Cover Story

The mountain scenery surrounding the old mining city of Butte, Montana is breathtakingly beautiful, in 
spite of its share of hard times.  Butte’s fortunes fell with the decline of the copper mining industry in 
the 1980s.  The city later became the largest Superfund environmental cleanup site in the U.S.  What 
is impressive is how far Butte has come in rebuilding its uptown area and restoring its environment.  
The new Emma Park Neighborhood Center (Emma) is a perfect example of Butte’s recent progress.  
The 10,000 sq.ft. building will accommodate programs to benefit poor and low-income households as 
well as programs to encourage homeownership and continued improvements to housing and infrastructure.  It will feature a community room that will be used for educational purposes and provide a meeting space for the Emma Park Neighborhood Council.  The room will also serve as a social gathering place for citizens of the area.  “Now we can focus on this hard-hit neighborhood,” said Margie Seccomb, the incoming chief executive officer of the Human Resources Council (HRC) District XII, a nonprofit organization that operates Butte’s transitional housing unit and provides services for five other nearby counties.  “We’re going to try to create a more livable environment for people.”
The team of K&K Roofing Inc. of Butte, ThinkOne Architecture of Bozeman, Montana, and Montana-based general contractor Swank Enterprises shared Seccomb’s energy, creativity, and determination.  The final design and functionality of the community center reflects their success.  The biggest challenge that affected the owner and every member of the building team was the complexity of the funding package managed by Seccomb and HRC and supported by Butte’s urban revitalization agency.  Various agencies and private sources donated more than 90% to the cost of the construction project.  For example, Northwestern Energy, the primary provider of power and gas in Montana, gifted the PV solar system for the Emma project.  The company viewed the effort as a public education opportunity to show how solar could be integrated into a facility without being obtrusive to the building’s architecture or the historic quality of uptown Butte.
Coordinating the funding, however, took time and put the husband-and-wife team of Kevin and Carrie Keane of K&K Roofing in a tight spot.  The roofing of the three-level structure needed to begin in January 2014.  At 5,300’ above sea level, Butte has seen record cold temperatures of -52° in January.  But the Keanes were fortunate, as 75% of the daytime temperatures that January were at or above freezing, with one day hitting a high of 55°.  “Specifications for garden roofs are strict and require a fair amount of planning prior to installation,” explained Carrie Keane.  “Our concerns included membrane type and thickness, slip sheet requirements, the load bearing capabilities of the roof, and the roof edging.”
“From the initial phases of design we wanted to make the building an example of what can be done in terms of roofing and construction technologies,” explained Bill Hanson, president of ThinkOne Architecture.  “We wanted to integrate both a reflective and vegetative roof and solar panels into the building, and we felt it would be ideal to place them in a spot where people could actually see and interface with them.  Even though these two elements, vegetative and solar, were anticipated early in the design stage, they weren’t integrated into the roofing work until the end of the project,” continued Hanson.  “Both GAF and the roofing contractor greatly assisted us in getting through the additional inspections and the entire roofing process.”
The solar panels mounted above the windows at the entrance to Emma allow visitors a closer look at the latest energy-saving technologies.  An outdoor patio area also gives guests an excellent view of the extensive 1,500 sq.ft. vegetative roof.  Typically, extensive vegetative roofs have a thin growing medium and require minimal maintenance.  A GardenScapes™ roof supplied by GAF of Parsippany, New Jersey, was chosen, with 3⁄4” smooth river rock for the edging.  The GAF GardenScapes roof provides a warranty for both the vegetative system and the TPO single-ply roof.  The roof manufacturer also guarantees the plants, which were installed by K&K in September of 2014.  “GAF’s plants have a history of performance in climates like ours and the company offered the owner a 15-year, NDL systems warranty on the entire project,” added Kevin Keane of K&K Roofing.  “Just as important, GAF representatives Mike Chismer and Ryan Rees worked with us from start to finish.”
One of many innovative design features used by architect ThinkOne also made the job easier for the roofing contractor.  Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) were used to form the structure of the building and the roof surface.  “In essence, K&K Roofing had a deck with insulation built in, as well as a smooth surface to install the TPO membrane,” said project architect Jon Wirth.  “We’ve had good success using SIPS in this climate.  It provided an excellent insulated shell for the structure and a uniform substrate for roof and wall surfaces.”  And on this particular project, the 12” SIPS panels provided an eye-opening insulation value of about R-48.

Let the Sunshine In
The owner and design team had another challenge for K&K Roofing when they decided to install a rack-type solar PV system months after the TPO roof was first installed.  Fortunately, the tan reflective single-ply roof and super-size insulation package was an advantage when the solar panels increased the heat load on the roof surface.  The lower surface temperatures of the TPO membrane also benefited the vegetative roof.  According to Carrie Keane, “Our people were up there with the solar contractor inspecting the roof to ensure that its weather tightness was not compromised.  GAF inspector Ed Ashley was also on hand after the installation of the solar system.”
A union shop for 14 years, K&K employees have a wealth of roofing experience.  Foreman Mike Marsenich, a ten-year veteran with the company, supervised the six-man roofing crew that also installed all the edge and cap metal.  For additional impact resistance, a 1⁄4” gypsum board was used beneath the single-ply membrane, and walkway pads were placed around the solar arrays.
While high wind resistance requirements were not a significant factor in the design, the freeze-thaw cycles the structure would experience had the attention of the building team.  The architect met this challenge by using a slip-sheet under the solar racks and installing concrete blocks that were integrated into the aluminum racking’s design.  “The roofing contractor also did its part by locating drains and scuppers correctly to avoid ice damming and the resulting additional loads on the roof,” said Wirth.

A Community Effort
In addition to saving energy, the roof also saves water.  The city and county of Butte-Silver Bow recently adopted federal water retention guidelines, and the vegetative roof turned out to be an ideal method for capturing excess rainwater.  The Youth Services division overlooks the vegetative roof, which can also be seen from a second-floor sun porch.
HRC was looking for a high-performance building to showcase the latest energy-saving and environmental technologies.  The SIP panels put the project above-and-beyond in terms of insulation values; it was important to use the roof as more than just a waterproofing surface for the building.  “The Emma Park Neighborhood Center is a true example of a community project, and through the efforts of many people, the roof and building design were a success,” said Hanson.
Vegetative Roof & Solar
High-Tech Building Helps Revitalize Uptown Butte, Montana
by Michael Russo, contributing editor
Architectural West Magazine
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