Today's high-performance roofing systems are more durable, maintainable and longer lasting than ever before. Larger upfront roofing investments, quarterly checklists, professional maintenance programs, and detailed examinations of roofing-related costs and activities have become key components of a retail property's standard operational procedures.

With functionality well covered, developers and owners are now taking a closer look at roofing aesthetics. Colors, shapes, textures and other decorative options employed solely to draw customers to a more attractive retail site are driving much of today's retail roofing business.

Pegnato & Pegnato Building Systems Services of Marina Del Rey, Calif., is a repair and maintenance organization that walks about 2,500 retail roofs each month. Vice president and co-owner Bill Baley reports, "Today we're seeing retailers spend much more time and money on roofing aesthetics compared to past years. Owners are doing whatever they can to make their buildings more attractive to shoppers, using metal, clay, slate, colors and other elements in roofing applications to enhance their properties."

Metal roofing takes a stand Baley continues, "Standing seam metal roofing has made an incredible resurgence in retail, especially on the mansards, due to more available, affordable and artistic metal options pouring into the market. Today there are metal roofing fabricators just about everywhere."

Tipton Housewright, principal in charge of retail at Dallas-based Omniplan Inc., an architectural firm that works primarily with large-scale malls, confirms the growing popularity of metal roofing. "Today's computer-aided design systems allow the exploration and design of more complex and varied roofing lines and forms for retail, leading to the use of a broader range of roofing solutions including aesthetic roofing materials," Housewright says. "One of the most appropriate materials for executing these more complex and aesthetic forms is standing seam metal."

Housewright points to three of Omniplan's retail roofing projects that successfully utilize standing seam metal in an aesthetic application. At Arrowhead Towne Center in Glendale, Ariz., he says, the roofing forms above the center court are designed to recall the surrounding mountain ranges, using standing seam metal combined with glass skylights to create crisp pyramid forms.

Similarly, Knoxville Center in Knoxville, Tenn., a redevelopment project, drew upon the architecture of the surrounding Smoky Mountains. The design of the main mall entrance recalls the front porches of cabins typical to the region. Standing seam metal was used to roof the multiple-gabled forms of this entry. In the mall interior, an existing tensile roof structure was uplit with colored light to enhance the feeling of being outdoors, reports Housewright. Standing seam metal was also used by Omniplan at Richmond Square Mall in Richmond, Va., to cover a simple pyramid form and create an economical entry structure for the mall.

"Standing seam metal roofing is an excellent vehicle for fitting a retail project into a geographical region," concurs Alan Pullman, director of design at MCG Architects of Beverly Hills, Calif. "For example, for a regional mall in the northwestern United States, we used copper to create a pitched roof and towers, a design that responds to the region by fitting into the environment. We created an interesting roof line, or roofscape, with metal - rather than approaching the project with the flat roofing of typical regional malls."

Pullman goes on to say that the varied roof lines and forms allowed by metal help break down the scale of large retail projects and bring more character to the building. In addition, the varied lines and the merging of other materials and colors provide tenants with their own facades, and thus their own identities, which is especially ideal in lifestyle districts. "On Main Streets as well as in strip malls and shopping centers, tenants and shoppers are looking for an aesthetically different experience that is more inviting than the typical generic mall."

One of the three major design objectives for the expansion of Fox River Shopping Center in Appleton, Wis., was the creation of a new, higher image with a standing seam metal roof that can now be seen from the nearby expressway. Chicago-based Anthony Belluschi Architects designed a pitched and colored standing seam metal roof that raised the existing roof over the food court by 40 feet, serving as one of the center's most outstanding design characteristics.

Owner Anthony Belluschi explains that for the Fox River Food Court and Restaurant, a new identity was created by transforming the existing glazed office-building facade into a 65-foot-high pitched roof structure. "We wanted to create an image and call attention to the renovated food court, and the roof was the best way to do it," says Belluschi. "We pushed the roof line up higher than the remainder of the 1 million sq. ft. center to create a beacon that makes a statement from a distance and gives the project visibility and a sense of high quality and identity."

At KA Inc. Architecture of Cleveland, project manager Craig Wasserman reports that his firm often selects standing seam metal for retail roofing. "It gives the most bang for the buck," he says, "with multiple colors, curves, gables and shapes and reflective, eye-catching finishes that create more excitement for tenants."

KA Inc. Architecture chose a higher-end copper roof for the feature tower, on top of the cupola, at the Hershey Square Retail Center in Hershey, Pa. The copper roof section is the highest point of the property and acts as its main identifying visual feature. It is used in conjunction with asphalt shingle on a mansard roof, which was selected for its residential-looking quality, says Wasserman.

The application of standing seam metal is becoming easier than ever before. "There is new equipment coming out that allows contractors to fabricate 10- and 20-foot lengths of metal in a parking lot," reports Baley. "These are incredible machines that take flat metal stock and curve and fabricate it at the job site, allowing contractors to respond immediately to roofing designs, and at less cost."

Tile roofing Concrete and clay tile is another aesthetic roofing alternative being used more frequently in retail, says Wasserman. Though expensive, heavy and not water-tight, tile is a very attractive roofing material available in a range of styles and colors. It holds its color year after year and can withstand the harshest elements, including fire, high wind and freeze/thaw conditions.

For the Lazarus Department Store at Tuttle Crossing in Columbus, Ohio, KA Inc. Architecture selected a red, concrete, barrel-vaulted tile at the entryways that is highly visible from the highway. Wasserman explains that a secondary roofing system was constructed underneath the tile to assure a water-tight design. "Though the entryways were costly, the client was satisfied that the expenditure produced an elegant statement that appeals to shoppers," he says.

At MCA Clay Roof Tile of Corona, Calif., Yoshi Suzuki, general manager and director, expounds on the benefits of clay tile as an aesthetic roofing option. "Clay tile is very attractive to shoppers," he says. "It is a unique application for shopping centers, and those that use tile become a landmark.

"Clay tile is one of the oldest roofing materials in the world, and is used extensively in other countries," he continues. "Compared to other areas of the world, the United States has been slow to adopt tile roofing, but we are seeing an increase in its use."

One of the main benefits of tile roofing for retail is that the color of clay tile never changes. "Owners spend so much time choosing exterior color themes, then may select a metal roof, which may lose its color after 10 years. Clay's color will last forever," asserts Suzuki.

Thermal plastic membranes a re still another aesthetic alternative to standing seam metal roofing. The market offers rugged, cost-efficient, heat-weldable membranes that provide excellent tear strength, puncture resistance and dimensional stability. Many are formulated to resist ultraviolet exposure, temperature extremes and chemicals common to the roofing environment, and are available in a range of colors.

Johns Manville of Denver is one of the largest commercial roofing suppliers in the world, handling $560 million in commercial roofing in 1998. According to Michael Johannes, director of marketing for Johns Manville, "Thermal plastic roofing is energy efficient, cost effective, available in uniform colors and is lightweight, weighing only about 1 pound per sq. ft.

"Compared to standing seam metal, thermal plastic is much less expensive," Johannes continues. "Metal roofers will tell you metal is not expensive when you consider its long-term lifecycle cost. But retail is built around demographics, and stores often close down and move after just a few years in one location. Why spend $12 per sq. ft. on a metal roof when you can get one for $2.50 per sq. ft. that can perform just as well?"

A view from above Johannes says thermal plastic is ideal for retail roofing that's in full view from taller buildings around it - and for surrounding roofing domes that can be seen from parking lots - where the roof color needs to complement the retail building itself.

"We've got high-rises all around the Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Ariz., so we chose a roofing membrane with an earthtone color that is not obtrusive," says Ron Kuhn, project manager for Westcor Partners, a southwest area developer of retail. "There's a lot of roof to behold on a 1.2 million sq. ft. center like this one. We also chose a light color for reflectability, which is important in the Southwest. For aesthetic purposes, we screened most of the equipment from view, and painted the rest the same earthtone color."

At Atlanta-based architectural firm Cooper Carry & Associates, the aesthetic treatment of rooftop equipment is a major consideration. "For the Lazarus Department Store in Pittsburgh, the color of the membrane wasn't as important as organizing the equipment on the roof, which can be seen from the buildings surrounding the store," reports Mike Lowry, project manager for the firm. "We intentionally arranged the equipment, and screened some of it, so that it became a planned part of the rooftop architecture, for aesthetic purposes specifically."

Ornamental applications Shopping center owners that want to enhance the roof fronts visible from their parking lots and nearby roadways, yet keep costs down, are applying ornamental roofing materials to specific parts of their buildings.

Reports Greg Sharrock, general manager of Seyforth Roofing Co. Inc. of Dallas: "More and more we are seeing the use of expensive/ornamental roof systems as architectural features on retail space on which a less expensive 'flat' roof system is used on the majority of the building. Tile, slate with copper sheet-metal trim, prefinished steel standing seam metal and copper standing seam metal roofs are popular for ornamental applications. These features typically are used at major entrances and/or building corners to dress up an otherwise relatively bland, inexpensive structure."

"We have done several projects of this type here in the north Texas area," Sharrock continues. "While the expensive/ornamental roofs on the features may cost up to $15 per sq. ft., the flat roof system used on the vast majority of the building is typically under $3 per sq. ft. In northern Texas, we're seeing very little retail/shopping center construction that employs an expensive ornamental roof system exclusively, but I would estimate that 75% of retail built in the past few years in this area employs some type of ornamental roofing at entrances, corners and/or front elevations to lend a classier look."

Sharrock remarks that for University Park Village in Fort Worth, Texas, a 20,000 sq. ft. strip mall, slate roofs with copper trim intertwined, copper domes and red prefinished steel standing seam roofs were used at various locations on the five buildings of the complex to provide a high-class look to a relatively inexpensive space. The majority of the roof is a ballasted EPDM single-ply system.

According to Kenneth King, product manager at Tucker, Ga.-based MM Systems Corp., an architectural roof edge product company, standard and customized roof edging is decorative, colorful, cost efficient and durable. It is ideal for the fast-track construction of most retail, and for upscale retailers that demand structures that portend the sophisticated merchandise inside.

For the Summit Retail Center in Birmingham, Ala., for example, MM Systems provided highly complex roof-to-wall transitions, says King. Stunning scalloped corners cascade down three elevation lines, accentuated by arches and inverted arches. Other roof-to-wall transitions required attractive new parabolic, serpentine and compound curves to interface with an existing roof coping.

Choosing a contractor So many aesthetic-roofing options can mean mass confusion for developers and owners desiring an attractive yet functional roofing system. Choosing the roofing materials and system can be a challenge, and so can choosing the right contractor for the installation.

The National Roofing Contractors Association offers some general guidelines for selecting a roofing contractor (see page 82). Several commercial roofing professionals as well as mall operators interviewed for this article also offer their comments and advice on choosing a contractor.

"One of the most important considerations is insurance. Up to $2 million is not enough, though many people think it is," asserts Bob DeToro, senior vice president of sales for Simon Roofing and S/M Corp. of Youngstown, Ohio. "If an employee or customer gets seriously hurt during the installation of an aesthetic roof, a minimum of at least $25 million of insurance will be required. In addition, if the contractor is able to carry that much insurance, it's a sure bet the company is a stable one."

Says Baley of Pegnato & Pegnato Building Systems Services, "Don't just pull someone out of the Yellow Pages - use word of mouth. Check with the people you respect in your industry. Once you've gotten a few names, call the manufacturers of the systems they install and inquire about the contractors' standings with those manufacturers. Make sure the contractors are willing to show proof of insurance, and copies of their licenses and workers' compensation agreements. A good contractor has no problem making these documents part of the bid package."

Michael Rapensberger, vice president of Potteiger-Raintree, Inc. of York, Pa., a commercial roofing company, has this advise: "Check the contractor's history, reputation, safety record, financial well being, bonding capacity and insurance coverage. Check the company's experience - how many jobs of this same type and size has it completed successfully? Does it have the equipment and staff to complete the job in the timeframe required? Does it have a safety program? All these considerations are important. Don't just go for the lowest bidder."

Roof consultant Richard Wagner, a partner with Agans/White Group Inc., of Sykesville, Md., says his company doesn't advocate going straight to a contractor to get the work done, whether it's an aesthetic roof or a purely functional one. "Some people look only at the lowest bid, when five different companies might be bidding on five different packages," he says. "Perhaps there's a more efficient route to take than the one out for bid. For example, maybe a repair is necessary, not an entirely new system." Wagner says a roofing consultant like Agans/White offers tailored services including a condition survey, design, contract administration, construction monitoring, forensic investigation, expert witness testimony, and plan and specification review.

"To assure we're getting an apples-to-apples bid comparison, we hire a roofing consultant to develop the specifications from which the contractors will bid," says Richard Schiller, vice president and general manager of Old Orchard Shopping Center of Skokie, Ill., a 1.8 million sq. ft. shopping center with a six-story office building. "I think hiring a consultant is an essential part of making the best decisions and putting in the best roofing product."

At the Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumberg, Ill., center manager Jim Linowski states, "We are in the midst of a multimillion-dollar re-roofing project for our more than 1 million sq. ft. roof. We selected our contractor based on price and experience, but most importantly on the company's ability to meet effective insurance requirements."

Linowski says a good contractor will cooperate by being sensitive to the needs of all merchants during the roofing installation. "We have much of the tar work done before the stores open because there's a heavy odor associated with it. Merchants nearest to the current roofing activity are asked to keep their air ventilation systems off overnight.

"Managers must be proactive with their merchants by advising them when there will be an odor, noise or other intrusion," Linowski adds. "We insist that our contractor help us keep our merchants informed. We also have an independent roof consultant observing and overseeing the quality assurance."

Gary Reece, operations manager for Hamilton Place, a 1.6 million sq. ft. mall in Chattanooga, Tenn., says his experiences with both aesthetic and purely functional roofing systems is controlling traffic to reduce potential problems. "Once that roof is installed, the biggest problem is keeping traffic off it," he says. "At Hamilton Place, we've got more than 300 HVAC units up there, and up to 30 HVAC contractors walking the roof to maintain them. The biggest challenge I have had with roofing is not choosing a system or contractor, but keeping people off it."

Guidelines for Selecting a Commercial Roofing Contractor >From the National Roofing Contractors Association Washington, D.C. A new roof system is an important investment. Before you spend your money, spend time learning how to evaluate the roofing contractor who may be doing the work. Roofing contractors are not all alike: Insist on a professional with hands-on experience and specialized knowledge.

The NRCA recommends that you pre-qualify contractors. It may require some extra work, but experience shows that it goes a long way toward making sure you get the kind of results you expect.

Your criteria may vary according to the job requirements, but all professional roofing contractors should be able to provide you with the following:

Permanent Place of Business Confirm that your contractor is well established with a permanent address, telephone number, tax identification number and, where required, a business license. A professional has these readily available.

Knowledge of Roof Systems The introduction of new roofing materials and application techniques has sparked a tremendous change in the roofing industry over the past 10 years. A professional roofing contractor is familiar with the different types of roof systems and will help you make the best decision for your building and budget. Be sure you are comfortable with the roof system(s) your contractor suggests. Affiliation with an Industry Organization

Ask the contractor if his company is a member of a local, state, regional or national industry association. Involvement in a professional organization tends to keep a contractor better informed about the latest developments and issues in the industry.

Commitment to Education Choose a company committed to the safety and education of its workers. Ask the contractor what types of safety training he provides for his workers and what industry programs the workers have attended. The best roofing contractor is only as good as the workers who install the roof system. Insist on having trained, experienced roof mechanics.

Insured and Committed to Safety Don't hesitate to ask the roofing contractor for proof of insurance. In fact, insist on seeing copies of insurance certificates that verify workers' compensation and general liability coverages. Make sure the coverages are in effect through the duration of your job. If a contractor is not properly insured, you, the owner, may be liable for accidents that occur on the property. Many building owners and homeowners have been dragged into litigation involving uninsured roofing contractors.

Licensed and Bonded Many states require that roofing contractors be licensed, and some states have specific licensing requirements. In addition, some contractors are able to obtain bonding from surety companies, while others are not. Check to see if a prospective roofing contractor is properly licensed and/or bonded. Your state's department of professional regulation or licensing board will have this information.

Financial Stability A professional contractor will be able to supply you with current financial information. This should include current assets, net fixed assets, current liabilities, other liabilities, and references from a financial institution or auditing firm.

Application Expertise Have your contractor list the roofing manufacturers with which his firm has licensed or approved applicator agreements. Some materials require special application expertise to provide a quality roof system that will last.

Written Proposal Insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications. Be sure the proposal includes the approximate starting and completion dates, payment procedures, and any additional issues such as landscape damage prevention and debris cleanup.

Warranties There are two basic categories of roofing warranties: the contractor's warranty, which covers workmanship, and the manufacturer's warranty, which covers (as a minimum) materials. Be sure that your contractor offers a warranty that covers workmanship. A manufacturer's warranty alone will not protect you if the roof is improperly installed. Carefully read and understand any roofing warranty offered and watch for provisions that would void it.

Completed Projects Look for a company with a proven track record that readily offers client references and a list of completed projects.

References When making the final selection, ask the roofing contractor for a list of recent clients. Check with these customers to see if they were completely satisfied with the quality of materials and workmanship provided. You also may contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have received any customer complaints about the contractor.

Provisions for On-Site Supervision Have the contractor explain his project supervision and quality-control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge, how many workers will be required and the estimated time of completion.

Professional Maintenance Program Professional roofing contractors offer periodic maintenance inspections throughout the year. These inspections help ensure that your project complies with the standards specified in the warranty. A maintenance program usually consists of a detailed visual examination of the roof system, flashing, insulation and related components to identify any potential trouble areas.

Call 1-800-USA-ROOF NRCA offers a toll-free number, 1-800-USA-ROOF (872-7663), to help building owners, maintenance supervisors, specifiers, architects and other industry professionals locate roofing contractors in specific geographic areas. Callers are sent a free computerized list of NRCA-member contractors sorted by zip code and type of work (commercial or residential); a list of local and regional NRCA affiliate organizations; and a booklet that describes common roof systems and general roofing terminology. All inquiries are kept confidential.

It pays to pre-qualify roofing contractors. Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors seem attractive with their below-cost bids, but often are uninsured and perform substandard work. Remember, price is only one criterion for selecting a roofing contractor. Professionalism and quality workmanship should also weigh heavily on your decision.