There’s a cold, howling breeze currently traversing through the rusty, Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the dead of the southwestern night. It encapsulates New Mexico’s oldest city, Santa Fe, which glistens beneath this vast mountain range. At a 7,000-foot elevation and with virtually no humidity entwined, the desert chill is actually pleasant and refreshing during most nights of the year, but, as of late, Santa Fe’s inhabitants have undoubtedly started to feel an exceedingly apparent temperature drop within these gusts. They are growing more frigid with each passing day, and they are now present way before the sun goes down. Soon enough, snow will hit the ground. There’s no doubt about it: Winter is imminent.
Yet for the local population, wintertime does not equate batting down the hatches and slowly lulling into hibernation. Quite the opposite, in fact, it is an eventful occasion fraught with opportunity to explore the creative bedrock and wealth of culture that characterizes this vibrant city. Winter art markets, Canyon Road and its countless art galleries, traditional Pueblo drumming echoing through the streets, and flavorful pots of green chile stew at the dinner table are but a few captivating ingredients of the season that residents choose to exploit.
At the end of the day, however, these residents will want to feel cozy while back at their homes during this winter, and, ideally, they’d like to experience that without letting their energy bills go through the roof. Speaking of roofs, it was actually the recent installation of a sustainable spray polyurethane foam system to a damaged roof that facilitated comfort and energy efficiency to prevail in the home office of one of Santa Fe’s most celebrated denizens. The occupant of this Pueblo Revival style building is no other than George R.R. Martin, famed novelist and author of Song of Ice and Fire, the source of inspiration for a major television series.
The motivation behind his decision was brought on by the following scenario: The roof of Martin’s office building, which is located adjacent to his home, had suffered structural damage from ponding and lingering ice damming in the canales (wooden drain spouts commonly found in Pueblo architecture that are used to drain water from flat roofs) that was caused by heat loss on the roof.
Martin was advised by his contractor and trusted associate of 35 years, Marshall Thompson of Constructive Assets, that a robust, high-performing SPF roofing system would not only eliminate these problems, but it would also provide
a continuous insulation to his office. It was an all too fitting coincidence that the author who has given powerful acclaim to words like “winter” and “ice” gave the nod to a home project that keeps both elements at bay.
“He [Martin] is always looking for ways to be environmentally friendly—from driving a Tesla to installing solar collectors to one of his homes,” notes Thompson. “He is a writer that prefers to work in cold temperatures and he uses this building as an office, so I’m not sure how high the temperature on the thermostat will be throughout the winter, but I can tell you that by having a spray foam roof, the space will be conditioned, so that he can remain comfortable without having to overwork his HVAC system. Conversely, when summer comes around, he will be able to work in cool and ideal indoor conditions if he happens to be here.”
With the project being greenlit, the responsibility that came with it went from one trusted source to another. Thompson contracted SPF specialists Southwest Spray Foam (SWSF) to install the roofing system before winter settles in. Having previously worked with Matt Segura and Aaron Lewis, owners and operators of SWSF, on several spray foam insulation and roofing applications, Thompson didn’t think twice to bring him on for this notable project. But what exactly did this particular retrofit job entail? Oh, nothing short of a complete roof redesign.
To reverse the damaging effects of ponding and ice damming, Constructive Assets and SWSF devised a plan that called for increasing the height of the parapet walls and increasing the slope of the roof using spray polyurethane foam. This would create drainage that would eradicate all ponding and, simultaneously, it would boost the R-value of the writer’s quarters, canceling out heat loss. To execute this plan, SWSF utilized materials that comprised of NCFI Polyurethanes’ EnduraRock waterproofing roof system.
“We needed to stop the interior warm air from escaping and raising the temperature of the attic, which could cause snow on the roof to melt and create moisture that would run down and freeze up at the edge of the canale,” points out Segura. “And by having a good slope, we get the ponding water off of the roof. A spray foam roof system takes care of these issues by offering optimal insulation and minimal height to the flat roof.”
The first step towards bringing this result to fruition consisted of an entire removal of the existing modified bitumen torch-down flat roofs, right down to the plywood roof deck. A removal of the existing eight-inch parapet walls was also necessary. To get this done, SWSF sent a demolition crew of eight to Martin’s home to carry out the tear-off. Since the job site occupied a densely populated residential area of Santa Fe, the SWSF crew took it upon themselves to communicate thoroughly with neighbors to ensure that their vehicles were moved or masked off, and that their homes were also covered with plastic sheeting for protection from debris and, later on, from overspray damage. Upon removal of the existing roof system, the SWSF crew then framed and installed to the roof new parapet walls that extended the height of the original parapets by seven inches (15-inch parapets), which helped augment the roof slope before the foam was installed.
Once phase one was finalized, it was time for SWSF to send in their spray crew, fire up their Graco Reactor H-40 proportioner, and get to work. The four-man spray crew suited up in Tyvek coveralls, full-face respirators, safety goggles, gloves, boots, and safety harnesses that tied off to roof anchors for fall protection when working along the edges. Even though the SWSF crewmembers practiced caution during the application by halting spraying activity whenever the aforementioned, signature Santa Fe winds made their way into the application area, they also furnished spray shields that crewmembers held while placing themselves behind the sprayer to block out overspray as the foam was released. The SWSF crew used a Graco GX-7 to install NCFI’s 10-011 2.8 lb. spray polyurethane foam to a total spray area of 2,200 square feet. They installed three inches of foam to the canales to prevent future ice dams and 10 inches of foam to the flat roof surface to create the desired roof slope.
The next step of the project involved the application of NCFI’s EnduraTech Silicone 70-025 single component, moisture-cure elastomeric coating to the perimeter of the roof. The SWSF crew roll-applied two, 20-mil coats of the silicone coating.
Gravel aggregate was then embedded to the entire roof, topping off the foam and concluding the roofing system application. Between tearing off the roof, building and installing the parapet walls, and installing the roof system, it took SWSF a week to complete the project, and their work was well-received by Thompson and Martin himself, as the roof will now have proper drainage and the indoor environment of the office will present quintessential working conditions.
It was a crucial winterization endeavor that merited a successful outcome since there is no conceivable measure as to how important it is to provide the best possible environment for one of the most creative minds in Santa Fe; one that habitually invokes fabular images of fire-breathing dragons, sword duels between knights, or even metaphysical beings that take semi-human form in order to wreak havoc. Consider the possibility: This winter; in this particular spot; Martin could very well conjure up part of yet another literary epic masterpiece.
“With increased R-value and a sloping roof, this building will perform excellently and could potentially have over 30 years of life, if properly maintained,” assures Segura. “I think we achieved exactly what Mr. Martin had in mind, and if our work here plays even the smallest of roles in helping him create many more great stories that will stand the test of time, then that validates how great it can be to do what we do.”