As an architect, when did you last hear your client say, “Money is no object?” This happens … almost never! More likely what you hear is “I want high quality for low cost.” The challenge of the architect is to provide your client with high quality at a reasonable and appropriate price. A large part of finding that balance is determining the values, goals and long-term perspective of your client.
If a building owner wants a metal roof, it’s likely they already have a reason why. Perhaps their existing roof didn’t provide the service life they expected it to, or it was damaged disproportionately. Or the building owner understands that a metal roof can last a really long time. Or they like the look of a metal panel or metal shingle roof, with all the colors and shapes available. As an architect, it is important to determine your client’s mindset. In the end, the question comes down to, “How long will you own this building (or home)?” And, although less common, a building owner may just want to build a high-end, long-lasting building no matter their desired length of ownership.
The large part of the cost of a metal roof, similar to other roof types, is the labor to remove the existing roof and install the new one. Upgrading from a 24-gauge metal to 22-gauge metal is a minimal increase in material costs that is easily justifiable for the long term. Metal thickness, coating type and thickness, and penetration and edge details are the areas where upgrades and enhancements occur.
Argue against value engineering. Roofs certainly can be out of sight, out of mind to most owners, but building owners who are considering metal roof systems understand the concept of life-cycle analysis, whether they know it or not. Overtly reinforce their long-term outlook to help ensure that high-end penetration details and edge details are designed and installed. Look to the industry standards—SMACNA, NRCA—for details that will last the life of the metal panels. Realize that metal panels don’t leak; joinery and flashings are the potential leak locations. Upgrade the details to be of the highest quality.
Understanding the mindset of your client is critical to determining the level of design. This is definitely a cost issue. The “university” client thinks long term; the “developer” client thinks short term. However, there is much middle ground that requires inquisitive discussion with an owner to determine his/her goals. Ask the questions, and design a metal roof based on your client’s mindset.