Hard work is child’s play

Master Plan in Action: The Story of the Harwood Roof

by | Sep 8, 2021 | Latest News, What's Happening

About the new roof from National Roofing:

The process of putting a new roof on the Harwood Art Center started long before our trucks and crew arrived. It began with our team visiting the building and several meetings with former Executive Director Friedje vanGils to discuss Escuela’s and Harwood’s vision and goals for a new roof.

The building that now houses the Harwood Art Center and Sr. Elementary is 96 years old, and had a story to tell, filled with interesting facts. When we came to see the building and roof for the first time, we did some investigative work and began to learn more.

Part of this work was to measure the size of the building – which is 11,700 square feet, equal to the size of five or six average New Mexico homes!  We took hundreds of pictures and roof core samples, and this is where the story gets interesting.

When we looked into the roof, we found that there was more than one roof, which meant over the years another roof was put on, but then we went deeper and found dirt. Yes, dirt! It may seem crazy now to put dirt on a roof, but almost one hundred years ago, that is what they did. 

  • The dirt was put on the roof to help keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but also provided a slope in the roof, which helped the water run off. 
  • We also found some broken medicine bottles and spoons. 
  • It all had to come off the roof. We removed about 140 tons of dirt all the way down to the original concrete roof deck. You can imagine all of that weight coming off the roof, which actually let the ceiling rise a tiny bit.
  • Now we knew more of the story, so we had to come up with a plan to put a brand new roof on an old building that would continue its story. 

The roof had to be able to withstand the New Mexico weather for years and years, it also had to be strong enough to have the new energy-saving solar panels on top of it. Our number one goal is safety, so we installed safety railings, put up safety fencing on the ground for our equipment, and had a safety meeting every morning.

Finally, it was time to remove the old roof – and all that dirt!. Because the concrete was so old and bumpy, we couldn’t glue anything to it or put screws in it. But concrete remains strong for a long time. Remember we talked about the layer of dirt? That’s called a ballasted roof. Ballast is something that is used to hold something else down. In this case, we used river rock, which is a little smaller than your palm. The rock is what holds down the roofing assembly, which consists of the roofing insulation that helps save heat and cooling costs. We put about 70 tons of rock on the roof, a lot of weight, but half of what the dirt weighed. This system has been used for many years and was a great fit for the Harwood building.

All along our roofing crew was doing this work in very hot and dusty conditions, so they needed to be careful, wear breathing protection, and drink lots of water. Normally, you never see the roof of a building, but now when you look at that great old building you know a little more of the story.

Master Plan in Action: The Story of the Harwood Roof