Carl Nicoleau (left), director of facilities for the Miami-Dade County School System, and Ivan Gonzalez, the design coordinator for the school system, discuss roofing products in light of an upcoming repair project.

What do you do if you are in charge of facilities in the fourth-largest school system in the country with nearly 32 million square feet of roofs - located in a county with the most stringent roofing codes in the country? If you are Carl Nicoleau, you do three things: first, you become proficient in roof systems; second, you surround yourself with a highly skilled staff of roof experts; and finally you implement a roof asset management program that parallels the programs at the best-run Fortune 500 companies.

Mr. Nicoleau, the director of facilities for the Miami-Dade County School System, manages one of the few school systems in the country with a full service roofing department. Thirteen staff members are employed in the full-time duties of designing, managing, inspecting and even repairing the district’s roofs.

The roof asset management program (RAMP) was initiated after a 2000 internal audit of the district’s facility management practices. Nicoleau and Ivan Gonzalez (the design coordinator for the school system) had started applying roof management practices on select schools in the district as remedial work was required. After the internal audits, the Dade County School Board saw the value they were doing and implemented the program throughout the whole district. Nicoleau credits the school board members’ commitment to this program. “They are the one’s that keep the program working” he says.

“They continually audit the program and make it totally accountable at every level, from design with architects through construction workmanship.” Architects face internal A/E reviews on every project. Gonzalez, an engineer with extensive background in roof analysis and design, provides comments and makes revisions to the designs that do not meet South Florida Building Code requirements. Architectural firms are reviewed on an annual basis and selected for projects based on past performance.

Part of the architect’s prequalification requirements is attendance at the district’s educational workshops on roof technology and district practices.

Roofing contractors are selected in a similar manner. The contractors are evaluated on a yearly basis and the amount of work that they can bid on is based on their responsiveness and past performance. Evaluations are conducted from mobilization through final project closeout. The district’s high standards have also made manufacturers more accountable through specific material acceptance and enforcement of warranties.

Nicoleau also praises Dr. Randolph Crew, the superintendent of the Miami Dade County Schools, as a proactive administrator who fully supports the program. “Dr. Crew is an innovator who identifies how new technologies can help get things done properly,” says Nicoleau. “In this respect, the RAMP program is in line with what he is implementing for education throughout the district.”

Carl Nicoleau, the director of facilities for the Miami-Dade School System, convinced board members of the value of a roof asset management program.

Miami Dade School System RAMP Design

The program is set up to make all participants in the roofing process accountable. The program encompasses all phases of the roof process for design of new and remedial roof systems through construction and annual maintenance.

New and remedial roof systems are designed by selected architects who must meet the district’s requirements, which include the South Florida Building Code, the Educational Code and proper roof procedures. Design details are provided for remedial projects as well as repairs. Due to the size of the district, the roof systems must be able to provide a 20-year life cycle. “We just do not have the budget to replaces roofs on 40 buildings a year,” says Nicoleau.

Selected manufacturers have tailored their programs to meet the requirements of the district. “Compliance means methods and delivery systems to extend the life cycle of the roof,” Nicoleau states. The district also keeps a close eye on the roof system application procedures. Most of the remedial roof projects are completed during the school year when the buildings are at full capacity due to the weather conditions in Florida, where the summer season is also the rainy season. The roofing work must have minimal impact on the school’s operation, and all project participants must comply with the department’s standards. “If material or application procedures cannot be applied safely on occupied buildings, we cannot use them. The safety of the children and the staff is the major concern.”

The district is also conscious of the correlation between roofing and energy savings. Florida Power and Light rebates the district up to 25 cents a square foot on all of the buildings that provide the proper insulation requirements based on the educational code (which stipulates an R-value of 19). This rebate adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the district.

The district has also voluntarily implemented the Energy Star program as part of the design requirements for all of their roof systems. The reflectivity rates required by the Energy Star helps reduce cooling costs. The current Energy Star requirement on low-slope roof systems (less than 2:12 slope) is 65 percent the first three years and 50 percent for the remaining service life. On steep-slope roofs (more than 2:12 slope), the required reflectivity rate is 25 percent for the first three years and 10 percent after that.

Roof Maintenance

The analysis of the existing roof is done on a systematic approach that determines the condition of the roof and what should be done. “The determination of roof maintenance is based on need and by the factual data compiled during the annual roof inspections,” Nicoleau says. An outside roofing expert inspects each roof area of all buildings on a yearly basis. The district has derived a rating system for each area that indicates the need for maintenance, repair, or replacement. The rating system uses objective data and a point system for age, defects, and the type of roof system installed. The point rating ranges from 0 to 20, with 20 as the highest rating. Roof systems that score in the 15 to 20 range require maintenance. Roofs in the 10 to 15 range require routine repairs, while those rated from 5 to 10 are due for more extensive repairs. Roof rated from 0 to 5 require replacement.

The district has established a proactive maintenance program with a termbid agreement for selected contractors. An annual budget of $5 million is established for district-wide roof repair and maintenance. Scope of repair work is established through the annual roof inspections and repair specifications and details are generated for all required work. The intent of the program is to correct all existing conditions and add service life to the existing roofs.

The status of all roof leaks is maintained on a regular basis, and the repair contractor is notified of the exact location of the leak, the room(s) affected, the roof system type, and the warranty status prior to dispatching repair personnel. Nicoleau states, “This process allows the contractor to solve the problem the right way quicker.” Using this approach, the district has been able to maintain 100 percent of its roof warranties.

The program is now in its sixth year, and it has improved every year. Nicoleau attributes the success of the program to the cooperation of the selected architects, manufacturers and contractors. The program is now fully automated, and all roofing-related requests and photographs of existing conditions are submitted electronically. The success of the program can also be attributed to the district’s 13-member roofing staff, which includes six administrators, four roofing inspectors, one repair technician and two assistants.

“This program is nothing without the staff,” says Nicoleau.