Office-to-Residential Conversions: 5 Roofing Considerations

The office-to-residential (OTR) conversion is all the buzz, with articles in trade publications to business publications like Fast Company and the New York Times. We are seeing this trend moving to execution more so in larger congested downtowns such as New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco than in Texas cities.

However, as we enter 2024 and COVID-19 becomes a longer-term memory, companies will begin to finalize their new work environments, and the lasting impact on commercial office space will become clearer. When you add the urban housing shortage and the young professional migration, more Texas property owners may consider OTR conversion for their buildings.

The process for determining conversion is in-depth, including feasibility studies, zoning, architectural and engineering assessments, and design. Once you enter the design phase, you’ll determine community and public spaces, safety and accessibility, and utilities and services placement. These focus areas bring into play your roofing system.

When it comes to your roofing system, here are five areas you should consider and plan for when you are looking at OTR conversions.

  1. Understand Structural Integrity Limitations
    During the architectural and engineering assessments, you will learn the structural integrity of your building and have a better understanding of the loads that your roof can bear. This information plays heavily into how you decide to use this space. For instance, rooftop pools may be on the wish list, but the building may not be designed to support that purpose.
  1. Design Your Roof
    Most commercial buildings have functional roofs, including protection from the elements, water drainage, and HVAC and mechanical equipment. But when you transition use to primarily a residential property, the roof may take on an added life. Though most commercial properties don’t take full advantage, your roof offers a terrific space for community and public spaces from rooftop terraces, gardens, and recreational areas. Functionality and entertainment/outdoor living do still have to live harmoniously on your roof, so carefully planning and designing ongoing uses will be essential to the process.
  1. Select the Right Roofing System
    A new roofing system should be installed to accommodate the deck design. For three reasons, a new membrane is usually a better choice than going over the existing roof. The first, a new roof system will be designed to accommodate decking stresses. Secondly, removing and reinstalling the decking for a new roof later is costly. Finally, the construction traffic for building the outdoor living space will often cause significant damage to the existing roof system.
  1. Install the Appropriate Decking Materials
    The Roofing System you select will guide your decking material choice. For instance, if you are utilizing a roofing membrane system, wood decking is the likely choice, as you will need to close the gaps in the decking. For a concrete paver system, you will need higher insulation density because of the weight of the pavers. For poured concrete, a waterproofing-type system instead of a roofing system is a better choice.
  2. Create a Safe Space
    Whether utilizing your roof in a more traditional functional manner or creating an outdoor living space, you must include safety features in your design.  Safety barriers can be part of your design and add to the ambiance of the space. Beyond metal railing, you can look at glass panel railings that offer unobstructed views. Large planters can also be used as boundaries and create a green space on your roof.

No matter the extent of your OTR project, repurposing your space takes careful planning and coordination with professionals to help guide you along the way. Be sure to include roofing professionals in this process. The earlier all your experts are part of the planning process, the better equipped they are to guide critical decisions that will save headaches and money along the way.