Featured Project: A New Energy-Efficient Roof for GLHN Architecture

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Though we’re experts in hail damage roof repair and replacement, being experts in the industry means going beyond the aftermath of a storm. When a Tucson architecture firm, GLHN, was looking to replace their existing roof, they came to us at Storm Damage Specialists.

The project was not for the faint of heart, but the experts at SDS handled the whole process with the quality and professionalism that has gained us our strong industry reputation. The result was an energy-efficient flat roof with solar panels that not only looks great but will save them a massive amount on their energy bills for years to come.

Who They Are

GLHN is a collaborative design firm that specializes in architecture and engineering. They excel at solving the complex challenges of the modern building construction design environment using a multidisciplinary approach. They prioritize performance, community, resilience, and environmental stewardship throughout every phase and scale of their projects with a unique understanding of the Arizona climate.

GLHN’s Roofing Problem

GLHN was beginning to have drainage problems with their old roof. The roof only had two drains, and it wasn’t sloped properly. One of the drains was full of tar from a poorly done old roof installation. They had employees get up on the roof after every rain and actually broom the water down to the drain! The employees were quickly growing tired of this routine and knew it was time for a roof replacement.

The roof really wasn’t that old, but it was very flat. The way that the building was originally designed was just poor drainage coupled with the original roofing company’s poor installation (not SDS!). They had leaks throughout the roof, and the poor drainage and slope allowed water to pond on the roof. Over time, previous roofing contractors’ lack of maintenance and poor installation processes resulted in the inevitable roof failure.

Their Custom Built-Up Roofing Solution

Because their existing roof was a poorly installed built-up roof with very poor drainage, SDS professional roof inspectors recommended a complete tear-off. Once we removed the old roofing, we were able to do a custom-tapered ISO or insulation system. We built up the middle, essentially forming a cross where everything drained out to the four corners. The new roof included 12 inches of insulation in the middle of the roof so that it would allow water to drain out.

GLHN Insultaion for Roof Repair PitchIn order to improve the pitch, their heating and cooling systems and all connected pipes had to also be raised. We worked with their HVAC company to come in and raise their equipment where we cut in two new drains. Originally they only had two drains on the southwest and southeast corners of the buildings. To rectify their drainage problem, we added two more in the northwest and northeast corners.

As the photograph shows, the white pallets wrapped in wire are all the insulation—two truckloads worth! We built the roof up four inches at a time with four-inch fill, and then we put a two-inch fill on the top, and finally, the tapers.

This meant we added 12 inches of pitch from the center of the roof out to the drains, and now there are drains at each corner. This alone improved the energy efficiency of the roof.

Cool Roofing

With this re-roofing project, GLHN ended up with a cool, energy-efficient roof that now meets the standard of a “Cool Roof”. Cool roofs are the ultimate solution for combating heat and keeping your property comfortable all year round. These innovative roofing systems are designed to reflect sunlight and minimize heat absorption—perfect for making your commercial or industrial building more energy-efficient. Reflective roofing materials and cool roof coatings bounce the light and heat away from the building instead of absorbing it.

With a cool roof installed, the temperature inside a building can be up to 50°F cooler compared to traditional roofs. This means less energy consumption and lower utility costs to keep a space cool and comfortable. Cool roof coatings also significantly preserve your roof’s lifespan by decreasing its temperature and preventing damage caused by excessive heat.

If you have a low-sloped or flat roof, you have several options for cool roofing material. BUR, single-ply, spray foam, or modified bitumen roofing can all be equipped with highly reflective elements to minimize heat gain and maximize energy efficiency. Each type of energy-efficient shingle offers its own benefits, so SDS can help you decide which is best for your roof.

To learn more about the benefits of Cool Roofs, watch this informational video from the US Department of Energy:

The Cost of an Energy-Saving Roof

GLHN delayed getting a new energy-efficient roof because they were concerned about the cost. This is understandable, as an energy-efficient roof of this size costs roughly $100,000. However, tax breaks make an incredible difference. GLHN was able to save about $30,000 with federal tax credits, and with other deductions and incentives, their roof was essentially free. (Learn other ways to reduce the cost of your commercial property roof.) This is aside from the amount they will be saving on their energy bills, greatly increasing their ROI in the long run.

Like GLHN, you can offset the high costs of an energy-efficient roof in Arizona by taking advantage of federal, state, and local incentives. We will address further details about tax deductions and incentives later.

Integrating Roofing and Renewable Energy

Not every roofer in Pima County has extensive experience with solar panel companies like we do at SDS. On this project we worked closely with a solar energy installation company and installed wood roof framing so that they had a stable structure for their mounts. We were able to give them something very secure and watertight to which they could secure their panels and have wooden boards running across everything. We anchored them with 12-inch screws down into the deck. Then we waterproofed everything to prevent future leaking. Once this was completed, the solar company installed 111 solar panels over the roof. Finally, SDS was able to go back and do touch-up work to ensure everything was installed and sealed properly.

Complete Roof and Drainage Replacement in Tucson ArizonaAs we noted in a previous article, some solar installers aren’t careful to avoid roof damage when installing solar panels. Though is was not the case with the solar installer we worked with on the GLHN project, we didn’t want them cutting into our roof at all. To avoid this, we brought the roof deck up on top of the roof and then waterproofed it for them. We also cut in drainage because on this building the water drains differently in each corner.

When you look at the wood, you can see little channels designed for the water to run down through to get down to the drain. SDS works very closely with the client and their solar company to ensure the solar company had what they needed for proper installation and the client is happy with the results.

We encourage people considering putting in rooftop solar to preemptively contact their roofing contractor to ensure that the solar company has a stable structure for mountings. Less knowledgeable solar installers will make holes in the roof, significantly shortening its life.

Customized Solutions

Each of our SDS clients is unique, and we pride ourselves in adapting to the individual needs of each project. On this roofing project, there were a couple of unique factors involved in building GHLN an energy-efficient cool roof.

Limiting Roof Access

One specific consideration for this project was to minimize roof access, which had been problematic for GLHN. A ladder bolted to the side of the building was making it easy for unauthorized personnel on the roof.

To help with the problem we built a blocking system to block off the ladder access, but there were still stairs where people could access the roof. The clients attempted to build a cage to block that off as well, but they weren’t fully aware of how many people were accessing the roof, and how often, until we notified them of our observations as we were installing their roof. Then, we were able to show them what we were seeing every day.

While it’s important that the roof gets inspected from time to time, conscientious roofers shouldn’t leave unattended ladders and easy access points in the open. Unauthorized persons may access the roof causing damage and leaving abandoned items and trash. For GLHN, that was one of the things that was contributing to their drainage problems in the first place.

Specification Preferences

Being an architecture firm, GLHN was very concerned with the project specifications, down to the screws we used and specific hardware dimensions. Though this level of detail is not a common request for most projects, it was important for us to meet their expectations and accommodate their specification standards while installing their new energy-efficient roofing.

We were able to meet their expectations at every detail. We do our best at SDS to go above and beyond for each client, and we will do the same for your business.

High-Quality Products

Commercial Roof Replacement from Leaking in Tucson AZThis new roof was constructed with energy-efficient roofing material composed of PolyIso. Many clients choose not to go this route because of the costs associated with PolyIso. However, it’s important to note that it lasts for 75 years, which makes it worth the cost.

Polyisocyanurate thermal insulation, or PolyIso, is the go-to choice for commercial low-slope roofs. It’s a durable, closed-cell foam that not only insulates well but also acts as a thermal barrier. With its high compressive strength, PolyIso can withstand foot traffic during routine maintenance. Plus, it offers excellent fire resistance and is compatible with various construction materials.

This makes it one of the most cost-efficient and energy-efficient roof materials for your building, with the highest thermal performance per inch compared to other low-slope roof insulations. The PolyIso products we use at SDS meet EPA standards and are made from recycled materials, adding to the sustainability of your roof.

Energy Efficiency and Savings

Ultimately, GHLN’s roof cost about $100,000. However, their roof ended up essentially free because of tax deductions and incentives. Making your new flat roof energy-efficient may be more attainable than you may realize.

Section 179 Tax Credit

With Section 179 of the IRS tax code, many businesses can write off the full purchase price of qualifying energy-efficient roofs in the year they were installed or financed.

For instance, if you financed $60,000 of roofing in 2020, with Section 179, you can deduct all of that $60,000 from taxable income. This makes Section 179 a lifeline for small- to medium-sized businesses burdened by the costly acquisition of energy-efficient roofing. Learn more about how you can apply Section 179 to your commercial roof by reading our recent article: Ways to Reduce the Cost of Your Commercial Roof: Section 179 Tax Deduction.

Many of our clients find that Q4 is the perfect time to evaluate their current roof and unlock the benefits of Section 179 for roof repair or replacement. Call SDS for an inspection if you are unsure whether your flat roof can be made energy-efficient so you can take advantage of this credit.

Arizona Incentives

Arizona is a prime location for solar power, thanks to its abundant sunshine. The state has become a leader in solar energy since implementing its Renewable Energy Standard and solar sales tax exemption back in the early 2000s. Building owners have been able to take advantage of these incentives to invest in solar energy at lower costs and with ease.

Arizona solar installations typically cost businesses between $3 and $5 per watt for a solar energy system. Despite the initial investment, long-term savings can be gained from federal and state tax credits when you install solar energy in Arizona.

In addition to these incentives, some cities in Arizona have their own renewable energy programs and commitments. For example, Tucson Electric Power has plans for net-metering credits.

Besides getting the federal solar tax credit, most Arizona businesses can also receive the state’s solar tax credit. This credit is valued at a quarter of the total cost of your solar system, with a maximum amount of $1,000. Solar panels also qualify for Arizona property tax exemption and sales tax exemption. Contact your solar company for more information specific to Arizona solar tax credits.

Professional Installation

Our professional installation practices are another reason that GLHN chose SDS for their energy-efficient roof. We utilized a large part of their parking lot as we were staging everything, but we were able to work with the employees to keep them happy at the same time. Even while using half their parking lot, we strategically accommodated their needs to minimally interfere with their employees coming in and out of the lot.

Whatever your needs, you can rest assured that SDS will work with you during installation so your business operations are affected as little as possible.

Causes and Prevention of Flat Roof Problems

GLHN is not alone in its flat roof drainage problems. Many commercial and industrial buildings in Arizona experience similar issues.

Why do I have a drainage issue with my Arizona flat roof?

Cool Roof ReRoofing and Custom Drainage Project for GLHN in Tucson AZ
Commercial Roof Leaking – Damage to the Interior Offices

In this case, it was a poor installation that caused their drainage issues. The roof wasn’t that old, but it was very flat. Essentially, their problems boiled down to poor design coupled with a poor install on the existing roof.

When water accumulates and stagnates on the roof’s surface for more than 48 hours, it can lead to large puddles and cause damage to the structure. This is often due to inadequate drainage systems or issues with the roof design or building infrastructure. The stagnant water has nowhere to go, as it cannot evaporate off the roof.

While it is normal for some standing water to remain on a flat roof for 12-36 hours after a rainstorm, a professional commercial roofing contractor should evaluate any water you see on the roof lasting longer than two full days. Gravity plays a significant role in water buildup on flat roofs, as the only direction it can go is down—meaning the lowest point, whether puddling in the center of the roof or properly draining off the roof. This poses a risk to the flat roof system and the overall structural integrity of the building.

It’s important to understand that most roof membranes and materials are water resistant, not completely waterproof. Even the best materials can only withstand heavy water volumes for so long. This means that the quality of craftsmanship and roof design are crucial in preventing ponding water issues. Investing in a skilled roofer like SDS that can do the job right the first time is key.

Choosing the best commercial roofer can save money on future maintenance, repairs, and avoidable damages that may not be covered under warranty due to poor craftsmanship.

What is the best way to maintain a flat roof?

Many flat roof problems like this client experienced can be prevented through proper maintenance. All roofing materials require continuous upkeep, whether you have a metal roof or asphalt shingles. This includes regularly clearing debris and scheduling routine inspections. SDS offers flat roof maintenance programs with each of our new roof installations.

Why Choose SDS for Your Energy-Efficient Roofing?

When it comes to energy-efficient roofing for your commercial property, you deserve honest and professional service. That’s why SDS is proud to offer a wide range of sustainable roofing solutions designed to meet the needs and budgets of commercial property owners throughout the Tucson area.

GLHN knew we were a top choice, and they were not disappointed with the results. Our roofing company leads the industry in energy-efficient roofing technologies with a reputation for quality, customer service, and ethical business practices.

At SDS, our experienced roofing professionals are dedicated to providing top-notch installation services for energy-efficient roofing. Our process starts with a comprehensive assessment of your existing roof and business needs, followed by recommendations tailored to your specific requirements. We use only the highest quality materials, ensuring your new roof can withstand Arizona’s harsh climate while maximizing energy efficiency. With our attention to detail, commitment to quality, and post-installation support, you can trust us to provide a roofing solution that will serve your business well for years to come.

Whether you want to learn more about our services or get a free quote, our team is here to assist you. Discover why we are the preferred choice for commercial energy-efficient roofing in the Pima County area. Contact SDS today to schedule your free roof inspection and see if an energy-efficient cool roof is right for your property.

Complete Roof and Drainage Replacement in Tucson Arizona

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Tucson Botanical Gardens

"Dennis, your crew did a great job. I don't think I've ever been as happy to write a check! Thank you also for taking care of my chimney—so appreciated. Again, your crews were great."

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