Deferred maintenance has been one of the great failings of many of the nation's education institutions, and roofs — out of sight, out of mind — are one of the easiest elements of maintenance to neglect.
Of course, as many administrators have learned through the years, the cost of putting off routine inspections and preventive maintenance can be leaks, mold growth, serious structural damage to a facility and serious health risks for students and staff. As more schools and universities have begun to embrace green strategies in building and maintaining their facilities, the health and safety of the indoor environment is driving facility managers to be more vigilant about roofing maintenance, and to seek out roofing types that can conserve energy and have less impact on the environment.
Although many schools and universities don't have enough maintenance staff and resources to inspect all their roofs twice a year, that is what roofing experts recommend.
Inspections in the fall will enable maintenance workers to clear a roof of leaves and other debris before winter weather strikes, and a spring follow-up will reveal whether the roof sustained any significant wear or damage during the winter.
“A proper inspection program is an important aspect of maintenance and can identify problems before they impact energy use and affect occupants' health,” says the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) Best Practices Manual.
The CHPS urges schools to maintain thorough records about each roof — the type of roof, its size, its installation date, the contractor, warranty information, and a history of inspections and repairs.
Inspections should include checks on cap flashings, edge metal, base flashings, penetrations (pipes, drains, exhaust), field of the roof, ballast, and roof adhesives and coatings.
On the roof membrane, inspectors should check for worn spots, blisters, holes or deteriorating sections, the CHPS manual recommends. For flashings, workers should look for any loose or missing fasteners, corrosion, and cracking or aging sealants. If possible, workers also should inspect the interior of the roof to see if moisture has penetrated the building.
School maintenance staff should ensure that any runoff drains properly from a roof, and that roof edges are properly secured. Minimize foot traffic on a roof and provide protective walkways in areas where traffic is expected.
If an education institution decides to replace a roof, it must take special precautions if the existing roofing contains asbestos.
“When asbestos is disturbed by sanding, cutting and other renovation-type activities, asbestos fibers become airborne, creating an added risk of lung cancer and other lung diseases,” the CHPS manual warns.