New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on May 10, 2023
For co-op and condo boards that want to put their rooftops to use — by installing green roofs or solar panels or mechanical equipment or decks — the condition of the roof is often an Achilles heel. A roof that was recently replaced or that’s way past its prime is a no-brainer: you leave the former alone and you replace the latter before installing amenities. It’s the in-between roof that presents a quandary.
Does it make sense to install solar panels or other amenities on a roof that will need to be replaced in five, 10 or 15 years?
A sprawling co-op in the Bronx, eager to install solar panels, may have found an answer to that question: get someone to examine your existing roofs, recondition them as necessary, then extend the roof warranty for the lifetime of the amenity. In the case of solar panels, that’s usually about 20 years.
The company providing this service to the Bronx co-op is Denver-based Fortis, which performs a thorough analysis of existing roofs, oversees necessary reconditioning, then offers a simple one-page warranty, backed by Lloyd’s of London, promising that the roof will perform for the life of the contract.
“Our focus is on the roofs themselves,” says David Schupmann, chief operating officer at Fortis, which was founded in 2003. “Regardless of what use the customer is considering for the roof, our focus is on providing solutions that make financial and environmental sense, and that are guaranteed to perform.”
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The Bronx job is the company’s first in New York City, and it’s still in the preliminary stages. But it’s huge. The co-op has a total of 761,000 square feet of roof space on dozens of buildings, enough to accommodate 13,000 solar panels. Those roofs range from one year to 22 years old, with an average of about seven years. So far, Schupmann says, Fortis has conducted preliminary examinations that reveal the roofing material is high quality, the installer was reputable and the roofs have performed well. “Those roofs have good bones,” he says.
More rigorous testing is in the works.
“We’ll get up on those middle-aged roofs and do what we call a Fortis Roof Risk Assessment,” Schupmann says. “We do a visual inspection and infrared testing to detect differences in temperature that indicate likely collections of moisture. In some cases, we do core sampling. There’s a fair amount of science that goes into this. We send roofing samples to a lab, and it typically takes about a week to get lab results back.”
Once it’s determined that a project is viable, it’s on to the next phase. A Fortis project manager oversees vetted local contractors who perform necessary reconditioning. “We get the roof to a high standard, we certify the roof, and we provide a warranty,” Schupmann says. “We continue to inspect and recondition the roof as it ages. We service the roof proactively.”
If the roof fails, Fortis is on the hook. The company’s warranty even covers faulty workmanship and normal wear and tear, which are frequently excluded from roof warranties.
And here’s what may be the best news of all: while a roof replacement usually costs around $15 to $20 per square foot, it’s possible to get a Fortis roof performance program for roughly one-third of that cost, depending on the roof’s condition, the length of the contract and other factors.
“Our job,” Schupmann says, “is to give the customer a roof that performs over the life of the contract. In addition to the money savings, there are also incredible environmental benefits. By reconditioning a roof, you’re not dumping old roofing materials in a landfill or using the petroleum-based materials that go into replacing a roof.”
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