive that helps resist uplift pressure during storms and a monolithic waterproofing layer thanks to the liquid flashing installed around all penetrations. “SOPREMA’s single-ply membranes have a reputation for strength and durability,” notes Brickey, “and especially with the inclusion of the liquid flashing system to deal with difficult flashing details, we were able to provide a long-lasting, warranted waterproofing solution for the Westin.”

In all, more than 14,000 square feet of roofing material was replaced over the course of roughly a month by a large team of installers. In part because the hotel staff was so pleased with the way the job was planned, managed and executed, Whitco Roofing was brought back to install a new roof on a lower section of the building as well. That project was recently completed, positioning the Westin Savannah to resist the elements while serving as a relaxing getaway for the foreseeable future.

TEAM

Roofing Contractor: Whitco Roofing, Atlanta, Georgia, www.whitcoroofing.com

MATERIALS

Roof Membrane: SENTINEL P150 PVC, SOPREMA, www.soprema.us

Insulation: SOPRA-ISO, SOPREMA

Adhesive: DUOTACK 365, SOPREMA

Liquid Flashing: ALSAN RS 230 Flash, SOPREMA