Communication is Key to Re-roofing Project Success

It’s a fact; commercial re-roofing projects are very different and are many times more complex than new construction roofing. Because of this, one of the most important components to a re-roofing project’s success is a healthy and productive line of communication between the owner, the roof architect/designer and the contractor throughout the project. On the other hand, poor communication during re-roofing projects often leads to disagreements among project stakeholders, schedule overruns, lost opportunities to improve the overall success of the project, and a myriad of other potential problems.

A good re-roofing project communication process begins and continues with OAC meetings – Owner, Architect (designer), Contractor. These meetings should be coordinated on-site and at times may include the roofing system manufacturer’s technical representative, physical plant personnel and, if necessary, OAC meetings may also include electrical, mechanical, lightning protection, crane providers, etc.

Some of the agenda items for an OAC project kick-off meeting should include the following:

  • Review plans and specifications to address questions or cite any discrepancies. Be sure the roofing contractor’s project manager and project supervisor are thoroughly familiar with project specifications/requirements.
  • Discuss special circumstances, such as the need for after-hours security, overall plans for the protection of building occupants and interior contents, after-hours phone contacts, locations of underground utilities, storm drains, etc.
  • Discuss/confirm hours of operation and, if deemed necessary, how to mitigate excess noise within the vicinity of the project.
  • Discuss rooftop conditions with all attendees that walk the grounds and have access to the rooftop.
  • Coordinate interior/exterior safety controls.
  • Establish equipment set-up points, roofing material storage areas and a debris-removal location and schedule.
  • Establish conditions when roof demolition will not take place. For example: if rain is imminent, roof surface ponding water is a possibility, etc.
  • In writing, explain to the owner possible disruptions such as asphalt fumes, noise, cascading dust, and/or entry/exit restrictions.
  • Take video of the entire interior under re-roofing locations. Note existing damage – ceiling tiles, floor tiles, books, etc.

Keys to effective communication through regular OAC meetings

To ensure building occupant safety and the security of a building’s contents throughout a re-roofing project, one item that should be covered during regular OAC meetings is coordination with the owner, with as much advance notice as possible, specifically where the next phase of the re-roofing operation will be taking place. This level of coordination is important because:

  • if work is being done on a school, no children should be under the rooftop where work is being done.
  • if the work is being done on a hospital, no patients or staff should be directly under the rooftop where cranes are being operated.
  • if working over a wooden gymnasium floor, plastic should be applied over the floor during the re-roofing operation.
  • if the project is being performed on an industrial or packaging facility, the interior contents under the section of roof being worked on should be covered to the extent possible.
  • on many re-roofing projects dust can be dislodged from underlying structural steel components. This dust can negatively impact interior manufacturing processes and sensitive equipment – computers, MRI machines, etc. So, special arrangements should be coordinated to protect these contents.

Case Study

A few years ago, our firm was contracted to re-roof a computer facility for the U.S. Air Force. The rooms below the re-roofing project contained dozens of computer workstations. The original specifications for the project stated that the occupants and contents of the building could not be taken out of service or relocated during the project.

During the OAC project kick-off meeting, we reviewed the specifications of the existing building. One of the items noted was that sprayed-on fireproofing had been applied to the structural components and underside of the metal roof deck during the building’s original construction some twenty years prior. We also reviewed the sensitive nature of the building’s contents and occupants during this meeting, and it was determined that the existing drop-ceiling system between this fireproofing and the building’s workspaces should sufficiently contain any dust that was disturbed and released from the structural components during the re-roofing project. However, as an added safety precaution, the OAC project team agreed during this meeting that we would station a monitor inside the building with a direct line of communication to our rooftop project manager.

What was known to everyone on the OAC team prior to the project’s start was that the mechanical fasteners for the first layer of the existing interior fireproofing were drilled into and through the roof deck. As a result, as our crew began the removal process of the existing roof and the installation of the new roof insulation to the existing roof deck, large chunks of fireproofing began to dislodge from the steel structure. Several chunks were heavy enough to fully penetrate the ceiling grid system and fall onto the desks and floor inside the building. Our interior monitor had the rooftop project manager immediately stop work on the roof, our crew temporarily dried-in the work area and ceased further rooftop activities.

An engineer from the Air Force arrived on site and, after a thorough inspection, determined that the original fireproofing had been improperly installed, thereby leading it to dislodge when the new insulation fasteners penetrated the existing roof deck. An emergency OAC meeting was called. It was clear that the roof work must proceed. So, the OAC agreed to meet daily to define the following day’s work area and the owner agreed to temporarily move any personnel that would normally have been situated under that defined area. As an additional precaution, the Air Force issued our firm a change order to completely tarp the interior ceiling grid in order to reduce the chance of falling fireproofing hitting personnel, workstations or the floor. Because the OAC team maintained open lines of communication, the job was completed with no additional disruption.

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