For more than a decade, roof asset-management software has been available to help school and university facility managers optimize return on their roofing investments. Today's more sophisticated tools offer time-saving features such as:
Online filing of emergency leak reports, 24/7, with automatic paging of emergency contacts.
Internet-based, worldwide sharing of photos and other documentation of jobs-in-progress.
The ability to input punchlist data in real time using a handheld PDA or laptop computer.
Comprehensive warranty tracking and flagging, as expiration dates come due.
On the product side, too, the last 10 years have witnessed the development of innovative high-performance roofing materials capable of extending the anticipated service life of a roof to 30 years and longer. For situations where re-roofing is not financially feasible, today's advanced restoration materials can extend the life of mature or moderately damaged roofs significantly until funding becomes available.
Yet, despite the fact that it has probably never been easier to ensure long-term roofing performance, the 2003 Roof Longevity and Replacement Report, funded by the Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress, concluded that the average life expectancy of today's commercial low-slope roof is only 17 years.
What is needed is a radical change in the way organizations evaluate outcomes; more specifically, a shift from short-term pragmatic thinking, to long-term creative thinking.
Short vs. long term
It is true that the initial costs of longer-lasting roofing solutions typically are higher than the upfront costs of shorter-term solutions. It's also true that the short-term costs associated with aggressive preventive maintenance are higher than those associated with reactive maintenance.
But, as with everything else — from cars and household appliances to clothes — savings in the short term can be lost exponentially over time. The recent Commercial Roofing Solutions Pocket Guide on Roof Maintenance reported that reactively maintained roofs more than double the total life-cycle costs of ownership over a 20-year period, compared with roofs that have been maintained aggressively.
Demonstrating that fact using life-cycle cost analysis is easier than some might think. Software packages analyzing the potential long-term costs of short-term fixes can help education institutions identify and measure the costs associated with:
Unanticipated roof repairs.
Increasing energy loss as insulation gets wet and loses its effectiveness.
Resulting damages to a building's interior.
Destroyed furnishings, equipment or inventory.
Downtime during repairs.
Health problems caused by mold.
Liability for accidents resulting from water leakage.
Cleaning up of water-damaged interiors.
Insurance rate increases because of repetitive claims.
Eventual premature roof replacement.
Often overlooked is the fact that the building codes allow only two roof installations before requiring a costly, complete tear-off. Given the expense associated with roof replacement, schools should conduct a thorough analysis of their options and should always consider the restoration alternative if the roofing insulation remains mostly dry. Restorations are not considered replacements, so regular, periodic restorations can offer significant savings, costing anywhere from 10 to 60 percent less than a total tear-off and replacement, depending on the type and condition of the underlying deck.
The evidence may be indisputable that the aggressive pursuit of long-term performance pays off. However, the fact is that purchases demanding even a moderately higher upfront cost frequently are not feasible because of a shortage of fluid capital.
For today's education institutions, creative financing is becoming increasingly critical to achieving long-term success in the management of their roofing assets. Fortunately, the variety of financing methods and programs available has never been greater.
Many state and local governments offer programs that reward schools that invest in technologies to reduce energy consumption. On the federal level, public facilities can take advantage of General Service Administration (GSA) pricing schedules to ensure fair and consistent pricing without unduly limiting their purchasing options, depending on their preferred suppliers.
Another alternative is lease financing. When applied to roofing, lease-financing programs are a viable alternative to bond financing or cash. They typically allow tax-exempt organizations to pay for a new roof over time, with a dollar buyout.
This option enables schools and universities to finance a total installed roofing solution with their payments counted as an expense, rather than as capital, against their current budgets. Lease financing can help organizations buy time until expected funding from bond issues or state distributions becomes available, leaving them with valuable capital to invest in other needed projects.
Software packages analyzing the potential long-term costs of short-term fixes typically help identify and measure the costs associated with:
- Unanticipated roof repairs.
- Resulting damages to a building's interior.
- Destroyed furnishings, equipment and/or inventory.
- Downtime during repairs.
- Health problems caused by mold.
- Liability for accidents resulting from water leakage.
- Cleaning up of water-damaged interiors.
- Insurance rate increases because of repetitive claims.
- Eventual premature roof replacement.
Lambert is director of marketing for The Garland Company, Inc., a Cleveland-based manufacturer and distributor of high-performance solutions for the building envelope.