What Does Sustainability Mean?
In this day and age, there is a lot of talk about environmental issues. On the one hand, it's good to bring awareness to legitimate issues. On the other hand, too much banter in this regard tends to cause people to cover their ears and chant 'blah, blah, blah, I can't hear you, blah, blah, blah.' An obvious downside to this understandable reaction is that sometimes those legitimate issues get lost and are overlooked. No doubt that is the case with the concept of "sustainability." In addition to it being lost in the plethora of environmental issues being yelled and screamed from the mountaintops, it is a fairly new concept. Being such a newbie to the English lexicon, the concept of sustainability is still very much unknown; at least very much misunderstood. Worse yet, the definitions given to it tend to create even more confusion.
Take, for example, the definition of sustainability from the US government's Environmental Protection Agency:
"... policies and strategies that meet society's present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ... [Sustainability is] "not the trade-off between business and the environment but the synergy between them."
Adding to the confusion, one dictionary defined sustainability:
- (1) : capable of being sustained
- (2, a) : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
- (2, b) : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods
What? Sustainability is defined as "capable of being sustained"? No wonder people are confused. To be fair, though, definition 2b gets a little closer to a practical, real-world, definition; i.e., 'a resource that is not depleted or permanently damaged.' But how is The Application of the Sustainability Concept Varies Widelya faculties manager or property owner able to use that information? We need an understanding of sustainability that we can use. After all, you cannot implement what you don't understand. So let me try my hand at this, from a contractor's point of view. Here is how I would personally define sustainability:
"Making "it" last as long as possible with the least environmental and cost impacts."
In this definition "it" can mean virtually anything, from...
- a small business to a skyscraper
- a light bulb to a national forest
- something as complicated as a government's economic policy to something as simple as a roof
So as it relates to a roof, how can we make that roof last as long as possible while limiting environmental and cost impacts? That question can be effectively answered if we take a closer look at a roof's typical life cycle. For example, when a building is constructed it starts its life out with a new roof. But in 15 to 20 years (the average life span of a roof) that roof needs to be replaced. So, you replace it. Then, in 15 to 20 years, the roof needs to be replaced again. This cycle goes on and on and on, virtually forever.
Then you have what is known as the tear-off problem, which makes the above scenario much worse. The tear-off problem stems from the Building Code requirement that if a roof has two or more roofing systems in place, before a new roof can be installed, the existing roofs must be torn off down to the original roof deck. As you can imagine, this requirement would make a normal roof replacement much more expensive. In fact, every third roofing system installed would require this tear-off. Tear offs are not only expensive, they are messy, noisy, and add a tremendous amount of roofing debris to the local landfills.
What if we could change the above scenario by taking out both the replacement and the tear-off requirements? That sounds too good to be true. But if we could do it, then that would significantly decrease our costs to maintain our roof. It would significantly reduce any impact to the local landfill, and thus be a positive to the environment in general. The fact is, this is not too good to be true. It can be accomplished through want is known as roof restoration. With a proper implantation of a roof restoration system, our above life cycle scenario would read more like the following:
A building is constructed, along with its original, new roof. Then, in 15 to 20 years, it would receive a roof restoration system. Then, in 10 to 15 years it would receive another roof restoration system. In 10 to 15 years, it would receive yet another roof restoration system. Then, in 10 to 15 years... That's right, another roof restoration system. The point is, as the life of the original roof nears its end, a quality roof restoration system can be installed and the roof itself would never need to be torn off or replaced. That's sustainability in action.
Let's look at it another way. Notice the following comparison between a generic life cycle for a 15-year membrane roof and that for roof restoration. You'll probably notice that the comparative and cumulative investment totals vary considerably. The investment costs for a roof restoration life cycle go up much more slowly than the costs associated with the membrane roof, which continue to climb at a much faster rate. By being able to restore a roof, you avoid the costs associated with roof replacements and tear-offs. When you understand that either life cycle is a permanent cycle, then you realize that the sooner you can get your roof on the restoration life cycle band wagon the better.
A Roof Restoration Life Cycle Versus Membrane Roof
Waiting Too Long to Make a Decision
There are a lot of things beyond your control that limit your ability to properly care for your facility. Tornadoes, an earthquake, fire, vandalism, and a bunch of other 'occurrences' can destroy your roof and there is nothing you can do about it. But far too many times, a property owner or facilities manager, ignores the control they do have. A properly monitored roof can allow you to get your roof onto a restoration life cycle sooner. A failure to monitor your roof properly will result in missing signs of a deteriorating roof. In such a case, an otherwise restorable roof will require replacement instead, maybe with the added and dreaded tear-off. So how do you make sure you are actually controlling that which you can truly control? How do you make sure you don't forfeit your responsibility to care for your roof in such a way as to limit your costs and any environmental impacts?
Many property owners hire facility managers or "handymen" that have the direct responsibility to care for the needs of the building, including its roof. Unfortunately, even well-intentioned individuals fail to care for a roof as it should be. This is often due to a lack of knowledge of what to look for in determining the health and condition of a roof. That lack of knowledge often overflows into the area of repair and maintenance. For example, what needs to be repaired? Can it be repaired effectively? When should the repair be done? Is it already too late to make a difference? Does this repair need indicate a larger, more widespread problem? If a repair is to be done, what materials should be used to do it? How should the repair be done? These and many other questions highlight the wealth of knowledge that bears on whether or not an owner is really getting his or her money's worth.
The best choice is by developing and maintaining a proper repair and maintenance program. Though it is true that sometimes repairing is not the best option, it often can extend the life of your roof. But if a roof is nursed along for too long, it will get beyond the point of restoration. Knowing 'when to say when' is critical.RTN Roofing Systems is WetSuit Certified
Choosing a quality roofing contractor can enable you to buy time while not sacrificing the proper care of your building. By choosing RTN Roofing Systems to be your roofing contractor, you are assured of just that. Not only are we an honest, reputable, and quality contractor, we are often the most competitive on price too. With most contractors you get what you pay for, but with RTN you get a whole lot more.
But in closing, I want you to consider a very applicable quote regarding how and when you choose to spend your money:
"It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that is all. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it cannot be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better." - British Author, Essayist, and Critic, John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
Don't waste your money. Call us today at 970-593-1100 to find out how we can help you with your roofing needs.