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The Four Objectives for Specifying Roof Coatings
With so many energy-efficiency provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, maintenance and engineering managers have an excellent opportunity to examine roof coatings in a new light. The act calls for incentives, tax benefits, government grants, demonstration projects and increased research and development for all aspects of a building’s energy efficiency and sustainability.
Managers in institutional and commercial facilities have specified roof coatings for decades because of their role in generating savings by extending roof life. Now, more managers are realizing roof coatings can help their organization improve facilities’ energy efficiency.
The Role of Coatings
Organizations generally decide to coat roof systems with four general objectives in mind: extending maintenance and service life; improving energy savings; enhancing safety; and promoting environmental stewardship.
Maintenance and service life encompasses: protecting against ultraviolet light and moisture; repairing leaks and cracks; extending service lives of underlying membranes and insulation by lowering average roof surface temperatures; reducing expansion and contraction stress by lowering peak temperatures; maintaining waterproofing properties; protecting roofs from severe weather, such as hail and ice storms; and treating and preventing corrosion of metal roof systems.
Energy savings relates to cool roofing and tax credits associated with air conditioning costs, the size of HVAC units, insulation preservation, and reducing the roof’s life-cycle cost.
Safety involves maintaining or upgrading a fire rating, as well as bonding loose and friable materials.
Environmental stewardship includes reducing landfill waste and limiting the effects of urban heat island.
These objectives have become part of an industrywide movement aimed at saving energy and improving sustainability.
Longer roof-system life cycles reduce the energy required to tear off and transport failed systems to landfills, as well as the energy needed to manufacture new roofing materials, transport them to job sites and install them. In short, to maintain is to sustain.
Extending a roof system’s life cycle also means less downtime and no lost income during roof replacement. In contrast to re-roofing projects, roof-coating applications generally do not require a building shutdown.
Reducing solar heat gain also directly affects a building’s peak electricity requirements. Peak loads often form the basis of electricity prices because they establish a region’s energy-generating needs.
Some white reflective coatings can reflect 80 percent or more of the sun’s rays at installation. As a result, they reduce air conditioning costs. When used as part of an ongoing roof-maintenance program, managers typically can treat coatings as an expense, not a capital investment.
Finally, a cool roof can mean a smaller initial investment in air conditioning equipment when the equipment is included in the planning for a new roof.
Different Substrates Require Different Roof Coatings
After managers determine a coating’s function, they must consider the type of roof system being coated. Coatings suppliers generally offer two types of coatings: all-purpose, which are suitable for a range of substrates; and application-specific coatings, which are tailored to one type or a limited range of substrates.
Different substrates require different coatings. A coating’s adhesion might depend as much on the substrate’s characteristics as on the coating type. In general, it is more difficult for coatings to adhere to hard, smooth, chemically inert surfaces and easier on rough, irregular, chemically active surfaces.
A coating’s adhesion to a substrate often improves when the installers put down a primer or base coat. Coatings manufacturers recommend certain primers or base coats for managers trying to match a specific topcoat with a specific substrate. Managers should use only the base coat or primer specified by the coating’s manufacturer.
Primers and basecoats for built-up roofs offer good examples. Manufacturers have designed products specifically to work on these surfaces. They work well on these often-hot surfaces by bonding to the asphalt and preventing it from bleeding into the white topcoat.
Enhancing a roof’s sustainability typically requires recoating to extend its service life. Most coatings are field-applied, and their success depends on real-world conditions and workers’ skills. To ensure proper curing, an experienced contractor should pay careful attention to consistent application and changing weather conditions.
Roof Coatings Provide Quicker Return on Investment
Roof coatings already are contributing to the bottom line of many organizations by producing a return on investment in a few years, rather than several decades.
Installers can apply roof coatings without delay and do not need to tear off the existing roof. Coatings can extend the roof’s life, and they are suitable for most buildings.
The age of the building does not matter, nor does the amount of insulation in place. Even on a well-insulated roofing system, a coating can extend the roof’s performance life and provide additional energy savings. A roof coating is complementary to insulation, lowers roof temperatures and can extend the life of an insulated roof.
Managers should move carefully in selecting a coating and training the maintenance staff on its proper application. A basic knowledge of roofing practice and attention to quality control are crucial to the success of a coating. Managers can use in-house maintenance crews to install coatings on smaller areas and to make repairs, but they might want to contract out larger projects.
A roof coating can extend a roof’s performance life indefinitely, so its importance to sustainability is obvious. Yet general discussions of green buildings too often underemphasize coatings’ importance.
Now is the time for managers to look at roof coatings in a new light. They can create immediate savings organizations are searching for, and they can contribute to a more energy-efficient, sustainable nation and future economic prosperity.