Whenever I think of things gone wrong on a retrofit roofing project I remember that day in Miami when David and I visited Art and his boys (and girl … she ran the kettle). I was there doing my job as the roofing equipment pro, and David ran the branch of my distributor.
On arrival to discuss the possible purchase of a new hot spreader, we were treated to a demonstration of the roof cutter David had sold them some time ago. They were cutting the old insulated BUR into 2-foot-by-2-foot sections for easy removal and disposal. When the roof cutter stopped with a loud thud we found out that the building housed some kind of computer operations. The “thud” was the roof cutter blade making it through some 500-pair telecom line or something (since the machine was not fried, we assumed it was not high voltage).
Anyway, the building was emptied, and the owners were not so pleased. But how was this roofing contractor to anticipate the original building constructors would have placed a high-value conduit in the roof insulation? Why, he could have gotten that information from an accurate set of as-built blueprints provided by the owner, right? Not so common in the world of the 1980s in Miami.
Fast-forward to a world not so long from now, and this issue and the costs associated with it may be easily avoided. I have mentioned Building Information Modeling (BIM) a few times in the past. While I am no expert and do not intend to become one, I am a fan of the concept and am glad to see that the roofing industry is moving forward to engage in BIM as it continues to emerge, primarily in the field of commercial, industrial and institutional construction.
The BIM process when fully implemented allows the kind of communications between owners, designers and the construction trades in a way never before imagined. The results can yield tremendous savings in wasted time, materials and labor. So far the only investment in BIM for roofing contractors is to keep an open eye and an open mind. There is no need to go on a search for new software or support systems. Manufacturers, however, must invest in creating BIM “objects” so their unique systems can be designed into the structure along with all the other construction disciplines.
In the past several months commercial roofing material suppliers Firestone and W.P. Hickman introduced their BIM initiatives. Soon roofing contractors may move from working on projects driven by the BIM process to becoming more fully integrated into the process.
BIM, when fully implemented by the owner, is constantly updated with all changes to the built space. Add a wing, new mechanical systems, even add a couple of floors and it all goes into the dynamic BIM environment for future planning and developing.
I believe it is amazing to imagine a world where a commercial roofing contractor can have a realistic set of working plans the day he is called to begin work on a new construction project. But to look 20 to 30 years out when that roofing contractor’s sons can step onto that same project and know where all the cables are buried - that is pure gold.