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Flat Roofs Core Sampling Surveying

Flat Roofs Core Sampling Surveying

Flat roofs are relatively inexpensive and very efficient to keep your buildings and your internal assets covered and protected from the weather. What can you do to identify flat roof defects?

Defects for flat roofs

 

Whilst their relatively low cost for a good protection plays to their advantage, this type of roof is also notorious for defects that often remain unnoticed until it is too late. As with any part of a building, they will be subject to wear and tear and will receive copious amounts of water.  Regular inspection of the roof is essential to make sure that this essential element is in tip top condition and kept free of defects.

One of the most common defects is water ingress which then leads to a leak inside the building. When water ingress does occur on a flat roof, damage often goes unnoticed for considerable time as water slowly penetrates and soaks the decking, insulation and/or structure beneath. This can lead to extensive damage. If left unattended and no leak detection surveying takes place, it can weaken the whole structure and have catastrophic operational and financial consequences for you.

Other defects can occur too. You can read our most popular blog post about the five common flat roof defects here

 

Flat roofs core sampling to detect water ingress

Core sampling allows the surveyor to see the make up of the roof and locate where water saturation may be.

The image above shows what appears to be a roof in a good condition with no obvious signs of moisture ingress, however;  the tenant has been complaining that there are leaks into his top floor office. 

Imagine, this is your tenant. You arrive on site with a surveyor and  the tools for the job, get onto the roof above the leaking office, but where should you start to take a core sample? You carry core samples, one is wet, two are dry. So we know that the insulation is saturated, but to what extent?

Using the roof image above, grab the slider and drag it across the image to reveal the thermal image, in short, red colours reveal saturated insulation (You can find out more about the meaning of infrared colours in our Understanding Colours post.). This  tells you everything you need to know about the accuracy of core samples. By relying solely on core sampling, your surveyor could mistakenly concludes that the entire roof needs replaced or on the opposite, that the roof is sound. How can you know for sure?

If your surveyor is employed by a roofing company, the impartiality of the advice could well be put into question. It is a matter of trust and reputation.

Flat roofs core sampling technique

The method and process of core sampling is therefore important. The core sample technique should be as follows:

  • take one core sample at a high point,
  • take one core sample at a low point and
  • take one core sample mid-way.

Critically this should be at random locations on the roof, not in a straight line. That way the surveyor can find out if water is coming in at parapets and tracking it down, if the area around the outlet is wet as water loves gravity and then try to ascertain the extent of the damage at the mid-point.

The surveyor will take appropriate notes and photographs. Then of course, they must patch the core sampling holes by resiting the sample and sealing the edges. Often this is made using blow torches.

This technique carries high risks for you and for the surveyor:

For you risk of fire from blow torches. Smouldering the flat roof away and causing extensive damage which could cripple your business,

Again for you invalidating roof construction guarantees by cutting holes through potentially perfect waterproofing.

For the surveyor, the risks are inherent to health and safety: slipping on a wet surface, working at height, stand alone working, fire protection, etc.

It is therefore easy to conclude that core sampling should be a last resort surveying technique, just before the nuclear surveying method.

 

Flat roof defects: infrared is the detection solution

If you are an asset manager, estate manager, building surveyor and are being asked to make a budget go as far as possible, then it is essential you get and give impartial advice to the building owner. By investing in an infrared thermographic (IRT) survey,  you mitigate risk from a third party advising whichever solution meets their commercial needs and wants.

Infrared can’t tell the difference between polyurethane and fibreboard. Wet is wet and that effects the temperature on the surface. Why? Simply put, wet insulation doesn’t insulate as well as dry insulation – so heat escapes the fabric. Also because water has a high emissivity. This means that water radiates its energy particularly well when it has finished absorbing it from the sun and from the building itself. This high emissivity makes the wet area appear warm to the infrared thermal camera.

With drones now extensively used to take the thermal pictures, thus eliminating most if not all health and safety risks for the surveyor as well as improving the accuracy of the surveying results, there is little not to like about infrared.

IRT may help you save hundreds of thousands of pounds by turning what you had assumed would be a complete “strip and re-new” into a partial strip and overlay. Conversely however the opposite may be true.

The point being: you will get the truth and if you are interested in delivering value to your clients and managing a sustainable portfolio, that’s an invaluable weapon in your armoury.

Core samples have their place of course. We will always advise you hand your infrared survey reports to your roofing company who may then core and confirm the infrared survey findings. More importantly the core sampling will allow them to establish what the roof is actually made of so that they can propose the appropriate solution for your roof refurbishment.

Do you own or manage buildings with flat roofs? We would like to know what surveying method you favour and why. Drop us a line, give us a call, let's talk all things flat roof surveying.

3 ways to maximise your portfolio energy performance

3 ways to maximise your portfolio energy performance

 

portfolio energy performance

Portfolio energy performance will soon be coming back in the news as 2018 heralds the dawn of a brave new Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS). It effectively means 31% of the built environment becomes unlawful to buy, sell, rent of lease. That’s 1 in every 3 buildings. Imagine that for a moment: 85% of the office space in London is rented. That means tens of thousands of companies becoming homeless, were this legislation enforced in its current outline. Common sense says the legislation will be watered down, pushed back and diluted. This is inevitable as it is impossible to enforce and police. However, its objectives and ethos are solid and admirable, in principle. Improving buildings, making them more efficient means they become more desirable to rent and own. Desirability drives  price and value up. When buildings cost less to operate, their Per sqM-rental incomes can be increased.

The challenge for you as the portfolio owner or manager is one of optimising budget: Where do you start? Whom do you trust? Is there low hanging fruit or quick wins out there? What technology exists than can help?

Another consideration is data. What do you really know about your buildings? Would you bet your mortgage that whatever you know is actually accurate? The stakes are high.

Portfolio Energy Performance: Circumventing legislation?

As a company, we have been surveying buildings for 15 years using infrared technology to detect defects and quantify energy loss and we have yet to find a building anywhere in the country that matches up to the drawings and specification intended at its birth. Change of usage, extensions, refurbishments, dilapidations, cowboy buildings, adhoc maintenance, all contribute to a portfolio dataset that is far from perfect. Add in trying to meet legislative compliance on a shoestring budget and the whole thing goes pear-shaped very quickly.

Take for example EPC legislation, now almost 10 years old, meaning the early ones need re-doing next year, just like MEPS, its intention is solid and admirable. The implementation and adoption however has been less than perfect.

A client once pointed out a multi-storey office block he owned: 1960’s construction, precast panels, single glazed aluminium windows, asphalt roof with no insulation and the original HVAC system from the late 60’s. Located in a city centre, it was fully occupied with tenants. £250 bought him an EPC that said the building was C-rated. The client asked me: “what would you do in my shoes? Tell every tenant to move out for a year whilst I get the roof, walls and windows and heating system upgraded, or turn a blind eye?”. I pass the building regularly and I can tell you a few years on since that conversation, the building looks exactly the same and it remains full of tenants.

Under MEPS that bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach is dangerous. If there is finance in place to pay for the building – commercial mortgages for example – the bank reserves the right to review that mortgage every two years and are within their rights to withdraw any outstanding monies with just 7 days notice. It would be best then to mitigate that risk.

3 ways you can  maximise your property portfolio energy performance

1. Understand its true condition

Get your data licked into shape and see opportunities arise that may surprise you. Poor data means a poor understanding of the challenge ahead and leaves you exposed. It’s just too dangerous to contemplate. We have already written extensively on the subject of enhancing property portfolio starting with data collection.

2. Leverage any and all available funding to retrofit

Fast forward to a future where your data is full and accurate. Now you can simulate savings, programme works, tender work packages, manage their implementation and see the savings from your efforts. Managing the retrofit of course means revenue for the managing agent or surveying practice, but the portfolio owner will love you for it. You are reducing risk, being professional and optimising his budget. Contractors will love you as you reduce their cost of sale and you tell them exactly what you want and need. That saving to them ought to be passed onto you.

There is plenty of funding out there for retrofits. ESCO companies will 100% fund retrofits that deliver results at no CAPEX to you. Walls, windows, roofs, lighting, draft proofing, insulation – you name it, funding is easily secured if the business case stacks up. Organisations like the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust have interest free money available to fund measures – you simply need to ask.

3. Constantly invest in the fabric

This sounds rather obvious, but building fabric degrades. Refurbishments have been an integral part of portfolio management since buildings have been erected.

Roofs are notoriously defectuous and won’t last for ever. You need to set aside money to patch and repair when the roof reaches the end of its life expectancy and budget for a total replacement. Ignore this reality and you will be faced with years of leaks, inefficiency, tenant complaints and stained ceiling tiles. Maybe tomorrows’ building will be owed by the manufacturers who will simply lease the fabric, replacing these buildings every 25 years and bearing the maintenance costs along the way. Until that day, it’s important to understand the value of a solid maintenance schedule and refurbishment programme.

Silicone seals around windows only last about 10 years, ignore this fact and water will find its way through and into the fabric, perhaps invisibly for years. Sooner or later someone will spot a damp patch somewhere and you will end up chasing it for years before rectifying the cause. Several thousands of pounds spent where only a fraction could have been spent as a preventative measure.

Invest today to save tomorrow.

Happy building = happy tenants = happy owner= happy cash flow for all.

 

What is best practice then in this cash-strapped, modern, post credit-crunch, Brexit’d devolved country of ours? Traditional surveying techniques may help and a fast emerging technology such as infrared or IRT, will definitely see problems the naked eye can’t. Huge portfolios can be assessed very cost effectively these days. Once data is captured, cloud based software can crunch the numbers, backfill the blanks in the assumptions, validate the data and enable rapid low cost simulations.

The internet of things will only improve this industry. Buildings will contact you and ask for help themselves. This already happens in aviation today. RollsRoyce engines talk to a central database and report health issues to an unmanned database. The software arranges an engineer, co-ordinates with a warehouse and ensure the right part is at the right airport on time to service that engine efficiently. Buildings will go the same way. It’s as inevitable as it is exciting.

Are you managing buildings, as a portfolio or facilities or estates manager? Are you concerned by the forthcoming MEPS and need to take action? Contact us today to discuss your challenges and hear how we can help you.

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