Since Aqua Seal can tackle almost any job, the company seemed a natural choice for the Riverbanks Zoo’s new roofs, which are part of a $19 million expansion.

It’s not unusual to go the extra mile to please a high-maintenance customer, but what if your customer is an 800-pound gorilla? No really, an actual great ape?

Just ask the folks at Aqua Seal Mfg. & Roofing Inc., Cayce, S.C. The company did several projects for the Riverbanks Zoological Park and Botanical Garden in Columbia, S.C., during 2001. The work ranged from thatched roofs, to metal, to single-ply and built-up, on structures as diverse as restrooms and a new gorilla exhibit. “There’s not a roof we can’t do,” says Madison Duncan, project manager for Aqua Seal. Duncan has been with Aqua Seal for three years, and has spent a total of six years in the roofing industry. He studied mechanical drawing and construction management in college, and got into roofing after serving in the Air Force. He describes the business as “extremely challenging,” yet rewarding.

Aqua Seal is a manufacturer and applicator of elastomeric liquid-rubber, spray-applied coatings. In addition to the other systems mentioned above, Aqua Seal does residential and commercial shingles, as well as historical renovations. The company also has a maintenance and repair department. “We offer our customers the best solution to a problem, and then we make sure the roof lasts,” says Duncan.

Aqua Seal was started in 1993 by Dominic Como and Steve Riha. What started as “two guys and a truck” now employs 60 people. When asked what he feels the company’s secret to success is, Duncan responds, “The quality of our people. We instill quality and they produce it.” Training is key: “We will train people and do cross-training if they are interested. We’ll teach them as much as they want to learn – coatings, standing-seam, etc.” Word-of-mouth from customers in addition to satisfied employees helps to attract the best people.

And don’t forget “Safety First.” “We have a top-notch safety program,” says Duncan. The program is overseen by Safety Manager/Superintendent Ruben Belton and includes once-a-week safety meeting. “We are two years accident-free,” says Duncan.

What a Zoo!

Since Aqua Seal can tackle almost any job, the company seemed a natural choice for the Riverbanks Zoo’s new roofs, which are part of a $19 million expansion. The zoo houses more than 2,000 animals in natural habitat exhibits, which use psychological barriers such as moats, water and light to create an environment free of bars and cages. A 70-acre botanical garden provides visitors with an opportunity to experience both native and exotic plant exhibits. Annual attendance is approximately 850,000.

For one project, Aqua Seal installed Petersen Aluminum metal roofing and a GAF 20-year built-up system on the new birdhouse. The building features more than 12,000-square-feet of exhibit space and provides an opportunity to view the birds under an authentic canvas safari tent.

The Zoo’s expansion also includes a new entrance plaza, Lemur Island, a new entrance to the Botanical Garden, an African Village and Ndoki Forest — home to gorillas and elephants. “We did thatch on the African lodge, shingles on the restrooms, and corrugated metal for the rhino camp,” explains Duncan.

And what about that hard-to-please gorilla? It turns out there are several gorillas, and they were quite happy with their Petersen Aluminum roof. “We did preliminary work on the structure and then had to wait for the gorillas to get acclimated to their surroundings,” explains Duncan. “We wanted to make sure they weren’t going to tear it down.” The Riverbanks Zoo was given a troop of western lowland gorillas from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The troop consists of one adult male and three adult females. The gorillas had to go through a quarantine period before being exposed to the public. During this time, they adjusted to their new home – and their new roof.

The various projects at the zoo took several months to complete and involved about a dozen workers at a time. Overall, the job was very straightforward, and Aqua Seal finished on schedule. “If we say we’re going to do something, it gets done,” says Duncan. “We’re good to our customers and we respond.”

From Gorillas to Gamecocks

As far as we know, cock fighting is still illegal in most states, but South Carolina is dedicating an entire stadium to the sport. Well OK, not exactly. The Gamecocks are the mascot of the University of South Carolina and the school is constructing a new basketball arena. At 18,000 seats, the building is one of the largest college arenas. Construction started last year and should be ready for the opening of the 2002-2003 season in October.

Aqua Seal was the successful bidder on the job, working with general contractor Beers-Skanska, Atlanta, as well as architect Rosser International Inc., also in Atlanta. Duncan took his time estimating the job. “I took a month to estimate,” he explains. “I checked quantities, counted and recounted. I triple-checked everything.” This effort helped win the job, and roofing started March 15. Duncan expects to be finished in July.

The 200-square-plus roof consists of 1.6-inch GenFlex polyisocyanurate insulation — tapered crickets to drain; 4- and 8-foot rolls of GenFlex TPO, mechanically attached by hand; heat-welded seams; and metal trim and flashing.

At press time, the job was progressing as scheduled. When asked if there had been any delays or problems, Duncan says matter-of-factly that everything is running smoothly, “This is what we do, and we’re good at it.” Such confidence is reflected in the shirts that crews wear. On the front is the Aqua Seal logo, on the back it says, “We’re on top of things.”