Facility Executive - Creating Intelligent Buildings

Maintaining Multiple Roofs With Technology

By Heidi J. Ellsworth
From the August 2017 Issue

Although the Great Recession seems years in the past, the long-term ramifications of the downturn continue to generate problems for facility managers. One of the lingering symptoms was the deferment of rooftop maintenance. In fact, many facilities across the nation experienced deferred maintenance making rooftops age faster and leaving an enormous amount of repair and/or re-roof work in the hands of facility managers.

Deferred maintenance is maintenance, system upgrades, or repairs that are deferred to a future budget cycle or postponed until funding becomes available. That happened throughout the recession and in the years following as national and regional companies recovered. There are estimates that 60% of all re-roofing was deferred at the height of the recession, estimated at 210 million square feet per year.

For national and regional corporations that want to renew their roofing systems one of the best strategies is a strong service and maintenance program with a national commercial roofing network. Yet, many multi-building owners are still working with numerous contractors that provide owners information in different formats without a set process. It creates a disjointed approach to repairing and maintaining roofing systems. To truly begin rectifying failing or dysfunctional roofs, there must be a strong and consistent plan for inspections and review to determine a priority list for repairs or re-roof.

But in the absence of strong inspections that lay out good solutions, facility managers may be patching roofs that are no longer viable or may simply need different solutions. Working with a national network of commercial contractors with central communications, makes it easier to create a plan for roof maintenance, service, and repair. It is important for facility managers to build a relationship with their network so that these service providers can not only provide a plan, budget, and ongoing service but can be there when emergency help is needed.

This past winter was the perfect example of success for corporations that were prepared, and disaster for those that were not. When a national facility group incorporates independent contractors for each building, they are taking chances. First, it is hard to build a relationship with every company, and those relationships are critical when there are impactful snow loads, rain, or hail. By incorporating a service contract in advance with one national provider, the management team has one contact when they need anything pertaining to the rooftop.

A national network also provides consistency. That consistency can pay off with the type and volume of materials needed on each roof. Not all roofs are the same, but with inspections and a priority plan materials can be purchased for numerous buildings delivering volume pricing. Inspections and service will be executed the same on every building and the reports will be in the same format instead of a different report and data for each building.

A key for this type of consistency is the use of technology. For many when thinking of roofing, they may not think of high-tech. But in today’s age, technology is everywhere including the roof. For efficient maintenance and service, technology has become an important tool for roofing contractors and their national account customers. From smart phones to tablets, the men and women who maintain the integrity of roofing systems across the country rely on effective communication and information.

Roofing professionals are employing software to manage everything including project data, work order/invoicing processes, and, most importantly, customer communication and document storage. Maintenance portals play a significant role for facility managers, allowing them to see exactly what is happening on their roofs. Understanding that very few managers have the opportunity to walk all their roofs, the customer portals provide a view of the roof that inspires confidence through ongoing communications, documentation, and visual review. In fact, contractors can upload unlimited photos and video to the portals providing real-time documentation with every service or repair call.

Facility managers can also send a service request through these portals and track the status of the work. E-mail alerts help to keep all parties aware of updates or repair requirements. By utilizing custom inspection checklists, roof service teams can quickly communicate roof issues or concerns along with the progress of the repairs. Custom inspection reports include photos from the roof that correlate with early imagery or even satellite or aerial imagery to create a visual timeline for the facility manager. All of this is shared through the online customer portal providing a way to distribute information to management, purchasing agents, or building supervisors.

When it comes to knowing what is on the roof, facility managers can get a good look by incorporating service plans that include the use of technology to create processes for inspection, service, maintenance, and emergency response. Processes that are consistent, building-to-building, is the only way to be able to make good decisions preparing for upcoming budgets and emergency planning. Without the technology, the network and the consistency, roof repairs will continue to be deferred or inappropriately prioritized leaving building owners and corporations at risk. 

Ellsworth has been working in the roofing industry since 1993. Currently, she provides marketing and communications expertise as the director of strategic accounts for National Roofing Partners, a national network of tier one commercial roofing contractors with more than 120 service locations. Having held positions with EagleView Technologies, Carlisle Construction Materials, and Malarkey Roofing, Ellsworth is owner of HJE Consulting Group.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove@groupc.com.