Environmentally Friendly- Green Roofing and Snow Retention Meet at Schweitzer Mountain

snow retention, green roofing

By: Heidi Ellsworth, HJE Marketing

Published: Architectural West | May/June 2000

Where do green and white meet to create gray? In Sandpoint, Idaho at the hand of Tim Boden of Boden Design Mountain Architecture.  With a lifelong love of skiing and strong commitment to the environment, Boden has built a strong architectural business on a mountain in Northern Idaho.

The project was The Glades at Schweitzer.  Boden had been working on the project for a number of years, although he was not the initial architect on the project.  “We were looking for a special look that would run throughout the entire project,” states Boden.  “They had roofed some of the first homes using tile. Unfortunately the tiles were not the right match for the roof design in this area.  We were dealing with ice damns, ice sickles and roof damage so we needed to do something different.”

Situated at Schweitzer ski resort in Northern Idaho, The Glades development is owned by Basin Development of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The development features second homes or vacation rentals for skiers.  Architecturally they are designed in traditional 1980s ski area/condo style with cutup lines and several valley’s ridges and hips.

Boden sits on the architectural control committee at Schweitzer and has led the Glades project for the past five years.  Not only has he worked on the project but also on his offices is located at Schweitzer, with his other office in Sandpoint, Idaho.  He has been working with the architectural design of Schweitzer properties for a number of years and it has offered him a great perspective.  “Often you have outside firms trying to design buildings for the area and they do not under the special challenges of the area,” continued Boden.  “We have made a career out of designing snow load and the particular tastes of our mountain audience.”

green roofing, snow retentionBoden and The Glades developer knew they had to find a different system.  The current tiles were cracking and breaking due to the movement of the snow and ice.  Snow slippage had destroyed tiles in the valleys chimney intersections and roof eaves.  The covenant, codes, and restriction (CC&Rs) of the Schweitzer Village called for the use of tile or shakes to be used for all steep roofing system.  “We have tried to establish a look throughout the Schweitzer resort that will last,” noted Boden.  “When the clay tiles didn’t work for us, I had to find something different for the new construction we were working on.”

And it wasn’t just the breakage that was a concern.  There was also the challenge of the liabilities experience with high density construction regarding snow slippage from roof structures.  “With village or commercial building construction, posted warning signs related to the overhead danger of accumulated snow slippage has not been enough,” noted Boden.  “People and property are injured or damaged each winter due to snow slippage.”

“The people of Schweitzer Mountain are realizing that holding the snow on the roofs is the safest consideration for commercial Village Construction.  Due to the dead load weight of accumulated snow, structural design along with methods and building materials selections need to be re-evaluated.  We consistently deal with 350 to 400 pound snow loads,” continued Boden.  “Outside the village, we can let some of the snow slide, so we do use metal roofs.  In the village itself we can’t let the snow slide due to pedestrians, skiers, and vehicles it needs to be held on the roof.”

In addition to snow loads, the owners, management and architects at Schweitzer had environmental considerations.  “This is a beautiful part of the country and we are all concerned about the quality of our environment,” noted Boden.  “When I look at new building products, building green is always a consideration.”

The Glades had been executed in two phases.  Boden did not design the first phase but worked with Terry Anderson of Anderson Associates Consulting, to solve the problem with the snow slippage.  For phase two, Boden designed the two new buildings using straight gables with shed dormers.  He wanted to look at a roofing system that would meet his needs for strength, snow retention and environmental friendliness.  It was recommended that he contact the management of EcoStar, Inc. the manufacturers of majestic Slate.  Majestic Slate is 100% recycled rubber slate tile.

green roofing, snow retentionI had to look similar to the roofing on phase one to meet the developments rules and maintain consistency throughout the project.  “Majestic did not have as much profile but was very similar in color,” noted Boden.  “I researched the product and then did some testing on my own.  Besides meeting a certain look, I wanted to be sure that it would work.   I put the products in my freezer and then took it out and did several tests for breakage.   It pasted all my tests and I realized that it could meet all our needs in addition to providing the look we wanted.”

“The glacier effect on the roofs in this area is tremendous.  The snow movement basically crushes the roof,” stated Boden.  “The testing I did on the Majestic Tile showed it had enough flexibility and strength to handle the amount of movement that might occur.  I also found that it would not absorb moisture and thus not cause problems from freeze thaw cycles.”

Majestic Slate is made of Starloy, a polymer blended of 100% recycled rubber and industrial plastic.  Starloy has been in production for over 20 years and used in the manufacturing of mats for docks, mud flaps and fatigue mats.  “From the history of Starloy, we knew that Majestic Slate was designed to endure cold, freezing temperatures and stress.  The product is also beautiful, made with the feel and look of natural slate,” continued Boden.

EcoStar Inc. prides itself on offering the most natural and progressive recycled roofing product on the market.  “We believe in creating a balance between the environment and economics,” stated Kerston Russell, president of EcoStar.

Besides the look and strength, Majestic Slate also offered ease of application.  “The Peter A. Chance Company worked with us during the installation process,” noted Ed Wininger, president of Everlast Roofing and The Glades roofing contractor.  “We found the installation to be very easy and the support from the Chance Company and EcoStar management exceptional.”

“I had my doubts about Majestic just because it was a new product on the market.  A lot of people have their doubts due to past new product problems.  After testing and using Majestic Tile, we are sold,” stated Winiger.  “There is a learning curve but once you get going it is easy.  You can score it with a knife and snap it.  You can also shave the ends once you cut it to give the cuts ends a finished look.  All our guys were intrigued by the product.”

“When comparing the installation costs of Majestic Slate to traditional slate or tile, there is quite a difference,” said Chris Olson, technical representative for the Peter A. Chance Company.  “The installation cost is lower due to the reduced weight, flexibility and ease of application.  Majestic Slate weight a quarter the weight of slate or clay tile.  The reduced weight allows more flexibility in the structural design process and in the inherent flexibility eliminates broken pieces during installation, transit and loading.”

In dealing with the extreme weather, Majestic Slate carries a 100 mph wind warranty and a 50-year product warranty.  “We foresee no problems with snow loads,” stated Russell.  “The raw material Starloy has been used for years in some of the most extreme environments.  That gives us the highest level of confidence in our products.”

In addition, snow retention devices were specified in conjunction with the Majestic Tile.  “We wanted to use a cold roof system,” said Boden.  “We again worked with Anderson Associates Consulting to develop a system for phase in junction with the Majestic slate.”

green roofing, snow retentionAnderson is also the developer of TRA Snow Brackets.  He recommended following the European style of snow retention by using snow brackets throughout the whole roof.   “The United States and Canada have different concepts about snow retention that Europeans,” stated Anderson.  “The first thing American think is to get the snow off the roof with a steep slope roofs in mountain areas to keep the snow as an insulation blanket.”

As Anderson was designing the TRA Snow Brackets he was also working on developing bracket failure ratio charts.  Working with Brigham Young University, through a grant from the State of Utah, he determined that a majority of the failures occurred from the pull out of the sheathing not the brackets.  “I wanted to create charts like those in Europe for the United States using my understanding of the fail points,” said Anderson.  “When I designed the charts, we developed them using a two to one safety ratio.  We also took the friction of the roof out since the roof friction can change the ratio.  The safety factor of two to one has lead to the success of the bracket.”

“The European system revolves around three points,” explained Anderson. “One, take any vapor that has escaped in other roof cavity above the insulation and then pull the vapor out through the ridge with venting air.  Two, stop ice dams by making roof temperature equal.  By venting air into cold eave, it becomes warm from the radiant heat of the house and then exits through the ridge vent.  This makes the temperature equal from eave to ridge and this is called a cold roof system.  Third, hold snow on the roof with snow retention brackets to create an insulated blanket and stop roof and property damage.”

To enhance the ventilation process, Olson recommended using Premier Highpoint ridge vents.  Highpoint ridge vents are made by NW Building Products out of Bigfork, Mont.  “We truly believe that Highpoint is a superior product,” stated Olson. “It is natural choice for high wind areas.”

The Premiere Ridge Vents is 18 square inches per lineal foot of unobstructed net free ventilating area.  It exceeded the Dade County Hurricane Test with its exterior wind baffle.  “Essentially, there is an integral airfoil that is at the lower edge of the ridge vent.  It diverts wind, wind drive rain and snow, up and over the ridge keeping the interior dry and protecting the ridge shingles from blow-off.  It also forces the ridge vent to act as an exhaust as intended by not permitting air to be blown into the ridge vent,” noted Olson.  “Also, due to the manufacturing process of using UV-stabilized polypropylene with self closing ends, High point vents withstand dramatic temperature changes and extreme structural loading.”

With snow retention devices, the Premiere Ridge vent and the Majestic Slate Tile, Boden had a complete cold roof system for his new construction.  In the case of the old clay tile roofs, that were not project to be reroofed, Anderson recommended fixing the slide and breakage problems with snow retention devices on the full roof slope of the roofing system to help retain the snow on the roof. “Due to the cut-up architecture of the roofs, we could not develop and adequate ventilation system.  The venting did not always line up so you would have dead-end venting.” Said Boden. “We followed Terry’s advice and installed snow retention devices through the roof and heaters at the eave for icicle control.

The end results are spectacular.  “This is the coolest looking stuff. The definition and the depth that the Majestic Slate is showing is more than we expected.  The installation and appearance of the slate with the copper snow retention brackets is great.  I am getting questioned everyday if we will use the material for all of our projects,” smiled Boden.

The bonus is that it is a green roof. “There is no downside. It is quality product that I made of recycled materials and is recyclable.  You are not giving up anything,” said Boden, “You’re using raw materials which would normally go into a landfill and making a product to use in the building trades.  This is just a win-win for everybody. It works and looks great. We have to use these sustainable products or our landfills will completely filled with old roofing.”

“Even though we are environmentalist we can’t push green building products unless they function, are aesthetic, and cost effective.  That is the future; products must be good for the environment and good for business. Majestic Slate is one product which does both,” concluded Boden.

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