By: Joe Czaszynski summer
June 28th, 2022
As we feel the effects of the summer season, it is important for building owners and managers to ensure that proper precautions are taken in anticipation of the extreme summer heat. In addition to the employee safety hazards presented by excessive heat, many building materials and components do not fare well in the harsh summer heat. The following are a few suggestions for owners and managers to consider at the onset of summer. Personal safety is always of utmost importance; below are a few comments on this topic. For more on this topic, please check out OSHA’s webpage.
Before stepping out onto a rooftop it is important to be aware that the temperature of a roof’s surface may be as much as 60 to 70 degrees higher than the ambient temperature. Dehydration can set in quickly under these conditions. During days of excessive heat, rooftop visits should be limited to brief time increments. Any personnel that must be out on the roof should be well prepared including wearing proper protective clothing and, having plenty of drinking water available. Dehydration does not only affect workers on the roof but can also be a threat to those performing other outdoor tasks. When performing work from a suspended scaffold, regularly scheduled breaks should be allocated to allow workers time to cool off in the shade and replenish fluids. An ample supply of water or sports drinks should be provided to workers on suspended scaffolds, as it is not easy for them to get water from the job site water cooler as needed. Knowing the signs of dehydration can help to prevent accidents and/or personal injury.
When performing a roof replacement, special consideration should be taken depending on what roof system will be installed. A common issue with installing single-ply membranes in the heat is large blisters form due to the off-gassing of the adhesive used to secure the membrane. The large blisters can cause failures at the seams in the field membrane and at the flashing membrane. These openings are also referred to as ‘fish mouths’. Sealants used during excessive temperatures can cure improperly. Common issues are blisters and voids in the sealant which lead to premature failure. Many materials used in building envelope restoration are negatively affected by extreme heat, including mortar, sealants, paints, coatings, and roofing & waterproofing adhesives. Particular attention should be paid to the manufacturers and the engineer’s requirements for temperature restrictions on the installation of these materials. It is not only the temperature at the time of installation, but the anticipated temperature during the curing time of these materials, that is of concern. Having this information readily available can help to educate others and avoid potential add-ons to project costs by not allowing work to continue when temperatures are beyond allowable limits for installation. This is just one more instance where construction administration from a qualified engineering firm is beneficial.
Along with the heat of summer, we also experience fast-moving thunderstorms; therefore, weather forecasts should be monitored regularly. Thunderstorms often bring wind and lightning, which poses a great risk to personnel on the exterior of a building. In addition to suspending work activities prior to the onset of thunderstorms, all loose material should be secured from wind uplift. Lightweight insulation boards should be of particular concern. Many building components are also at increased exposure to risk in the summer heat. The following are just a few comments with regard to the protection of these components: Many buildings, particularly older residential buildings, require the use of window-mounted air conditioners to cool interior spaces in the summer months. These units must be installed properly, using brackets approved for use with the individual unit. At a minimum, improperly installed air conditioners may damage the window frame; however, a greater risk is posed by a unit falling from a window. In New York City, improperly installed window air conditioning units are considered unsafe conditions under the guidelines of the FISP ordinance (Formerly Local Law 11\98) and must be reported as such to the Department of Buildings.
To avoid any unnecessary risks, a comprehensive a/c unit installation and/or inspection plan should commence at the start of the summer. For more on this topic, please see our previous article on this topic. If any exterior restoration is to be performed in the vicinity of air conditioning intakes, properly designed filters should be installed and replaced regularly throughout the duration of the work. It is important to note that the intent of these filters is to restrict dust from entering the a/c unit; the filters do this by restricting airflow. Air conditioner units that are operated while filters are in place, should be monitored, as they can present some issues. The filters do not stop all dust from being pulled in, and therefore, dust can quickly build up within the unit’s internal filter, or at times, pass through the unit and blow into the interior space. Additionally, the restricted airflow can cause unusually hard-working motors to burn up. Residents should listen to their units to see if their motor appears to be struggling, periodically feel the units for unusual heat, and, monitor the conditioned air to make sure that it is cooling the air with the same consistency as when the exterior filters are not in place.