Working together to harness the benefits of innovation

David Hulme of Square 4 Services discusses the value of roof trades and architects collaborating to ensure that roofing systems achieve design innovation and maximum performance potential

Historically, rooftops have served a primary purpose of providing shelter for buildings, but evolutions in building designs have become acutely geared towards sustainability and making better use of space, driving demand for rooftops to fulfil new functions. Architects are under increasing pressure to incorporate multiple elements including solar PV, skylights, HVAC systems and green spaces into roof designs, balancing the requirements of each.

Industry challenges

As the specifications of systems adapt and designs change, there can be a negative impact on other elements, inflating costs and compromising performance. To effectively balance design criteria to achieve optimum performance, there is value in specialist roof trades collaborating with architects on design from the early stages. Specialist roof trades can offer additional support and expertise to help architects create roof designs that might have been thought unachievable. The reality is that the industry is moving at pace, and new developments in materials and technologies are creating increased opportunity for design innovation.

Meeting design criteria with adequate consideration to all systems is complex and requires a lot of time and attention over the course of the design and build. In the commotion of convoluted conversations and design changes, inaccurate decisions can sometimes impede performance.

For example, some roof surfaces are changed during the design and build schedule in the interest of ‘value engineering,’ without the change being properly communicated to solar PV partners. When installers arrive on site it becomes evident that the roof surface is not suitable for the fixings that were initially specified and these need to be changed for a different option. In some cases, this can significantly inflate costs and add time to tight build schedules, counteracting the perceived benefits of value engineering.

Balancing the requirements of the roof with the needs of different systems is no easy task. Working with such limited space on projects it is difficult to identify where elements such as solar PV, skylights, SVPs and HVAC systems might be best implemented, and which should be prioritised.

Maximising design potential

It is extremely beneficial for architects to consult specialist roof trades at the very beginning of conversations about rooftop design. By working with strategic partners, architects can be confident that every area of the design is acknowledged thoroughly in relation to effectiveness and performance. This can help ease the pressure on architects and inspire confidence in decisions being made. With all parties having a ‘seat at the table,’ the margin for complication and error is reduced substantially.

The key to designing innovative roof spaces is thoughtfully planning out and creating systems that maximise performance potential. Approaching design holistically can pay dividends, even from the basics of considering the shading on a roof space and how this can impact solar PV or skylighting. Even strategically designing HVAC systems or SVPs to penetrate the roof in one location can optimise the amount of usable space on a roof dramatically – this is especially beneficial on high-rise buildings where solar PV panels need to be grouped to achieve effective ballast so systems can resist high winds. Then moving towards the consideration of multiple systems, specialist partners can help to produce precise calculations on efficiency and advise the optimum coverage for elements such as skylights versus solar PV panels.

Capitalising on expertise

The benefits of including specialist roof trades in initial design conversations can be remarkable. By sharing knowledge, architects can remain ahead of the curve and continue to achieve innovative designs that further capitalise on space and enhance performance substantially. Roof spaces hold more value than ever before, and by consulting roof trades and working collaboratively on designs, architects can streamline processes and continue to bolster designs that challenge industry norms.

David Hulme is technical director at Square 4 Services