Between you and the sky

Paying attention to the complex overhead structure might prove to be a huge difference to your bottom line.

By Russ Kratowicz, Executive Editor

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At the most basic level, the typical plant manager or plant engineer is responsible for the integrity of the building envelope and its contents. Security demands that doors and windows be capable of keeping the undesirable elements outside. Safety demands that the floors be smooth enough for forklift traffic but not so slick that someone can slip in a wet spot. HVAC efficiency demands that exterior walls be sealed against infiltration. All this is covered by the great umbrella we call the roof. Paying some attention to that complex overhead structure might permit the plant professional to make a difference in the plant’s bottom line.

So, keep those ideas in mind and come with me for another dip into the digital morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free resources you might find useful for keeping the rain off your equipment as well as making a positive contribution to society. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

Reading the roof

First, you’ve got to start with a sound platform. Many of you are familiar with the idea of using thermography to inspect roofs. The images the camera generates can reveal the sometimes subtle temperature differences that indicate incipient roof problems. These inspections can help you decide whether the problem you uncover deserves immediate attention or if it’s something that can be postponed a bit longer. The Infraspection Institute, Burlington, N.J., is a noted source of information about thermographic analysis as it applies to the full spectrum of industrial applications. To that end, the organization’s Web site offers its “Tip of the Week,” and if you dig into the organization’s archives, you’ll find no less than 15 roofing-related items that might be useful. The way to access these tips is to go to and hover your cursor over “Technical” in the upper left to access the drop-down menu, while you select “Tip of the Week” and then “Sortable List.” Click on the word “Category” and the entries will sort alphabetically. Scroll down to “Roof.” Voila!

Due diligence

As published in the pages of Inside Self-Storage Magazine, Greg Thirnbeck’s article “Got It Covered” is aimed directly at the person responsible for metal-roof maintenance, repair and restoration. The part of the article covering preventive maintenance offers a list of the elements that you ought to inspect and it tells you what to look for during your foray to the roof. On the other hand, if it’s time to replace the roof, answer Thirnbeck’s dozen questions, which are designed to help you decide which type of roofing would be best. Also, you’ll find an overview of the available options if you merely need to reroof the building. Finally, check out the eight questions you should answer before selecting a roofing contractor. You’ll find this material built up at Enjoy the read.

Design tips

Despite the multi-year warranty that came with your current roofing product, there’ll come a time when you’re going to be looking for a roofing contractor, perhaps in desperation. Unless your corporate plan is to roll over and play dead during the project negotiations, you should take an active role in specifying what’s to be installed up there. That requires knowing something about best practices. After all, you want your roofing project RFP to describe the most cost-effective roofing system for the prevailing situation.

Johns Manville offers some product-neutral material you might find useful at Simply click “Roofing” (at the top center) then click “Literature and Bulletins.” A final click on “Trade Magazine Articles” will access links to a collection of 10 roofing-related tutorials. Topics include roofing system selection, closed-cell foam insulation, roof inspections, use of edge metal, recovering a roof, roofing trends and more. This should give you a start on specifying exactly what your plant needs to have installed.

Hot wired hardware

The National Electrical Code addresses the relationship between wire size, ambient temperature and current. The difficulty is that your local meteorological services measure temperature in the shade. When a hot sun is baking the roof, it’s likely that the relevant ambient temperature — the one found inside the conduits running across the roof — will be far higher than you ever imagined. This might lead to the very unsafe condition the NEC was intended to prevent. So, if you’re concerned about any of the electrical equipment on your roof, you might want to read “Effect of Rooftop Exposure on Ambient Temperatures Inside Conduits,” an article by Lindsey, Black and Sharpe that appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of IAEI News, published by the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. This document presents the results of meticulous research into the temperature corrections, all as a function of roofing type, color and height of the conduit above the roof surface, that need to be added to the standard temperature calculations and estimates. This is something you ought to have in your back pocket. It’ll come in handy one day and you can get the goods at

Active roofs

Unless you take some affirmative action pretty soon, that ol’ summer sun will be beating down on your roof, and that will do more than increase your air conditioning load. You could, of course, install light-colored roofing material and add layers of insulation beneath the roof deck, but it might be better to turn the roof into something more than a passive building element.

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