Center for the Arts trying system to make roof issues safer

Low maintenance and environmentally friendly

By Mark Reaman 

Winter weather can play havoc with any building at 9,000 feet but large buildings with multiple roof valleys and pitches are particularly susceptible to ice dams and their ramifications. The Crested Butte Center for the Arts this year decided to try a new system to mitigate those issues and, halfway through the winter, it appears to be working.

A “FloeSafe” de-icing system was installed at the Center for the Arts last fall and facilities manager Mark Schwiesow said the result has been a safer and easier way to maintain the building roof. “So far, the system seems to be working great,” he said this week. “Where we normally have very large and dangerous icicles over the entrance to the Center from the parking lot, we are now looking at a few small ones. The backside off the courtyard is equally clear.”

According to David Dellal of FloeSafe, the system leverages smart technologies, namely proprietary algorithms, real-time weather data and onboard sensors to monitor the roof for snow and ice buildup. When necessary, the system deposits a small volume of a non-corrosive, biodegradable and pet/plant safe deicing fluid onto the roof to enable melted snow water to discharge. Compared with existing solutions, it is far more effective, safer and has a carbon footprint that is less than 1%. The system is very low maintenance and can be remotely monitored. 

“We chose the Floe Safe system for both the anticipated efficiency and because of the decreased environmental impact: people, pet, plant safe de-icer fluid and, unlike traditional heat tape, it is not draining energy 24/7 in cold weather,” explained Schwiesow. “Our savings will be significant over time, both in terms of energy savings and in labor to have someone on the roof regularly to clear the ice dams and icicles for safety reasons.” 

The fluid comes in 55-gallon plastic drums which sit next to the control box in an out-of-the-way corner at the Center. The company estimated the building would need 65 gallons of fluid per winter, so a second drum is on hand. The control box monitors the fluid level in the current drum so that the Center knows when it is getting close to needing to switch over.

“I am excited to see how things progress with this experiment, but confidence is high,” said Schwiesow. “Before deciding to go with this system, I spoke with a couple of property managers who have used the system in places like Park City, Utah, and the recommendations were solid. We used less than 100 feet each of regular tubing and perforated tubing to address our problem areas on the atrium roof. It seems to be perfect for the issues we had in the past on the building, so we are really pleased.”

The FloeSafe founders will be in town to inspect the Center system on January 30. Schwiesow said they are open to talking to other building managers who might be interested in utilizing the system. So contact Schwiesow at the Center if interested.

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