While working with the world’s busiest airport to replace a failing roof on one of its concourses, we’ve been facing an enormous challenge — what to do with all of the insulation we’re removing?
We’re taking the concourse down to the deck, which involves removing more than one million square feet of two-inch thick polyisocyanurate insulation panels with an R-value of 12. We can’t reuse the panels at this job site so here’s what we’re doing with them instead.
Insulation in landfills is bad for the environment
Insulation is useful for a long time — much longer than other roofing system components. So it only makes sense to identify opportunities to reuse good insulation panels when possible.
Reusing insulation is much better than putting it into landfills, of course. Reusing it helps the environment, saves money and also reduces the costs and effort associated with manufacturing new insulation. In fact, re-roofing waste accounts for up to 20% of all construction and demolition (C&D) waste and C&D waste accounts up to half of all material in landfills. Managing re-roofing waste is one of the most challenging issues we face in our business.
Why we can’t reuse the insulation at the airport
While it’s certainly easiest to reuse insulation at the same job site, it’s not always possible.
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (HJAIA), an enormous hail storm had damaged the roof on Concourse E, leaving behind small impact craters that spider-webbed out across the roof, similar to cracks in a windshield. The cracks were barely visible but water was penetrating the TPO membrane through those cracks and was soaking some of the insulation beneath. So all of the insulation, both compromised and not, must be pulled from the roof so we can install a new functioning roofing system.
The Atlanta Airport Terminal Corporation, along with the Department of Aviation, has certain performance and design requirements that must be met by all commercial roofing systems. These include high-performance and durability standards that minimize disruption to airport operations and security. The type of roof damage and water infiltration that occurred on Concourse E made it impossible for the old insulation to meet the requirements.
Fortunately, the roofing situation wasn’t an emergency so the airport has been able to function normally as we’ve worked out all of the details to find the best overall solution.
The best solution: repurpose for projects across the country
Since we can’t reuse the insulation at the job site, we’re doing the next best thing — using it elsewhere! Sentry is working with Nationwide Foam Recycling to make it available to contractors around the country and we’re making it available to our customers, too.
The process works like this:
As our team removes the old insulation, they inspect it to determine which pieces are either broken or water damaged and which are suitable for reuse.
The reusable ones are stacked, palletized, wrapped, lowered to ground level and trucked to the Nationwide repurposing facility or to our warehouse. From there the pallets are distributed around the country. Repurposed insulation is popular for use in barns, basements and attics, and when the goal is to upgrade R-value without paying the higher price of new insulation.
Locally, we’ve already been able to offer one of our regular customers a significant discount to upgrade their current insulation. A total of 50,000 square feet of perfectly functioning insulation from Concourse E is now being used for that office building project.
Imagine an eight-foot wall that’s 131,000 feet long
How much insulation are we really talking about? Stretch it out end to end at it would look like an eight-foot wall that runs for 10 city blocks. Or more than 18 football fields, including the end zones. There are 1,050,000 square feet in total and we project that up to 80% can be reused.
New Sentry roof is designed for the biggest warranty possible
While we’re relieved to have found alternatives to sending the insulation to landfill, we want the new roofing system to last a very long time — the old system should’ve lasted another 15 years. To prevent another early demise, this new Firestone TPO roof can withstand two-inch hail and do it’s job for 30 years. The thickness of the new membrane and the strong reinforcements are what make the difference. Buildings that opt for super-thick membranes typically have extremely valuable objects or processes inside, such as data centers and buildings belonging to NASA. Companies that want the very best choose super-thick membranes, too.
In addition to providing a tough-as-nails roofing system that will scoff at almost anything that weather, humans or rooftop machinery can throw at it, the airport will enjoy an added bonus with its new roof. It’s also super-low maintenance! Which is part of a sustainable design as well.
Sustainable design — it’s a mindset
Whenever possible, Sentry Roof reuses and recycles roofing materials. We’ve made sustainable design central to our business model, which includes designing new roofs in ways that allow materials to last longer and have a better chance of being reused when it’s time to re-roof. The more we can improve longevity and use what’s already been produced and paid for, the better it is for the environment and for our customers’ budgets.
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