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Photo: University of Greenwich ®Hufton+Crow

Small details pay big dividends in roofing specification

Dave Maginnis says getting the details right in roofing systems is essential, or roof failure could be a very expensive problem

Posted by Stephanie Broad | April 17, 2016 | Outdoors

There can be fewer buildings more important than a child’s place of learning. It’s therefore vital their educational surroundings are able to withstand the test of time and the worst of the elements which means obtaining maximum performance from a building’s first line of defence - the roof.

Standing water, membrane blistering, wind uplift damage…the causes of roof failure are as varied as they are destructive. Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic wand’ solution to common structural problems, but by taking into account a well-known phrase: “fail to prepare or prepare to fail” designers and builders can do much to ensure a structure’s highest and most important feature remains intact. 

Even for the most site-hardened architect or surveyor, specifying the best flat roofing and waterproofing system can be a complex decision. From a humble flat to the grandest, awe-inspiring commercial structure, the materials applied to the roof will go a long way to deciding its long-term future.

So how can you ensure a roof not only looks good, but remains weathertight and even thrives for years to come? The importance of technical support, surveying, estimating and contract management can play a vital role in waterproofing success, but initial specification is key.

When Ceredigion County Council, based in south west Wales, announced it was to merge five schools to form a £34 million super school, every aspect of the new building had to aspire to the authority’s precise specification – including the roof.  A complete roof build-up system comprising Tata D100 steel decking, 160mm IKO Enertherm insulation and IKO Armourplan single plan membrane proved the ideal solution to ensure the school’s 1,000 primary and secondary pupils have robust and reliable all-weather protection.

As well as providing shelter, a well-designed roof can help in the creation of a calm, ambient school environment. Natural light plays a crucial role in modern educational buildings, helping improve concentration levels and productivity; hence mono-pitch rooflights were installed as part of the super school’s specification. To complete the application and provide safe roof access for repairs or maintenance tasks, a Latchways Mansafe fall protection system was also installed.

With schools and colleges looking to increase student awareness in terms of bio-diversity as well as allowing more recreation and growing of different plant species, green roofs are becoming a familiar feature in education establishments nationwide.  At the University of Greenwich in London, 22 separate roofs were waterproofed in  IKO PermaTEC hot-melt as part of a multi-tier rooftop garden on the new £38 million Stockwell Street building. Of the 22 flat roofs, 14 were converted into green roofs. IKO PermaTEC hot melt system was specified for the project as it can accommodate a wide variety of roof types and be applied in a range of weather conditions. With a proven track record of durability and long-term performance, PermaTEC provides outstanding protection that will last the entire design life of the building.

Photo: University of Greenwich ®Hufton+Crow

Correct specification paid dividends for the university and contractors as the 14 roofs - landscaped with plants, trees, sedum and high tech terraces - were awarded an innovation credit from BREEAM. The green roofs are now home to wetland; climate-controlled greenhouses; an apiary of bees; outdoor vegetable grids and herbaceous landscapes.

A well-appointed, expertly installed roof doesn’t happen by accident – it takes careful planning and attention to the smallest details. However, with diligence comes reward in terms of peace of mind - and in some cases – a regular crop of homegrown fruit and vegetables.

Dave Maginnis is Managing Director at BriggsAmasco

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