Many school administrators protect their investments in new roofing systems by paying extra for an extended roof warranty. These warranties can be a valuable asset because they usually provide more coverage and reduce the school administrator's risk of having to pay for extensive roof repairs or replacements.
Unfortunately, once an extended warranty is purchased, it usually is forgotten or ignored. As a result, roof inspections and maintenance that might be required under the terms of the warranty are missed, possibly voiding the warranty.
Or, perhaps several school administrators are involved in overseeing roofs, and one of them may unwittingly pay for roof repairs that are covered by the warranty. The result: The extended roofing warranty, which appeared to be a sound investment, ends up being worthless.
Roofing asset-management software can help school administrators maximize the value of an extended roofing warranty. An asset-management program stores all information pertaining to the warranty in an organized database. This data may include warranty documents, maintenance schedules, inspection forms or even digital pictures. Having this information in one place and in a consistent format not only makes it easy to find this information, but also allows users to share and cross-reference the information with appropriate parties, such as the original roofing contractor.
In addition, roofing asset-management software can process this information to notify a school administrator when scheduled roof inspections and maintenance are due.
Asset-management software programs, in some instances, also can offer suggestions or templates (such as roofing inspection forms) that help schools carry out inspections and maintenance to stay in compliance with warranty terms. Any forms, reports or photographs generated from these activities then can be stored in the software program's database.
Some software programs even provide a link to the warranty department of roofing manufacturers so school administrators can ask questions about their warranties via the Internet.
Many asset-management software programs also can be used to generate budget comparisons on roof repair vs. replacement, or to identify trends and similarities to other roofs in the school district. This provides administrators with a bigger picture of the school district's roofing assets. Some roofing asset-management programs can index roofing conditions with a color-coded system. Administrators quickly can tell by the colors which roofs are in a critical state and require immediate attention.
Roofing asset-management systems also can include inspection reports and maintenance records to provide detailed histories of all roofs in a school district and aid in troubleshooting roofing problems. Perhaps the system will point out which roofs are performing better; this may help a school choose the best-performing product. Or it might indicate which roofs receive the most exposure to damage, so workers can inspect these roofs more frequently.
What to look for
Because roofing asset-management programs offer various features and capabilities, it is important to consider the following:
- Ease of use
Is the software program intuitive and easy to use, or does it require extensive training? Are “wizards” available to help new users through different processes? If training is required, how long does it take, and is there an additional cost? How many people at the organization will have to be trained?
- Data entry features
Most roofing warranties are accompanied by numerous documents, such as inspection reports. How easy is it to enter this data into the asset-management system? Can documents be scanned, or do they need to be entered manually? Is the program compatible with laptop or tablet PCs that might be used on a roof during an inspection? This would allow a roof inspector to download the information directly into the database, reducing several data entry steps.
- Special features
Some asset-management programs offer features such as the ability to attach external files, including CAD drawings; special inspection and maintenance programs designed specifically for roofing; and lists that contain frequently used words in the roofing industry.
- Report generators
The information stored in an asset-management database won't have much value if it can't be conveyed in a format that is easily understood by decision makers. That's why it is important to find a roofing asset-management system that can produce professional-quality reports, including roofing drawings and photographs. Being able to generate PDF files is a big plus; look for programs that enable files to be exported.
Report generators also should enable users to attach external files such as building drawings or digital photos. This enables schools to customize the reports for different audiences. For example, a report for the school board might include budget information with pie charts and bar graphs, whereas a report to a roofing contractor or consultant might include blueprints and CAD drawings.
How many different versions of the software are available? Look for programs that offer PC versions, online versions and web-based applications. Even if these different offerings do not seem necessary now, they might be helpful for the future.
- Commitment to technology
Beware of companies that offer roofing software as a sideline to their main business. Instead, look for a company in which the software is a main core of its business. These companies are more likely to be committed to regularly expanding and upgrading the software, and will usually offer experienced technical help when needed. Also, make sure the company is financially healthy.
James is president of Digital Facilities Corporation, Acton, Mass., which offers integrated software solutions, consulting and online services.
The importance of roof inspections
Performing regular roof inspections helps school administrators keep their roofing warranties in compliance, and helps extend the lives of the roofs by identifying problems before they become catastrophic. Finding and repairing a leak soon after it occurs can prevent costly damage to the insulation and roof decking, not to mention the contents of the building.
Roofing manufacturers usually suggest conducting roof inspections at least twice a year. One inspection is done in the spring to identify any trouble spots that may have cropped up over the winter. The second inspection usually occurs in the fall to make sure the roof is in good condition and able to withstand harsh winter weather. Inspections also may be justified after severe weather such as a hailstorm or gale-force winds. Another reason to conduct an inspection is if there has been heavy foot traffic on the roof.
Keep in mind that the purpose of inspections is not only to find and fix problems areas, but also to examine portions of the roof that need frequent maintenance, such as flashings and caulking. Some experts speculate that neglecting regular maintenance is the most common cause of premature roof failure. The roof inspection is an ideal opportunity to double-check that drains are clear, flashings are tight and scheduled maintenance items are complete.
If some areas require repair or additional maintenance, be sure to find out which repairs can be conducted in-house and which repairs the warranty requires be done by an authorized roofing contractor. And be sure to determine what is meant by an “authorized” contractor — is it someone who simply has experience with the manufacturer's product, or is it a contractor that has met specific training and quality requirements?