School Districts Discover New Ways to Acquire Roofing

When it comes to roofing purchases, school administrators typically have two things to protect: the building envelope and the taxpayer pocketbook. The good news is that, for schools throughout the country, new delivery options are streamlining the roof procurement process and easing financial pressures.

“Today, especially with public purse strings tightening, the trend in roof purchasing is toward an even greater emphasis on openness, competition, and fair pricing,” says Bob Garrison Jr., principal of Garrison Architects, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Garrison’s 25-member, full-service firm does 70 percent of its work for New Jersey K-12 schools and is the architect of record for 50 school districts.

This article will introduce you to a full range of delivery methods, but keep in mind that laws governing available options vary from state to state. Check with your district’s lead purchasing officer or superintendent to learn what arrangements the law will permit you to make. If your state’s procurement options are somewhat limited, the information in this article will help you educate your local community regarding alternative delivery methods that may help your district better meet its roofing procurement objectives.

Teamwork and Quality: The Cornerstones of Success

Making a good roof purchasing decision depends on many factors, including:
•    the quality of the materials;
•    the financial stability and personal integrity of your roofing partners;
•    the skill level, safety protocols, and bonding capabilities of the installer; and
•    the ability of the material manufacturer to stand behind its warranty.

Although procurement methods are changing, roofing will always be a complex purchase, never a simple commodity. Making sound decisions depends on attaining solid advice and input from experts who might include — in various combinations — an architect, roofing consultant, manufacturer’s representative, and one or more contractors. It should be noted that neither architects nor consultants directly procure roofing solutions for their clients; however, their professional services can be invaluable in helping you translate your performance requirements into a material specification.

Garrison believes that attaining quality services and materials should always be the foremost objective. “The suppliers who come to the top of my pile are those that provide superior materials put down correctly and warranties that step up to the plate,” he explains. Most school administrators would agree that, although the bid protocols related to government procurement can protect the taxpayer against certain types of financial abuse, low bid does not necessarily equate to high value.

Define Your Role
When choosing between procurement options, start out by asking yourself how involved you want to be in the specifying, purchasing, and installation processes. Do you want — and are you qualified — to manage all aspects of your roofing purchase and installation, or would it be in the best interests of your district to have a professional coordinate all or parts of the project?

Be aware that, regardless of the procurement method, if your district directly orders roofing materials, it will be liable for the kinds and quantities of materials ordered. Under ordering could significantly delay your project; over-ordering will result in needless costs, as materials ordered directly by the consumer typically cannot be returned for a full refund. You also will be responsible for finding a qualified contractor to install your job. For these reasons, it may be best to involve an architect, roofing manufacturer’s representative, or contractor in the specifying and ordering process.

In terms of warranty protection, be sure that you fully understand all terms and conditions and how and with whom to file a claim. Most roofing purchases are warranted by two sources: the roofing material manufacturer, who covers material defects, and the roof installer, who is responsible for correcting workmanship problems. Keep in mind that installers may sometimes be willing to negotiate warranty terms and may offer upgraded or extended protection as purchasing incentives.

Contract Purchasing

State Term Schedules Promise Best-Value Pricing
In some states, roofing purchases can be made according to state term contract schedules, an option many schools find both convenient and cost effective. State term contract schedules typically piggyback off General Service Administration (GSA) contract schedules, therefore allowing school districts to reap the benefits of the GSA’s negotiations for vendors’ best commercial pricing for materials and, in a few states, labor.

To earn a place on a state’s approved supplier list, vendors respond to a blanket invitation to bid. Most vendors submit line-item pricing based on a typical job. Pricing is often specified in units — per square foot, for example. Selected vendors must satisfy all of the requirements in the GSA’s blanket invitation to bid and agree to offer pricing that is better than or equal to the pricing they would offer their most-favored customers. Vendors pledge to stand by their pricing until the next contract review, which most states perform annually.

Victor Sandoval, facilities/construction administrator for the 10,000-student Franklin McKinley School District, San Jose, CA, has purchased roofing numerous times using the California Multiple Awards Schedule (CMAS). It is a choice that, according to Sandoval, saves his district an average of 15 to 30 percent on every job. “I’ve been in construction for more than 25 years, and this is definitely my preferred method of buying,” he says.

Selecting from the state’s list of approved suppliers can reduce or even eliminate the need to secure multiple bids. But remember, determining the actual cost of a roofing job depends on a thorough analysis of the roof in question, your geographic location, and other variables. Issues unique to your project may result in add-ons that far exceed the materials and services listed on a pricing schedule.

State term buying is not offered everywhere, and some states stipulate minimum and maximum buying thresholds. Your state government’s Website will advise you about purchasing options and offer instructions for state term purchasing, if available.
Co-op Buyers Unite to Save
Another means of gaining access to competitive, pre-negotiated pricing on all kinds of goods — including, in recent years, roofing materials — is through a cooperative purchasing organization. Co-ops are organized on a regional or national scale to serve buyers who have similar purchasing needs, and co-op membership can give you access to products and pricing that otherwise might not be available. Co-op buying can be a good option when state term buying is not available.

Typically, co-ops select vendors based on a competitive bid process similar to the one used to select state term vendors. Co-ops, however, set their own standards for determining best value and do not necessarily follow GSA guidelines for accepting and reviewing pricing.

Like state term purchasing, co-op buying can eliminate or reduce the need to complete a competitive bid process. But the same caution applies: The actual cost of your project depends on factors unique to your roof, your location, and other considerations.

An Internet search for co-operative state purchasing can acquaint you with the co-ops available in your region.
Professional Relationships Pay
Direct Purchasing
On all of his projects to date, Victor Sandoval has gone directly to a roofing manufacturer, whose staff performs the roof survey, handles all necessary engineering, and prepares specifications. “Working with one person (the manufacturer’s representative) who can provide an answer and a resolution makes my job so much simpler and saves the district significant dollars,” says Sandoval.

Buying direct from a roofing manufacturer, with or without the added benefits of a state term contract, is particularly advantageous when you want to specify rooftop performance (e.g., a roof that lasts 30 years with a minimum of maintenance required), rather than a specific method for achieving it (e.g., a single ply, fire resistant EPDM). Working directly with a manufacturer that seamlessly delivers both products and services, including roof surveys and analysis, specification support, job site inspections, and preventive maintenance programs, provides the added benefit of single-source accountability

However, a manufacturer’s rep’s ability to provide the best possible roofing solution will be limited to his company’s product line, which may or may not include the best solution for your particular project. The success of this delivery option depends to a significant degree on the breadth of products offered and the knowledge and personal integrity of your representative.

Purchasing Through Contractors
Roof material purchases also can be made from a roofing contractor or a general contractor. Both options put the contractor in charge of ordering materials and coordinating shipping and storage. The contractor is responsible for any material overages as part of a “not to exceed” price.

Roofing contractor Eric Gelal, owner of Terik Roofing of Akron, OH, believes working with an accessible, locally based contractor offers distinct advantages to school administrators. He explains, “On the purchasing side, your local contractor can sub-contract through a state procurement design-builder, which gives you the advantage of state-approved pricing. It preserves the bid process, while limiting the bidders to pre-approved contractors. Then, as far as repairs go down the road, you already have a relationship with someone who knows your roof.”

When roofing is part of a larger project that involves numerous trades, purchasing from a general contractor can be a good choice. The general contractor solicits bids for materials and labor based on a pre-determined scope of work, and manages all sub-contractors.

Working with a general contractor offers you the convenience of single-source buying. Take time, however, to carefully review the contractor’s choice of materials and labor to be sure that you agree with his perceptions of best value.

Contractors of all kinds can be expected to mark up the costs of materials and labor in order to cover their overhead expenses. You have a right to know how your contractor’s markups contribute to the overall cost of your project. As with direct purchasing, the success of procurement through a contractor depends significantly on the knowledge and personal integrity of your partner.

Keep It Under One Roof

Design-Builders Do It All
Design-build can offer the ultimate in single-source convenience and accountability, and is especially appropriate for complex projects requiring a full range of architectural, design, engineering, and contracting services. True to the ancient tradition of a “master builder,” a design-build firm handles every aspect of a project, from concept to completion. In the case of roofing, services include inspection and life-cycle cost analysis; design for new construction, retrofit, and/or renovation; materials specification; bid-process management for the entire scope of work; installation; and in some cases, long-term roof maintenance.

Design-build necessitates only one purchase order: to the design-build firm, which commits to a timeline and a guaranteed maximum price for the entire project. The design-builder bids out all materials and labor, manages all subcontractors, and resolves any cost or timeline discrepancies throughout the course of the job. With one responsible partner coordinating and overseeing every aspect of your project, design-build can greatly reduce administrative burdens, heighten quality control and risk management, and protect against cost overruns.

Educating Your Way to Success
Today’s facility managers are fortunate to have so many roof delivery options available. However, identifying the best one for a particular project requires a careful consideration of all relevant factors, including budgetary and timeline requirements, the permanence of the structure being roofed, the complexity of the job, and your own ability and availability to supervise the project. Taking the time to educate yourself on the available options is your best guarantee of long-term success.

Victoria Welling is a freelance writer in Cleveland, OH.