Alongside building codes, geographic location and climate are significant factors in selecting a roofing system. Do you heat or cool the building more days out of the year? Is your building located in a hail-prone zone or an area consistently known for major weather events? Does the weather tend to be brutally hot and dry where you are? What is the average precipitation in your region?
Different systems are made to stand up to different aggressors, and they're tested specifically against them, too. For example, Firestone has multiple roofing assemblies for very severe hail areas.
Factory Mutual (FM), an insurance company specializing in loss prevention for commercial and industrial facilities, developed a demanding process for testing products used in hail-prone areas. FM tests for a material's ability to withstand very severe hail by firing two-inch ice balls from an air cannon into the materials. This simulates the worst of the worst conditions.
Building owners should ensure their roofs meet all building code requirements, but also are designed to withstand hail conditions in their zones so their investments are properly protected.
Building Type and Use
Next, consider your building's design and use. Zoning laws and the challenges of your building structure play a key role in what type of roof you should have installed.
An urban hospital and rural storage warehouse may both have flat or low slope roofs that must remain leak-free. But hospital operations are more critical, making a higher performing roof a priority. A higher performing roof could mean more insulation, better hail protection, increased wind resistance, and a longer warranty. While warehouse operations are also important, you probably wouldn't need to factor in building occupants or additional support. The warehouse likely doesn't need to be open and staffed 24/7, doesn't see a lot of traffic on the roof, and the roof doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing. Durability, functionality, and budget can all be equally prioritized.
There is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" roofing system. The right roof for a warehouse may not be the correct choice for a hospital, school, or shopping center. Hospitals, for one, will often employ an EPDM solution like Firestone FullForce or a thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roofing system due to installation methods that allow their operations to continue. Restaurants, on the other hand typically employ Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) roofing systems because these systems are highly resistant to most chemicals, animal fats, oils, and bacteria growth -- and restaurants have a high risk of grease and oil coming in contact with the roofing membrane.
You don't have to install a vegetative roof to go green. Certain systems offer LEED® certification credits, like UltraPly™ TPO, UltraWhite APP or SBS Asphalt Membranes, RubberGardTM EcoWhite EPDMTM, and Firestone PVC. With the right insulation in your roofing system, your roof can help regulate the building's temperature and reduce the need for heating or cooling. Additionally, a reflective roof can help you save money on utility costs by decreasing air conditioning demands. Whatever your green goal, there's a commercial roofing solution to match!
Project Cost & Special Considerations
Commercial roof replacement and repair costs vary greatly. What is your project cost consideration? Think about what is most important to you when selecting a roof: long-term performance or cost? Higher-quality roofing systems can come with longer warranties, some for as many as 30 years. Though higher-quality roofing systems may require a more significant investment up-front, you'll receive more in the long run.
Consider project timing, as well. Do you need to hit a tight deadline? Keep tenants happy? Some roof systems are unsafe for building occupants during installation so operations have to pause while the roof is being repaired or replaced, while other roofing systems may allow buildings to stay open and continue normal operations. For this reason, many building owners and property managers select self-adhered systems, which have no harmful fumes and install up to 4.6x faster. Quality and speed can still go hand in hand if you work with the right roofing company.