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Total Contractor Magazine

Living Roofs 10 Q’S TO

Living Roofs 10 Q’S TO ASK WHEN INSTALLING A LIVING ROOF RETENTION SYSTEM By Jonathan Brown, Fixfast The living roof market is booming. It grew by over 17% last year, with no sign of slowing. This is great news for contractors able to install living roofs, who should see a healthy pipeline of projects. But with this growth comes challenges; as more living roofs are installed, the risk of underengineered systems increases. Problems with insufficient drainage, soil erosion or compromised fire safety can all cause a living roof to fail prematurely. If this becomes common, building owners could lose their appetite for living roofs and reduce opportunities for contractors. Fortunately, the simple installation of a living roof retention system can prevent these issues from occurring. But not all retention systems are created equal. Without carefully selected components, a system may not extend the roof’s lifespan as hoped. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when selecting products for a living roof retention system, to ensure your client ends up with a longlasting living roof. Q. Have you chosen materials that don’t rust? A: Galvanised steel rooftop products are not appropriate for use on living roofs as their rustproofing is easily damaged. Use aluminium or stainless-steel materials to prevent component deterioration. Q. Are the materials lightweight & durable? A: Roof load is a factor in any rooftop construction. To minimise the weight of essential components, use materials such as aluminium, which is sufficiently durable for rooftop use. Lightweight materials also make your life easier during installation. Q. Are the materials non-combustible for maximum fire protection? A: Metal components are inflammable and offer the best balance of durability, design flexibility and weight. Plastics can be appropriate on a living roof, but they must be installed correctly in line with fire safety guidance. Q. Do the system components have sufficient drainage holes? A: Drainage issues are a major cause of living roof failures. To ensure excess water has sufficient exit points, choose components with large and well-spaced drainage holes. Q. Can the drains be easily accessed for ongoing maintenance? A: All drains should be protected to prevent debris causing blockages. Inspection chambers are superior to other drain protectors as they make it easier for the building occupier to inspect and maintain the drains regularly. Q. Are your retention angles tall enough to maintain minimum substrate depth? A: A minimum substrate depth of 80mm is recommended best practice for fire safety. When choosing retention angles for your system, their edge height must exceed the substrate depth to help preserve it over time. Q. Could your components damage the roof’s waterproofing? A: You should think about keeping the membrane intact throughout the installation, including the impact of damage by following trades. Use L- shaped retention angles, rather than solely vertical edges, as this will spread the load, protecting the waterproof membrane from potential breaches. Q. Is your living roof protected from soil slippage? A: Soil slippage can cause drainage issues and compromise fire safety. In barrel-vaulted and pitched roofs, you should install anti-slump products to hold the sedum blanket securely in place. Q. Are your firebreaks secure? A: Unbroken fire breaks are essential for living roof fire safety. Use retention angles to stop plants from growing into them. To protect gravel firebreaks from strong winds and heavy boots, use large pebbles of between 20-40mm, and apply a gravel adhesive to hold them in place. Q. Is there safe access for maintenance? A: A successful living roof requires regular maintenance. Have you provided a safe means of access for the occupier to reach the roof? Permanent, collective protection (e.g. ladders and rails) is better than a temporary or personal system as more people can safely use it. By asking yourself these 10 questions, and choosing the right retention system as a result, you can ensure your living roof installations thrive as intended. A properly engineered living roof will last longer, look better, and do more for the environment. As demand for living roofs continues to rise, those contractors with a good reputation for delivering long-lasting living roofs – underpinned by well-chosen retention systems – will be bestplaced to benefit. Contact Fixfast 01732 882387 @fixfast_uk 40 TC MARCH 2018

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