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Roofs, “The Unseen Art”

By Jonathan Stevens, LEED AP BD+C

It’s very common to hear someone say “at least I have a roof over my head” or “as long as I have a roof over my head.”  Roofs symbolize protection, strength, and security.  Roofs protect you from all types of weather, they keep you dry, they keep you cool, and they keep you warm; they define a space for us to take shelter in.  Yet, roofs are overlooked when it comes to design, a last minute thought.  The roof is way up on top of the building, who’s really going to see it anyway?  

When most designers start a new design project do they start with “I have a great idea for the roof?”  In most cases the initial design ideas start with anything but talk of the roof and the protection and strength it will add to the project.  The roof is often the last area of a project to be designed but could be argued that it’s one of the most important parts of any construction project.  Roofs confront Mother Nature head on and need to be capable of holding her back.  

Yet litigation in our industry focuses on leaks and waterproofing.  As roofing consultants we are often called in on other projects investigating leak issues and giving Owners the options for repair.  Unfortunately, at the beginning of most projects discussions regarding roofing starts too late in the process.

There are a number of considerations when selecting the type of roof system for a project.  Do you live in a climate that gets a lot of snow that the roof will need to support?  Do you get a lot of sun that the roof will need to deflect?  Do you live in an area that gets high winds that the roof needs to resist?  Will there be roof top equipment and penetrations?  Are there vandalism concerns?  Are you interested in installing a green roof? 

There are a variety of roof systems: slate, asphalt shingle, wood shakes, rubber, metal, built-up, and clay tile.  When it comes down to it, there are so many roof choices, so many variables, and so much to consider when designing a roof, it is up to us as design professionals to educate ourselves and our clients in order to produce highly efficient architecture.

At CBI we investigate roofing from all angles, thinking like a drop of water.  Each layer of every roofing system, from the support structure below to the outer most layer and every construction joint in between, needs to work harmoniously to prevent that drop of water from finding its way into the buildings that our clients occupy.  We’re constantly expanding our knowledge from investigating historic site conditions, industry costs, and the latest technologies to offer all our clients exceptional quality and service.