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Understanding and Managing Two Roof Life-cycles Can Save and Earn You Millions

The commercial roof is an area of disproportionate opportunity for profit (or loss) and a disproportionate slice of potential liability for the facility owner and manager. Roofs can generate huge returns, or be a source of constant costs, time loss, risk, and heartache.

Commercial roofs make up, on average, about only 2% of the construction cost of an average commercial building while the roof makes up 55-65% of the exposed exterior surface area on a single story commercial building. Disproportionate.

For a large industrial building, roof maintenance may make up 3-7% of annual facilities budget if the roof is in good condition. Replacing that same roof? That number comes in at a whopping 700-1000% of your annual facilities budget. Again, disproportionate.

And that is for an industrial building. The numbers get even weirder for an office building. Oh and if you manage a high-rise, they get truly bizarre. Drop me a message if you'd like to geek out on those. Need I say that word again? Probably not. I'll spare you.

Few, if any, plant management items have so significant a gap. Not HVAC, not elevators, and not housekeeping. If you manage your roofs well, you and your stakeholders stand to gain six to seven figure gains or experience losses of the same magnitude. So why are commercial roofs chronically under-managed?

There are many reasons, and I'm sure you know them firsthand. I won't go into those and bore you. But most of them come from a misalignment in cost-benefit and a lack of understanding about the roof life-cycle. A Google search will get you a ton of articles about the benefit of maintenance. Toothbrushes, oil changes, and marriages all are good analogies and most have been used, all are accurate. But good maintenance is only a part of the picture. In our role as owner's roof specialists, we work with our clients to "align" the roof management program with their investment program. We two cycles keep in mind. Knowing where you are in each, and what the future looks like for each, is critical to making roofing decisions. Since we can't serve everyone, we thought we'd share this information with the FM community at large.

So, here we go. The foundation of a roof management approach is first to understanding where a given roof and building exist within two life-cycles:

The Sales Cycle... The Roof Cycle...

There are multiple opportunities for cost or value creation at each stage in each life-cycle and these profits or losses are cumulative. Where you are in the roof life and investment life informs your potential ROI for a given investment or practice. Given the size of the roof, these investments can have an outsized impact on your bottom line. A well-aligned, strategic approach to roof decisions that is informed by a knowledge of these cycles will save you millions.

Your goal is not only to reduce costs, but keep value in the roof while positioning the owner for profitability in each stage of the investment cycle. Done correctly, the roof can pay for itself.

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