The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Louisiana, recently launched a pilot program to explore temporary roofing options for homes that may otherwise have been disqualified from the USACE Operation Blue Roof program.
Under the current program, many homes that may need assistance are ineligible for a temporary roof. USACE does not install temporary roofs on some types of metal roofs, flat surfaces, tile or slate roofs and if there is more than 50 percent structural damage to the roof. Josh Marx, USACE temporary roofing program manager, said the reason that these types of roofs are currently ineligible is that the traditional blue roof installations require fastening nails through furring strips directly into the roof. He said nailing the traditional blue roof on these ineligible surfaces could ultimately cause more harm to the roof. Marx said the new pilot program explores the use of shrink wrap material that minimizes or completely removes the need for nails into the roof.
Marx added that the pilot program has been on the temporary roofing program’s radar for several years but said the timing never really worked out in any of the previous temporary roofing missions. He said the difference maker this year was the sheer speed of the Hurricane Ida blue roof mission. He said at the height of the installation effort, the three blue roof contractors installed more than 1,500+ roofs in a day which allowed for the team on the ground to also look at potential program improvements.
Col. Zachary Miller, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District and Hurricane Ida Recovery Field Office commander, said he’s optimistic about the potential uses for the new program. “If this pilot program works as intended, it could really be a game changer for survivors needing a temporary roof following a major storm event,” he said. “Disasters can devastate a region but being able to stay in your home while you recover is a win-win for the survivor and the community.”
The pilot program, also known as Roof Wrap, focuses on using shrink wrap materials that are installed under the roof via furring strips. The strips are typically nailed to the fascia or soffit depending upon the architectural elements of the house. Once the material is secured to the home, a contractor then uses heat to shrink the material and create a water-tight seal over the roof. The repairs, while temporary in nature, provide a homeowner more time to find permanent repair solutions that can take time following a large disaster.
Diane Gros, a homeowner in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, said she was initially denied USACE assistance for her roof damage because she had a slate roof. She said she was happy to receive the call to see if she’d be interested in participating in the pilot program because she had exhausted all of her options to make the necessary repairs to her home and didn’t have insurance. She said the roof wrap repairs are performing as designed and was very appreciative of the support she received. “Thank you all for what you are doing,” she said. “Until you called, nobody was willing to help me. What you are doing is pretty amazing.”
Being able to help survivors is what this pilot program is all about, said Marx. He added that it was a matter of identifying solutions and finding out how to make it happen. He added that the shrinkable plastic material is already used in certain industries to include boat coverings for shipment or winter storage. The material, which is usually around 10 to 12 mil in thickness, has been used intermittently by insurance companies and in other countries for temporary roof repairs following disasters, but this is the first time that USACE has explored the option. “If this works out, it could really help to augment the existing temporary roofing program,” Marx said.
Tony Jones, St. Louis District construction chief and Operation Blue Roof resident engineer, said USACE awarded three separate contracts to cover a total of 18 homes with varying methods and materials on multiple different roof types. He said the selection process for the homes was done in part using a list of previously disqualified homes and reviewing the Center for Disease Control’s Social Vulnerability Index to help determine areas that needed the most support. After a detailed evaluation of homes that might be eligible for the pilot program, Jones said his team reached out to the homeowners to see if they’d be interested in being a part of the pilot program.
The next step in completing the pilot study will be a detailed review of the construction activities. Jones said the review will help explain what works and what could possibly be improved if they were to do a similar activity in the future. He said he’s mainly focused on the technical aspects of the construction process and how things were installed. He also said USACE plans to monitor the temporary roofs in the coming weeks, months to see how the temporary roofs perform.
USACE and FEMA remain committed to providing temporary roofing solutions following disasters. Any final decision on including this pilot program as an additional option in future disasters would need to be decided by leadership within USACE and FEMA after all the data is gathered.