Roofing Asset Management Software
 

Article: No. RAS-KB-5-16.1

 

Summary:  This article we will review roof asset management software for documenting as built roof system construction used in conjunction with initial roof inspections and multiyear roof system management programs. The article intent is to provide an introduction for building owners and property managers for selecting service providers that offer a technology deliverable as part of their roofing system observation service. The Author can be reached by e-mail for questions concerning content or the opinions expressed in this article. Please use the Article number for reference.

 

Software for Roofing Assessment

 

Why is software even a topic for a roofing assessment article?  The primary reason facility managers should explore the topic is to minimize the business risk from assessment companies that package bundled technologies into the customer deliverable.  Identifying pros and cons of general software tools for office and business automation, firms with Apps as marketing tools Vs databases will help evaluate potential service providers.

 

Range of Technologies

 

This article is not intended to explain software design; thin client vs. thick client architectures covering the range of technologies used by roof assessment companies includes; off the shelf software, customized web tools, apps for smart phones, roofing specific databases, including professional software with automated condition index calculation features.

 

This introduction is intended to explain some of the differences between off the shelf software, light smart phone apps Vs commercially available asset management solutions.  Adding additional category is assessment tools build by local programmers delivering proprietary design, build app/programs for individual firms.

 

Software  Descriptions

 

  1. Off the Shelf
  2. Custom Apps
  3. Custom Web services
  4. Low data - commercial software
  5. High data - commercial software

 

To compare one firm’s technical solution from another requires getting into the details; data being managed, data structure and software functionality. Often the first barrier is the service provider; without enough detail for a transparent evaluation of their technology platform. 


Starting with off the shelf software, the intended function is usually obvious.  We all have used M.S. Word, or a PDF generator. For commercial programs the program functionality may be based on several embedded software components, however, using free trials and demos these features can be identified.  For custom apps and websites, the evaluation requires some level of access to their site and the program specifications.  Since roof assessment firms with custom solutions may  limit access, the evaluation may require  the building manager with both access and incentive to look into the software solution.  Service providers will also name their solution with descriptions like “roofing asset management”, knowing many building owners will assume the name accurately describes the application.

 


One of the easiest forms of technical automation is adopting off the shelf software.  The author makes a point that being able to identify common technologies; including design elements of roofing assessment software are one way to compare service providers.  

A few of the preferred off the shelf technologies found in roofing assessment deliverables.

 

  1. Word Processing (DOC)
  2. Portable Document Format (PDF)
  3. Tabular Data Spreadsheets (XLSX)
  4. Compressed Image File Format (JPEG)
  5. Common CAD File Format (DWG)

 

This list represents a few of the most common technologies used to organize observation information.  Note: proprietary information can be created around any number of these formats. The use of common technologies packaged in a unique way, maybe the most common deliverable used by roofing assessment firms.

 

A Roofing Assessment Database

 

A data base technology designed for Roofing Assessment should provide users with options for collecting data in an organized format to maintain more consistent observation data. By building a database where records are stored, the roof assessment observations can build histories, and trends in addition to enabling the content for annual reports and budgets.   

 


Of course, not all roofing databases and programs are equal.  The design of the program may be focused on roofing service businesses; estimating replacements, quick field observations or proposals Vs long term asset management.

 


When inspecting a database for roofing assessments consider the time and effort to maintain observation records for several years, consider the organization of the data fields and identify designs that support industry data standards Vs proprietary formats.

 

Be cautious of any service provider that is promoting building a database or requesting a transfer of your data into their proprietary format; where the service provider controls the only available copy of the software.  Consider:


“If their approach is some black box analysis; supported in the software they created, closed to industry view. … If it was revolutionary they would patent it, publish a white paper, or sell it on the open market. Conclusion:  Proprietary software is often a sales tool…... “      

 

Sharing Data

 

One of the observations I found comparing the deliverables of roof assessment firms is the effort avoiding industry standards as a structured framework for their deliverables. Even the most prominent firms have perpetuated proprietary data, with unique naming standards, logic and analysis; Building owners looking for experience and qualifications, may find their vendor’s technology platform is just a word doc or basic tubular data.  Most likely, the solution plays a  role in marketing assessment services, and delivering reports and proposals.   

 

Building owners may also find troubling the effort to control access to their information is based on the revenue opportunity for the service provider.   It is not uncommon for a building owner to request reports and online access, and then over time realizes the service excludes access to raw data, or is based on proprietary terms and ratings insuring data migration will be both arduous and expensive.

 

It is important to separate where the value is for the service provider and where there is value to the building owner or facilities manager.

 

There is also the ROI of roof assessment.  Take a typical scope of work for roofing assessments.  If two final bidders both can both meet the project requirements; which would you prefer?  One will provide PDF reports and online data access; the second will also include the .RPE data export for the next round of assessments.

 

Receiving PDF’s, without a data migration option would be significantly less valuable than providing updates  to  owners database or a .RPE migration option to common RoofPro™  data platform.  One reason organizations are adopting non-vendor technology platforms that allow choosing multiple service providers for large geographic areas, or awarding assessments to firms based on merit over several assessment cycles; without losing control of their electronic data.

 

However, building owners should be prepared for vendors that try to separate building owners from their data either with off the shelf solutions with no migration options, or proprietary solutions controlled by one vendor.

 


If the assessment data is hosted by the service provider, consider how the data will be migrated to another solution and request copies of the data quarterly for inspection.   One way to lower the risk the building owner, is specify the assessment solution, select a service provider using the preferred solution, or the owner provides a known commercial assessment solution that the contractor can update.  

 

If you’re a building owner and have more questions concerning this topic, and are looking for specifications and examples for setting up a roof assessment data or looking for local assessment contractors that will provide a common data platform base please contact us.  

 

Audience:   Building Owners, Property Managers, Facility Managers, V.P. Construction, Director of Building and Grounds, School Boards, Town Managers, Condo Construction Committees.

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