Higher Ed Projects Top Commercial Synthetic Slate Roof Trend

From Georgia to Minnesota to Oklahoma, higher ed synthetic slate roofs by DaVinci are growing in popularity as commercial roofers’ top choice for college campuses and universities.

Rivals Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia both boast composite slate roofing on major campus structures. Student residence halls at the University of Minnesota, Valparaiso University and The College of New Jersey are all covered with synthetic slate roofing. Similarly, historic structures at Mt. St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame and University of Nebraska have all had commercial roof replacements with DaVinci synthetic slate.

Contractors Rely on DaVinci Slate

At the College of New Jersey, Strober Roofing & Metal Works installed DaVinci Slate on two separate commercial roofing projects. The first on a residence hall in 2011. The second on an aquatic center in 2012.

“The College of New Jersey asked me what I recommended as the best roof for these re-roofing projects and I said it had to be DaVinci,” says Gerald Strober. “The officials at the school did their research and agreed with my recommendation.”

In Minnesota, a leading commercial roofing company, Central Roofing, also recommended DaVinci synthetic slate tiles for a university project. This time for the renovation of the five-floor Pioneer Hall residence/dining student living center.

On old and new buildings alike, higher ed synthetic slate roofs are popping up on campuses across the country.

“We started by making presentations of product options to the project architect,” says Henri Germain, project manager/estimator with Central Roofing Company. “The architect moved forward with the DaVinci product because of the aesthetics, value and long-term benefits to the university.”

“The DaVinci Multi-Width Slate product got approved for this project because it so authentically duplicates real slate,” according to Jesse Turner, onsite project manager for McGough Construction, the general contractor for the project. “Yet, at the same time, there are many benefits of having a top-quality synthetic roof. The impact- and fire-resistancy, plus low maintenance aspects are huge benefit for the university.”

Mansard Applications

On several higher ed campuses, synthetic slate roofs plays a more visible role than just topping off structures. In mansard applications, commercial roofers work to showcase a lower slope as one of the roof elements.

The Smith and Mohawk residence towers on the campus of the State University of New York (SUNY) perfectly illustrate mansard roofing. Eight buildings feature almost vertical mansard roofing using DaVinci Multi-Width Slate in a European color blend. The roofing stretches almost four stories high, providing a very visible view of the synthetic slate.

However, perhaps no school displays mansard roofing quite like Butler Community College in Eldorado, Kansas. There you’ll find 16 structures with DaVinci slate — all applied in a mansard application. The classrooms, resource centers and student activity areas all boast impact-resistant synthetic slate tiles. The decision was made to use the tiles after golf ball to baseball sized hail damaged 95 percent of all the roofing on campus during a severe storm in 2015.

“The damaged concrete and clay tile roofing had to go,” says Lynn L. Umholtz, director of facilities management at Butler Community College. “We chose the synthetic slate DaVinci tiles because they’re practically maintenance free. These durable composite tiles won’t crack or break, even if hit with a baseball bat or hammer.  That’s impressive.”

Stand-Out Specialty Campus Buildings

Every school has its showpiece structures. For these buildings the selection of roofing is even more important.

At Mississippi State University it’s the Old Main Academic Center.  The four-story structure was designed to resemble the Old Main Dormitory that was destroyed by fire in 1959. The new 150,000-square-foot structure has 20 classrooms, 14 study rooms, a library and auditorium.

Synthetic slate roofs on higher ed campuses are growing in popularity because they complement historic buildings and reduce maintenance costs. The commercial roofing team at Graham Roofing faced the challenge of installing the Slate Gray DaVinci synthetic slate roofing tile overhead. “This was our first time installing DaVinci products,” says Mickey Gilmer, estimator at Graham Roofing out of West Point, MS. “It was more ‘contractor friendly’ than other brands we’ve previously installed. The tiles come in pre-coordinated bundles. By not having to hand mix the tiles, nor having to bend the corners of the tiles prior to installation, we saved a tremendous amount of time and labor.”

At Danker Roofing, Inc., the roofing installation team spends so much time at Washburn University that they should enroll in classes. Originally covered with architectural asphalt shingles, they have now re-roofed the Bradbury Thomas Alumni Center, Whiting Field House and the Mulvane Art Museum with DaVinci synthetic slate products.

“We value the opportunity to complete a variety of roofing projects at Washburn University,” says Dallas Little, president of Danker Roofing out of Manhattan, Kansas. “This school was started in 1865, so there are many structures that need re-roofing on an ongoing basis. The school’s investment in the DaVinci products, with their 50-year limited warranty, means Washburn University officials won’t have to worry about new roofs on these buildings for many decades.”

Similarly, at Mt. St. Mary’s College, the school won’t have to worry about the roofing needs on the President’s Office for many years. Re-roofed with DaVinci Slate in 2007, the historic structure is worry-free. And, the authentic look of the synthetic slate compliments the style of the original 1800s building.

Architects Request Synthetic Slate for Higher Ed Roofs

In Trenton, N.J., Thomas Edison State College opened a state-of-the-art Nursing Education Center in 2016. The architectural goal was to find a roofing product with traditional massing. Ideally, one with exceptional warranties and good roof reflectance values. DaVinci Slate met all their needs.

“The DaVinci slate shingles helped add a sense of timelessness to the project,” says Stephen Doyle, AIA, LEED AP with Clarke Caton Hintz in Trenton, N.J. “They fit well within the historic context of this site. We found they have the thickest profile simulating traditional slate roofing — better than other polymer slate products we’ve seen. The color options also allowed us to identify the Castle Gray-VariBlend of two shades of gray. This coordinates very well for this project and location.”

The authentic look of DaVinci slate make it the ideal material for higher ed synthetic roofs. Across the country at the University of Notre Dame, the Sara Bea Learning Center for Students with Disabilities desperately needed a new roof in 2013. Senior Project Manager for Facilities Design & Operations at the University, Tony Polotto, fought the idea of using natural slate or replacing asphalt shingles.

“This residential style building couldn’t support the weight of traditional slate tiles so I looked into polymer slates,” says Polotto, LEED AP BD&C, RRC, RRO. “I reviewed many tile options but was most excited about the DaVinci Roofscapes Multi-Width Slate tiles. The appearance, features and benefits of the polymer slate was commendable. After the Learning Center roof was completed, I found myself so impressed with the product that I installed it on my own home.

“This is the first time we installed a slate alternative on campus, but you can’t tell any difference from the natural slate. The roof blends in perfectly with the surrounding buildings that feature real slate.

“Sustainability is a large part of how we construct buildings on our campus. The 50-year limited warranty provided by DaVinci aligns with our goal of using long-term, environmentally-friendly products.”