October 04, 2012Replacing the leaky roof at Allen Jay Elementary School in High Point was stopped in its tracks on Tuesday, Sept. 25 because the new roof was not designed to meet the State of North Carolina's building code, according to High Point officials.
Fixing the problem could cost Guilford County Schools $250,000, according to the school system's contractor.
Allen Jay is one of several Guilford County Schools that have rain inside the building as well as outside.
In August, an Allen Jay employee wrote The Rhino Times that "terrible drippings off of the roof" were ruining ceiling tiles, carpets and computers in numerous rooms at the school. The Rhino Times took pictures of a huge canvas bladder with a garden-hose drain that Guilford County Schools mounted on the ceiling of the Allen Jay gym to capture water pouring through the gym roof and release it outside the building.
In response to the August complaints, Guilford County Schools patched some of the leaks, waiting for a long-delayed project to replace the roof. The Guilford County Board of Education on August 14 voted to give the construction contract for the roof replacement to Greensboro Roofing Co. Inc. for $481,000.
That should have cleared the way for Greensboro Roofing to reroof the entire school, built in 1958, and its freestanding gym. A crew from the company began tearing off the old roof on Monday, Sept. 24, racing to beat forecasted end-of-the-week rainstorms.
There was only one problem: Guilford County Schools didn't have a building permit to do the work.
According to High Point Inspection Services Administrator Ed Brown, no one representing Guilford County Schools approached the Planning and Development Department on the Allen Jay roof project until Tuesday, Sept. 25. Terry Glidewell, the president of Greensboro Roofing, said his vice president called the Planning and Development Department on Monday, Sept. 25.
Either way, both sides agree that Greensboro Roofing made the first approach to the city without plans or specifications, and walked out without a building permit. Brown said that, as of close of business on Monday, Oct. 1, Guilford County Schools had not applied for a building permit.
Other than not applying for one, according to Brown, the reason the contractor didn't get a building permit was state-required insulation. A new requirement in the 2012 North Carolina Energy Code for Buildings requires R-30 insulation for the school's roof.
R-30 is not a type or brand of insulation. It is an R-value, or a measurement of the amount of heat transfer any particular insulation allows. Brown said there are several ways to achieve that level of insulation.
Glidewell said that he considered the building permit a formality, and has regularly started work while building permits were being processed.
"My guys started taking the roof off Monday, thinking we had the permit," Glidewell said. "But then we discovered there was a problem."
Glidewell said he considered the architect on the project, Andre Johnson of Raleigh, responsible for the lack of a hardship letter. On most normal construction projects, contractors pull permits and architects request variances. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
"I've been doing this 37 years," Glidewell said. "We went to get our permit. We'd gotten our job set up prior. Last Monday, my VP went over to get his permit, and the guy asked if he was putting on R-30 insulation, which is the new energy code."
Glidewell said he called Ron Beard, High Point's permit and records supervisor and plans reviewer, who confirmed the need for R-30 insulation.
There is a way around the R-30 insulation requirement – a hardship letter. A hardship letter doesn't cite financial hardship. It simply states that, in a building or part of a building, it is prohibitively difficult or impossible to meet the R-30 standard.
Glidewell said that High Point inspectors were unaware that the city could issue such letters. Brown said they were, but that no one representing Guilford County Schools had, by Monday, Oct. 1, applied for one.
Either way, Guilford County Schools didn't have a building permit, a storm was coming, and Allen Jay Elementary School, which already had leaks, also had a section of roof with no shingles. And Glidewell said parts of the old roof are nothing to brag about even with shingles.
"There's areas you can step on up there and the water comes out like a tidal wave," he said. "It's like walking on a water bed."
Glidewell said his company was removing the roof as it was supposed to – all the way to the roof deck, which left the inside of the building exposed. He said his company worked with Allen Jay Principal Dawn Spencer to keep students out from under the work area.
Glidewell said, once the permit impasse developed, and he knew he could not beat the storms coming Friday, his company patched the roof, putting down red rosin paper, a base sheet, a vapor barrier, two layers of felt and tar then insulation and a top membrane. He said it then spent seven hours sealing the area with asphalt. "That's probably the only area of the building that is not leaking," he said.
And there Allen Jay Elementary sits.
Several days of frantic meetings involving the contractor, the architect, Guilford County Schools and the City of High Point have not solved the impasse. High Point Mayor Becky Smothers, among others, has joined in days of round-robin phone calls in an effort to solve the problem. It hasn't worked so far, although everyone involved said they consider some sort of compromise inevitable.
Brown said he considers the situation simple. From his perspective, Guilford County Schools has not applied for a permit or hardship letter, detailing the parts of the building that can't be brought up to meet the new energy code and how the school system can meet the code for the rest of the building. He said it needs to do so, and then he can issue the building permit.
Glidewell said his company provided the original two sets of drawings and the spec book for the project, and considers its part of the process done.
"At this point, I said 'This is out of my control,'" he said. "We bid the job on the planned specifications. This is up to the architect."
Glidewell said that meeting the energy code would require $60,000 to $70,000 in additional insulation, but redesigning it to do so would cost far more, because air conditioning units and electrical equipment on the roof would have to be removed and replaced with longer ductwork and wiring to make space for the insulation.
He said, "For that building, if you had to go and do everything R-30 with all the equipment that has to be raised, you could be talking a quarter-million dollars or more."
On Wednesday, Oct. 3, Brown said the school system would be issued permits that day for work on some of the Allen Jay buildings, but not for others for which Guilford County Schools had not submitted revised plans. Work had still not begun on the roof.