Firestone Building Products



College Takes Long-Term Approach to Roofing


As colleges, universities and school districts nationwide struggle with limited capital funding, increased enrollments and aged facilities in need of maintenance and repair, life cycle costing considerations play a more significant role in today’s roof specification process.


Faced with two nearly 20-year-old roof surfaces that were leaking, administrators with Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., considered long-term results when selecting roof replacement systems for its Wittenberg Collegiate Center (WCC) and Luther Student Center (LSC). In each case, they opted for a 30-year warranted, fully adhered EPDM roofing system.


“Most of the roofs on campus were installed in the 1980s and are at the end of their useful service life,” explains Gary Sonnenberg, chief financial officer for Martin Luther College. “Ten years ago the focus was to fix roofing problems as they happened. In recent years, we’ve taken a long-term management approach and have implemented a systematic process of replacing roofs before any significant problems occur.”



Reroofing on Campus

While the existing ballasted EPDM roof systems on both facilities proved durable over their 20-year service life, Sonnenberg sought new alternatives and the security of a long-term warranty. After consulting with local roofing contractor, Laraway Roofing, Inc., and considering a variety of options, Sonnenberg chose a Firestone RubberGard? Platinum EPDM Roofing System to reroof both surfaces. The system design features a durable, 90-mil-thick EPDM membrane fully adhered to polyiso insulation, allowing for a total system warranty.


Beginning last fall and continuing into the winter, portions of the WCC and LSC that were leaking required reroofing. The WCC houses most of the college’s 41 classrooms and features a 900-seat chapel/auditorium, while the LCS contains student support services and links the campus gymnasium and student center.


Having been repaired several times, the 15,000-square-foot roofing system above the WCC’s auditorium began leaking beyond repair. Prior to starting the reroofing process, Laraway Roofing first had to remove a rooftop telescope and observation deck used by the astronomy classes. Also, as one of the original campus buildings, several additions and new buildings surrounding the facility further complicated the project due to space constraints for equipment.


Laraway Roofing tore off the existing roof system and fully adhered the new 90-mil rubber roofing membrane over two layers of 1.8-inch polyiso insulation, which were mechanically attached to the wood deck using heavy-duty fasteners. To provide redundancy and ensure strong, watertight field seams, all lap splices were secured using Firestone 3” QuickSeam? Splice Tape, followed by the application of 5” QuickSeam flashing over the completed splice.


Although much smaller in scope than the WCC, reroofing the Luther Student Center presented a few challenges due to its high parapet walls and extensive brickwork. Laraway Roofing first removed the 3,000-square-foot ballasted EPDM roofing system down to a completely flat concrete deck, before fastening tapered Firestone polyiso insulation in place to provide adequate drainage. All seams were secured with seam tape, once the 90-mil-thick EPDM membrane was fully adhered in place.


With the college located about 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis, severe cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls can pose significant problems for some roofing systems during installation as well as over the roof’s service life. Although the WCC reroofing was completed before any harsh weather conditions arose, the LCS project was about half completed when heavy snows struck the area.


“The conditions here can be very challenging at times,” says Dean Laraway, president, Laraway Roofing, Inc. “However, EPDM has great flexibility in low temperatures, even thicker membranes such as those used at Martin Luther College. The material has an excellent track record of withstanding all types of climates and weather conditions, so it was a good choice for these roofs.”




For Sonnenberg, both projects met his three most important criteria: quality products, excellent workmanship and no problems. “With the Platinum system, we got all that, plus a 30-year warranty. And, in the 10 years I’ve been working with Laraway Roofing, we’ve never had to call them back to fix a problem, which says a lot about their commitment to quality installation work and ongoing crew training.”


Laraway adds, “Our crews really enjoy working with the Platinum system. They like the thickness and workability of the 90-mil membrane in a fully adhered system. Plus, using EPDM cuts our installation time by one-third compared to built-up roofing systems. Overall, it was more efficient and less disruptive to students and faculty.”


While choosing a roofing system based on long-term performance can mean a higher initial installed cost, such systems are proven to cost less over time because they require less maintenance, fewer repairs and last longer.


By making roof specification decisions based on long-term performance, Sonnenberg says the greatest benefit is that the college is no longer in “panic management” mode where emergency repairs create unwanted budget surprises. Instead, the college has a stable, more predictable budget as a result of a long-term capital investment.