Project Profile: Communication is Key to Success on Airport Job
Rooftop Service Co., Houston, joined the fray at the airport in 2001. Karen and Denny Busyn (president and vice president respectively) started the company in 1995. Prior to this, Denny had spent seven years with another roofing company in which he was a 50-percent owner. Karen was an executive with a deep-sea diving company that decided to close its Houston office. She had had some roofing experience with her father’s company, so the Busyn’s decided to seize the moment and open their own contracting company. Now in its eighth year, Rooftop Service Co. employs 25 at peak-time, and does all commercial work: built-up, modified bitumen, single-ply and a bit of metal.
“We believe that a lot of our success is based on the fact that we always maintain constant communication with our customers during a job,” Denny explains. “We always have a pre-construction meeting with them explaining the scope of the project, when we are going to start, and the approximate time of completion.” Rooftop notifies its customers daily to tell them if crews will be working or not, and if so, what they plan on doing that day. “We do a lot of work for customers who own retail property, and they need to know so they can pass the information on to their tenants,” Denny explains. “Sometimes we will need to move AC units to roof underneath. We always give at least 24 hours notice when we have to do this.”
The project at the Houston airport in which Rooftop Service Co. was involved was a reroof of Terminal C – both the north and south wings – for a total of 300,000 square feet and a contract of $2.5 million. The job included a tear-off of the 20-year-old asphalt and coal-tar built-up system. The old roof was experiencing a lot of leaks and a significant amount of repair to the lightweight concrete deck was needed, which was an extra expense. “There was a 10-percent contingency fee to cover that,” says Denny. Otherwise, the project was on budget, though there were several rain delays – it took two crews of 30 workers just over a year to complete.
The specifications for the new roof called for two-ply modified bitumen, either Firestone, Tamko or Johns Manville. Rooftop Service Co. is a Firestone Master Contractor and chose to install all Firestone products. The system included a base sheet, two layers of iso-board insulation, one layer of wood fiber, two plies of ply-4 felt, and finally, two plies of APP. The cap sheet was torch-applied. The roof came with a 20-year warranty from the manufacturer.
One of the challenges to the job was the fact that crews had to contend with a very small set-up area and had to haul trash up to 600 feet at a time. Trash and debris are a constant concern while working at an airport. In addition, “We were working over gate space,” says Denny. “We had to work around the signs and set up a wind screen to keep debris away from planes.” Another safety concern related to the scaffolding on the outside of the building, which was anchored to the side of the building and surrounded by a fence with a gate that was kept locked. Of course, all workers went through a background check and had to wear badges. Finally, with kettles on the roof and an open flame for torching down the APP, a constant watch was needed – the fire marshal was there at all times.
Other problems concerned logistics. A lot of Rooftop Service Co.’s work was done at night to lessen the impact on traffic. Materials had to be brought in before 6:00 a.m and maneuvered around bridges and walkways. “We would come in at 4:00 a.m. and use floodlights to work,” says Denny.
Getting set up and figuring out a system were the biggest challenges. “We could have streamlined it better in the beginning,” says Denny. “We started with one crew but then went to two – one did the tear off, the other did the reroof. We did it section by section, and once we had the system down, work went smoothly.”
Denny notes that the communication on which Rooftop Service Co. prides itself was especially important during the airport job. One reason was that there were so many groups involved, including the Department of Aviation, a contract manager, airport security, the airport police and Continental Airlines. “When we were required to work nights, we had daily meetings because the work sometimes involved closing lanes of traffic in the main arteries when roofing crossovers,” Denny explains. “Proper communication and coordination was a must in these circumstances.”
Rooftop Service Co. had been scheduled to work on an expansion of Terminal C, however, this part of the airport renovation is on hold. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of work to do. The company is currently completing projects for the Houston Independent School District. “This is part of a three-year bond program to upgrade their badly deteriorating schools,” says Denny. “We have done two high schools and two elementary schools so far.”
Again, communication between multiple groups is key. The school district has a general contractor, a bond fund manager, an architect, and often a consultant involved. “No matter how hard we tried on these projects to promote proper communication it was still very difficult at times,” says Denny. “Especially when it came to getting change orders approved.” Nonetheless, “In the end the projects all go smoother when proper communication with all involved is practiced.”