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Treating Roofs as an Asset

(An SMT Technician activates FutureCast, our Passive Monitoring System)

Planning out every step of the construction process is common practice, but planning for the future of a building's roof after construction is completed is done far less often. Every building owner should have a complete building enclosure asset management plan. Such a plan would include the roof, similar to the way mechanical systems internal to the building have scheduled pump and filter maintenance. The roof is a building's most important line of defense against the elements, as such, any risk of defect must be taken into account. These risks can range from general wear and tear from the effects of weather to installation defects with the waterproof membrane.

Risk Mitigation Strategies

On average, it is estimated that the replacement cost for roofing systems is around $12 per sq foot. This is subject to change depending on the climate, type and complexity of the roofing system, and extent of the moisture damage. Not only is it a large capital expense to replace a building's roof, but it can also be difficult to accommodate internal occupants depending on the complexity of the roofing system. To properly treat your roof as an asset, one must have risk mitigation strategies in place to prevent any catastrophic failures with the roofing system.

Building owners often overlook such strategies and find them unnecessary because of the relatively large upfront costs. However, industry experts have found this outlook to be shortsighted, and smaller upfront costs of protecting a building's roof far outweigh the potential replacement and repair costs.

Electronic Leak Detection

SMT Research’s DigiScan 360, a form of electronic leak detection (ELD) technology, detects any damage or defects in the membrane. It is extremely common to find hundreds of damages and defects in membranes during construction. This often occurs as a result of improper installation by roofers or accidental damage by other on-site workers; uncovered waterproof membranes are used as construction staging areas resulting in heavy foot traffic and penetrations from nails and screws. DigiScan is a non-destructive method of leak detection unlike other methods such as flood testing. It involves creating an electric field and plotting out points where electricity is grounding (leaking areas). This process is done immediately after the roofing company has installed the membrane so that when leaks are inevitably detected, they can be repaired.

(On-Site Technician operating the DigiScan 360)

The DigiScan 360 is a quality assurance process that verifies there are no leaks in the waterproof membrane and also protects all the parties involved. It protects the roofing company from any liability because if scanning is done immediately after membrane installation, they can guarantee that they installed the system properly. It also protects the contractor from any major costs to repair the membrane. The quality assurance of a DigiScan also protects the owner from any issues a few years down the road and gives them a certain degree of trust in their building's roof.

Long Term Automated Monitoring

Another effective strategy for a roof asset management program is the installation of long-term automated leak detection systems. SMT Research has two long-term automated systems, FutureCast (passive) and BuildingIntelli (active). These systems are installed as a part of the roof and will provide data about the moisture content within the roofing assembly. These Internet of Things sensors are continually gathering information and can be used to trigger alarms or notifications about problematic moisture levels. They are also extremely convenient for the owner of the building because they can receive information about their roof from the IoT sensors, you don't even need to be in the same time zone as the building. This allows building owners to be proactive and detect moisture build-up in the roof's membrane before any water is noticeable by occupants.

(Excessive moisture is just one of the many risks that buildings face during construction)

The relatively high cost to install a BuildingIntelli or FutureCast system comes as a result of the high-quality materials needed to instrument the roof and will decrease as more owners adopt these systems. Building owners will continuously save money over the lifetime of their building as a result of treating their roof as an asset and investing early in preventative maintenance. These savings can sometimes go unnoticed by building owners but should be easily found in the prolonged useful life of their building's roof as well as the less frequent and reduced maintenance costs.

Technology Adoption

Despite the numerous benefits of this technology, there is still a hesitancy shared by roofers, owners, and architects to incur additional costs, especially during the construction process. This hesitancy between the stakeholders of buildings stems from their lack of knowledge and education about these systems. However, once all parties are convinced of the long-term benefits, they are keen to have this cutting-edge technology in their buildings. Even though an IoT system doesn’t enhance the visual appeal of a building, architects must be aware of how sensors benefit a roof behind the scenes. Installing IoT sensors underneath a green roof or solar panel “de-risks” the use of these modern sustainable roofing systems. In addition to this, no architect wants to have a leaky building attached to their name and reputation. An IoT automated leak detection system will allow for early awareness of moisture build-up so that architects, engineers, and roofers can fix any defects.


Having a roof asset management plan is the best way to maximize the useful life of your roof while at the same time minimizing its recurring costs. Specifically, the DigiScan 360 gives your roof the best start to its life possible by ensuring quality installation and catching any potential defects. BuildingIntelli and FutureCast monitor a building for its entire life and allows building owners to take action before a leak becomes an expensive problem. A plan is the difference between never thinking about your roof to never worrying about your roof.


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