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Environmental Impact

Industry Background

The commercial roofing industry is composed of many respected, educated and experienced professionals who are trusted to develop flat or low-grade roofing systems that protect our community schools, hospitals, businesses, and recreational, industrial, governmental and residential buildings. An estimated $250 million is spent annually on ICI roof replacements in the Eastern Ontario market alone.

A roofing system is created by two main parties: 1) Engineers design roofing systems and 2) Builders are responsible for the construction of the roofing system based on the engineer’s design. There is a complex multiplicity of factors to consider when designing and building a commercial roofing system that is made from multiple layers of important barriers and insulation that create a sound and safe environment.

The Need for Roof Maintenance

Much like a vehicle, despite careful and complex design by manufacturers, simple maintenance is required to extend the life of a roofing system. Typical roof maintenance involves clearing water paths and drains, removal of vegetation growth, and resealing seams and materials that crack under regular environmental conditions. If this is done before a problem occurs, the integrity of the costly roofing system remains intact. If building owners wait until a problem occurs – in many cases a leaking roof – the internal insulation and water barrier system has already been compromised leading to costly construction repairs and a reduced life span of the roofing system and in many cases of the building in general.

Building owners are responsible for so many aspects of building care and maintenance. Understandably, the roofing system is ‘out of site, out of mind’ in many cases, and is not considered until after a problem arises. Until the development of Roof Maintenance Solutions, there was no current impartial option available to building owners for a dedicated service of preventative roof maintenance whose sole focus is the longevity of the roofing system and environmental waste reduction.

Current Practice

Under current roof maintenance practices within the Canadian ICI industry, the typical lifespan of a commercial roof is approximately 15 to 20 years. This means within the average time frame, building owners pay engineers and builders to replace their roofing system, putting the many non-biodegradable roofing materials into the only option available to building owners today: into our landfill sites.

Environmental Impact

The materials that come together to create a commercial roofing system are non-biodegradable, made from materials like tar, plastics, and rubbers. When an entire roofing system is replaced, miles of non-biodegradable materials are shipped to our landfill sites, often with a sizable dumping fee. When roofing systems are replaced too soon due to lack of proper maintenance, the impact on the environment is considerable, especially given the amount of commercial buildings that exist in our cities today, let alone the unnecessary amount of capital expense that goes into early roof replacements. With proper maintenance, and the implementation of a roofing materials recycling program, ICI roofs can stay viable for sometimes double their expected lifespan. Besides basic maintenance, other options are available to building owners that reduce energy consumption and counter the ‘urban heat island’ affect where the ambient temperatures from constant solar heat absorbed by roofs burden the city’s energy supplies. The goal of Roof Maintenance Solutions is to use transparent educational materials to better educate property owners with a base understanding of roofing system construction and deterioration and offer choices that make a positive difference to their organizational environmental impact and capital spending.

Canada-wide Environmental Impact

The Canadian Roofing Contractors’ Association (CRCA), the primary national industry association for the ICI sector, estimates that Canadian commercial roofing sector sales approach $1.6 billion on an annual basis. They also estimate that roof replacement accounts for approximately 60 per cent of all activity in the sector, with new roof installations accounting for the remaining 40 per cent of the market. A small portion of the roof replacement segment includes roof repairs.

Roofing asphalt is prominent in three types of roofing systems – traditional four-ply built-up roofs, two-ply modified bitumen roofs, and rubberized asphalt roof. Modified bitumen and asphalt built-up roofs combined account for as much as 80 per cent of the annual Canadian ICI low-slope roofing market.

Overall, it is estimated that a total of 330,000 tonnes of asphalt related roofing scrap is produced by the sector annually, with re-roofing responsible for 99 per cent of the total waste stream. Although the ICI sector’s roofing scrap output is only about 25 per cent of that estimated to be produced by the residential sector on a mass basis, the amount of asphalt in the ICI roofing scrap is almost 75 per cent that of the residential market on a percentage of asphalt basis, making it a significant consideration for recycling. Overall, an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of asphalt related roofing waste is generated in Canada, with aggregate, asphalt and organic felts representing 57, 35 and 9 per cent by mass, respectively.

The Industry Gap

The commercial building industry needs an organization whose sole focus is dedicated to maintaining these roofing systems after the construction is complete, to keep the roofs viable for longer. RMS gains no benefit from a roof replacement and is committed to maintaining the longevity of the roofing system and reducing the environmental impact of roofs replaced too soon, and offers building owners a roofing materials recycling program that reuses the existing roofing material wherever possible.

Cost Effectiveness

The costs involved in a full roof replacement are significant in comparison to the small costs associated with preventative roof maintenance. In most cases, a proper roof maintenance plan will allow for capital expense dedicated to roof replacement to be deferred for between ten and thirty years. In terms of recycling, it is also much less expensive to re-purpose existing roofing material than to replace it completely with new material. With proper handling, re-purposed roofing material is as durable as new material and costs less with regard to both budget and environmental impact. The long-term savings overall are significant.

Industry Acceptance

Since Roof Maintenance Solutions began offering preventative roof maintenance to ICI building owners in the Eastern Ontario in mid-2012, it has been met with immense support and acceptance of the services offered. Current clients see and understand the mission and vision of RMS, and its goal is to work in collaboration with the industry to have a positive impact on economic and environmental responsibility. Current clients include Minto Properties Inc, Colliers International, Bentall-Kennedy Real Estate Services, and RioCan Property Services, all of which have trusted RMS with the professional, preventative care of their properties. Despite the obvious long-term savings in capital expense, RMS understands that many ICI building owners have adopted a responsible organizational mandate to reduce their carbon footprint when viable options are presented. Tremendous successful and effective efforts have been made by ICI building owners to recycle and reduce energy consumption within their buildings. Unfortunately in many cases with their roofing systems, few viable choices have been made available to them. Property managers are committed to seeking options to continue their environmental efforts and readily support the mandate of RMS. This kind of commitment level is also met with other significant drivers toward more recycling of roofing materials including economic pressure for expense reductions, diminishing landfill capacity, and increasing tipping fees for construction and demolition waste.

Measurable Results

RMS can work with clients to calculate measurable results and to analyze efforts in economical and environmental waste reductions. This equation is measured with liquid elements dependent on the client, such as roof age, square footage, roof elevation, environmental conditions, and construction materials included. With consistent assessment and reporting techniques, RMS can calculate overall client savings in capital expense and environmental impact over time.

Scott NashEnvironmental Impact