Know-How: Roofing

Tired of devoting too many resources to repairing and replacing inferior roofs, higher-education officials in Minnesota instituted a program nearly 20 years ago to install colleges and universities with roofs that provide maximum performance at the lowest cost.

It has evolved into the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Roof Management Program. By improving design standards, carrying out onsite inspections and testing during construction, inspecting all roofs annually and keeping detailed records, facility managers are able to double the life expectancy of a typical roof.

“We believe the program provides us with a 40-year roof,” says David Hardin, MnSCU system director, facilities design and construction.

The roof-management program began in 1984 in the Minnesota State University system. MnSCU was established in 1995, and community colleges, technical colleges and consolidated colleges became part of the program.

The MnSCU-standard flat roof is built-up, asphalt, four-ply and is sloped to drain. MnSCU-standard sloped roofs include slate, clay tile or occasionally metal with waterproof underlayment. Design standards help schools avoid problems, and inspections enable schools to make minor roof repairs before they get out of hand.

Only about a third of the roofs in the system meet MnSCU standards, so much of the program's resources are earmarked for re-roofing. Existing buildings often have deficiencies in their walls, mechanical systems or other physical features that can prevent a roof from achieving maximum performance.

“When we re-roof, we clean up architectural and engineering mistakes from the original design,” says Hardin. “When we're done with a job, it's like night and day.”

The commitment to a thorough inspection of each roof every year is a sizable undertaking for a system that encompasses 12.5 million square feet of roofs on 53 campuses.

“We begin as soon as the ice and snow melt, and we're not through until October or November,” says Hardin.

The MnSCU system allocated $20 million in 2002-03 for roof replacement and repair, says Hardin, and officials hope that state funding continues to allow the system to bring more of their roofs to the MnSCU standard.



Number of square feet of roofs in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.


Percentage of MnSCU roofs, as of Jan. 1, 2003, that meet MnSCU standards.


79-year cost of a 25,000-square-foot roof built and maintained to MnSCU standards.


79-year cost of a 25,000-square-foot roof built and maintained to industry standards.

Source: Roof Management Program, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

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