Building Science

Prevailing Winds and Prevailing Codes: A Summary of Roof Related ASCE 7-22 Changes

By Kristin Westover

September 07, 2022


Several changes have been included in the 2022 version of ASCE 7 as they relate to the roof. You may be thinking, 'as soon as I mastered ASCE 7-16, an updated version is set to be released!'. As with any Standard, it can be expected that updates will be made to include current research or trends. While the inclusion of tornado loads and the resulting changes in the load combinations may be the most significant, there are other updates that affect roofing as well. From minor updates to basic wind speed maps, to stepped roofs, and pavers, we have compiled a summary to help you navigate the updates. Not to fret, the changes are likely to not be incorporated until the 2024 version of IBC. However, that does not preclude incorporating these changes on current and upcoming projects.

Why are these Changes Significant?

The goal of the calculations in ASCE 7 are to determine the uplift pressures on a roof given project constraints including building height, location, and Risk Category. The resulting uplift pressures are then compared with tested roof assemblies to determine which assembly(ies) can be installed on a roof for each unique building. The assembly selection will also dictate the fastening method, whether it be mechanically fastened or adhered, and also the number and spacing of selected attachments. Changes in the Code may affect calculated uplift pressures that may influence the available roof assemblies.

What is the Update? Updated Basic Wind Speed Maps

Wind speeds vary rapidly and are continuously being recorded at various locations around the world. Wind speeds are recorded in miles per hour (mph) in 3-second intervals and are collected over the course of a year. Then, the maximum values of the 3-second intervals are recorded and tracked to see the occurrence throughout the year. Since wind is a random phenomenon and the speeds vary not only by day, but also by year, the maximum 3-second intervals for each year are compared over several years. Rather than simply taking an average of wind speeds over time, the average wind speeds are analyzed by determining the Mean Recurrence Interval (MRI), which is how frequently a wind speed is equaled or exceeded during any given period of time (in years). Generally, higher wind speeds have a lower recurrence interval over time, and lower wind speeds have a higher recurrence rate over time. Analyzing this data is how wind speeds for a particular location are established.

Wind speed (mph) has to be translated into units of force (psf) for design purposes in accordance with ASCE-7. The resulting forces are different in various roof zones.

ASCE 7-16 has published basic wind speed contour maps for each Risk Category. The wind speed maps have contour lines that show the wind speeds throughout the United States as they vary by geographical location. It is allowable to interpolate between the contour lines, or the larger value listed on the contour line may be used. Additionally, if a location-specific wind speed is desired, an online Hazard Tool developed by ASCE will give an exact wind speed based on an address or GPS coordinates. The 2022 version updated wind speeds, primarily along the coastline. Wind speeds have generally either decreased by a few miles per hour or remained unchanged from ASCE 7-16, with the exception of several cities along the Gulf of Mexico coastline that have increased wind speeds due to recent hurricanes that have made landfall.

Basic wind speeds from select coastal locations in hurricane prone regions at 33 ft for Exposure Category C are shown below. Wind speed data is shown for both ASCE 7-16 and ASCE 7-22 as a comparison.

A table with a comparrison of wind speed requirements.

What is the Update? Wind directionality factor, Kd was moved

The wind directionality factor, Kd, was removed from the Velocity Pressure Coefficient and inserted into the Components and Cladding design wind pressures equation.

The directionality factor (Kd) is a load reduction factor intended to take into account a reduced probability that the maximum wind speed will exactly coincide with the weakest direction of a building. According to ASCE 7, it accounts for the probability that the wind speed will come from any one direction given a location, and the maximum wind speed will occur from the direction that produces the maximum wind pressure on the building or its components. The directionality factor has constant factors to be used for Main Force Resisting Systems or Components and Cladding, but also accounts for various shapes of structures such as arched roofs, circular domes, and chimneys or tanks.

In ASCE 7-16, Kd was located in the Velocity Pressure Equation (eq. 26.10-1) where velocity pressure, qh, is evaluated at the mean roof height, h. Where qh= qz .

qh=0.00256KhKztKdKeV2 Which provides a velocity pressure in pounds per square foot (psf).

The resulting value of qh is then multiplied by the external pressure coefficients (GCp) and then used to determine the wind pressure coefficients for each roof zone (perimeter, corner, field, etc.)

p = qh [(Gcp) - (GCpi)] (lb/ft2)

In ASCE 7-22, the velocity pressure, qh, is evaluated at the mean roof height, h. Where qh= qz by the following equation (eq. 26.10-1):

qh=0.00256KhKztKeV2 Which provides a velocity pressure in pounds per square foot (psf).

As you can see, the directionality factor, Kd, has been removed from the equation. In calculations for both the Main Wind Force Resisting System and Components and Cladding, Kd, has been inserted into the equations. However, since we are focusing on the roof, this falls within the Components and Cladding (C&C) calculations in Chapter 30. The design wind pressures of C&C elements are calculated with the following equations:

For low rise buildings with h≤ 60 ft: (eq. 30.3-1)

p = qh Kd[(Gcp) - (GCpi)] (lb/ft2)

For low rise buildings with h>60 ft: (eq. 30.4-1)

p = q Kd[(Gcp) - qi Kd(GCpi)] (lb/ft2)

What is the Update? Velocity Pressure Coefficients, Kz and Kh updated

The Velocity Pressure Coefficients, Kz and Kh, for Exposures B and C were updated. Kz is the velocity pressure coefficient evaluated at height z, and Kh is the velocity pressure coefficient evaluated at height z = h. The velocity pressure at mean roof height h uses Kz. The variables are inserted into equation 26.10 to determine Velocity Pressure, qz (see equations above).

Table 26.10-1 Velocity Pressure Exposure Coefficients

What is the Update? Simplified Methods for Calculating C&C Removed

The two simplified methods, Part 2 and Part 4 were removed from Chapter 30, Wind Loads, Components and Cladding.

In the 2016 version there were two simplified methods that allowed for reduced calculations:

  • Part 1 included calculations for Low-Rise Buildings

  • Part 2 was for Low-Rise Building (simplified)

  • Part 3 included calculations for buildings with h> 60ft

  • Part 4 was for buildings 60 ft<><160ft>

  • Part 5 is Open Buildings

  • Part 6 included Building Appurtenances, Rooftop Structures, and Equipment.

The 2022 version has removed the two simplified methods:

  • Part 1 for Low-Rise Buildings

  • Part 2 is for buildings with h> 60ft

  • Part 3 is Open Buildings

  • Part 4 includes Building Appurtenances, Rooftop Structures, and Equipment.

What is the Update? Section 30.12 was added to address roof pavers

Roof pavers are used in IRMA (Inverted Roof Membrane Assembly) and PMRA (Protected Membrane Roof Assembly) assemblies where the roofing components are installed at the structural roof deck level and then the pavers are installed as ballast on top of the roof assembly. Roof pavers vary in size, thickness, material, and spacing, in addition to installation method and pedestal size. Pavers are considered air permeable since the gaps between pavers and the space beneath the pedestals allow for partial air pressure equalization between the surfaces. Roof pavers were only addressed in the Commentary Section C30.1 of the 2016 version and are referred to as Air Permeable Cladding. However, siding, pressure equalized rain screen walls, shingles, tiles, and aggregate roof surfacing were all included in this category. In ASCE 7-16, 'because of partial air-pressure equalization provided by air-permeable claddings, the C&C pressures services from Chapter 30 can overestimate the load on cladding elements. The designer may elect to use the loads derived from Chapter 30 or those derived by an alternate method.' While equations and methods are not included in this edition, several references are included where calculation methods may be found.

In the commentary of ASCE 7-22, air permeable cladding is still defined as roof or wall claddings that allow partial air pressure equalization between the exterior and interior surfaces, with the same listing of claddings to include siding, roof pavers, and vegetative modular trays. The designer may elect to calculate the net uplift pressures of the pavers with recognized literature as noted in ASCE 7016 or Section 30.12. Section 30.12 was added to include Roof Pavers for Buildings of all heights with roof slopes less than or equal to 7 degrees. The Section includes an equation (eq. 30.12-1) to calculate design net uplift pressures:

p = qhKdCLnet (lb/ft2)

What is the Update? Roof Zones were revised for Hip and Gable Roofs

As wind blows over roof surfaces, it creates suction, or uplift, on the roof assemblies. The amount of uplift varies by building height, location (associated wind speed), and other factors unique to each building. The uplift created on the building is not uniformly distributed, and will vary depending on factors such as roof shape. Wind uplift is highest at the corners, then perimeters, and is the least in the field, or center of the roof; these varying wind uplift locations are called roof zones.

Hip Roofs are where all four sides of the roof slopes down to connect to the exterior walls at the eaves. Gable roofs have two slanted sides that form a ridge that connect to the vertical walls that extend to the ridge. Chapter 30 of both ASCE 7-16 and 7-22 include roof zone diagrams and graphics that can be used to determine the External Pressure Coefficients (GCp).

Depiction of a Hip Roof

Image 1: Hip roof

Depiction of a gable roof

Image 2: Gable roof

Images 1 and 2: Hip roof and gable roof, images courtesy of

In ASCE 7-22, both the roof zone diagrams and the graphics to determine GCp are updated. The roof zones are simplified to have three zones, Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3 (in lieu of Zone 1, Zone 2r, Zone 2e, and Zone 3), and the accompanying zone layout was modified to include the Zone changes. The External Pressure Coefficients are determined using graphics, and those also have been updated and simplified.

Components and Cladding, h ≤ 60 ft, Gable Roofs Roof Slopes 7°≤Θ≤ 20° and 20°≤Θ≤ 27°

ASCE 7-16 vs ASCE 7-22

Components and Cladding, h ≤ 60 ft, Gable Roofs Roof Slopes 27°≤Θ≤ 45°

ASCE 7-16 vs ASCE 7-22

Hip roofs have one roof zone layout plan for all roof slopes, however, External pressure Coefficients graphs were updated for each.

External pressure Coefficients graphs

What is the Update? Roof Zones were revised for Stepped Roofs

Stepped roofs are where buildings have multiple flat roof levels, which are often seen on large hospitals, offices, and school buildings. While stepped roofs have wind uplift pressures and corresponding roof zones, it is important to note that wind on the lower roof is affected by the neighboring higher roof sections. At the intersection of the higher roof section with the lower roof section, the wind uplift pressures are lower.

New diagrams have been inserted into Chapter 30 of the ASCE 7-22 version. The primary change to note is that the corner zones, zone 3, have been changed from square shapes to L shapes. This is a reflection of the standard roof zones which have been updated from square corners to L shaped corners in more recent versions of ASCE as well.

ASCE 7-16, Figure 30.3-3 Components and Cladding, h ≤ 60 ft

ASCE 7-16, Figure 30.3-3 Components and Cladding, h ≤ 60 ft

ASCE 7-22, Figure 30.3-3 Components and Cladding, h ≤ 60 ft

ASCE 7-22, Figure 30.3-3 Components and Cladding, h ≤ 60 ft

What are the next steps?

It is anticipated that ASCE 7-22 will be adopted in the 2024 version of the IBC, so there is plenty of time to get comfortable with the updates. And as always, feel free to reach out to the Building & Roofing Science team at with questions.

About the Author

Kristin Westover, P.E., LEED AP O+M, is a Technical Manager of Specialty Installations for low-slope commercial roofing systems at GAF. She specializes in cold storage roofing assemblies where she provides insight, education, and best practices as it relates to cold storage roofing. Kristin is part of the Building and Roofing Science Team where she works with designers on all types of low-slope roofing projects to review project design considerations so designers can make informed roof assembly decisions.

Related Articles

An aerial shot of the student housing building on the Texas A&M campus.
Building Science

Are Hybrid Roof Assemblies Worth the Hype?

How can roofing assemblies contribute to a building's energy efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability goals? Intentional material selection will increase the robustness of the assembly including the ability to weather a storm, adequate insulation will assist in maintaining interior temperatures and help save energy, and more durable materials may last longer, resulting in less frequent replacements. Hybrid roof assemblies are the latest roofing trend aimed at contributing to these goals, but is all the hype worth it?What is a hybrid roof assembly?A hybrid roof assembly is where two roofing membranes, composed of different technologies, are used in one roof system. One such assembly is where the base layers consist of asphaltic modified bitumen, and the cap layer is a reflective single-ply membrane such as a fleece-back TPO or PVC. Each roof membrane is chosen for their strengths, and together, the system combines the best of both membranes. A hybrid system such as this has increased robustness, with effectively two plies or more of membrane.Asphaltic membranes, used as the first layer, provide redundancy and protection against punctures as it adds overall thickness to the system. Asphaltic systems, while having decades of successful roof installations, without a granular surface may be vulnerable to UV exposure, have minimal resistance to ponding water or certain chemical contaminants, and are generally darker in color options as compared to single ply surfacing colors choices. The addition of a single-ply white reflective membrane will offset these properties, including decreasing the roof surface temperatures and potentially reducing the building's heat island effect as they are commonly white or light in color. PVC and KEE membranes may also provide protection where exposure to chemicals is a concern and generally hold up well in ponding water conditions. The combination of an asphaltic base below a single-ply system increases overall system thickness and provides protection against punctures, which are primary concerns with single-ply applications.Pictured Above: EverGuard® TPO 60‑mil Fleece‑Back MembraneOlyBond 500™ AdhesiveRUBEROID® Mop Smooth MembraneMillennium Hurricane Force ® 1-Part Membrane AdhesiveDensDeck® Roof BoardMillennium Hurricane Force ® 1-Part Membrane AdhesiveEnergyGuard™ Polyiso InsulationMillennium Hurricane Force ® 1-Part Membrane AdhesiveConcrete DeckPictured Above: EverGuard® TPO 60‑mil Fleece‑Back MembraneGAF LRF Adhesive XF (Splatter)RUBEROID® HW Smooth MembraneDrill‑Tec™ Fasteners & PlatesDensDeck® Prime Gypsum BoardEnergyGuard™ Polyiso InsulationEnergyGuard™ Polyiso InsulationGAF SA Vapor Retarder XLMetal DeckWhere are hybrid roof assemblies typically utilized?Hybrid roof assemblies are a common choice for K-12 & higher education buildings, data centers, and hospitals due to their strong protection against leaks and multi-ply system redundancy. The redundancy of the two membrane layers provides a secondary protection against leaks if the single-ply membrane is breached. Additionally, the reflective single-ply membrane can result in lower rooftop temperatures. The addition of a reflective membrane over a dark-colored asphaltic membrane will greatly increase the Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) of the roof surface. SRI is an indicator of the ability of a surface to return solar energy into the atmosphere. In general, roof material surfaces with a higher SRI will be cooler than a surface with a lower SRI under the same solar energy exposure. A lower roof surface temperature can result in less heat being absorbed into the building interior during the summer months.Is a hybrid only for new construction?The advantage of a hybrid roof assembly is significant in recover scenarios where there is an existing-modified bitumen or built-up roof that is in overall fair condition and with little underlying moisture present. A single ply membrane can be installed on top of the existing roof system without an expensive and disruptive tear-off of the existing assembly. The addition of the single-ply membrane adds reflectivity to the existing darker colored membrane and increases the service life of the roof assembly due to the additional layer of UV protection. Additionally, the single-ply membrane can be installed with low VOC options that can have minimum odor and noise disturbance if construction is taking place while the building is occupied.Is the hybrid assembly hype worth it?Absolutely! The possibility to combine the best aspects of multiple roofing technologies makes a hybrid roof assembly worth the hype. It provides the best aspects of a single-ply membrane including a reflective surface for improved energy efficiency, and increased protection against chemical exposure and ponding water, while the asphaltic base increases overall system waterproofing redundancy, durability and protection. The ability to be used in both new construction and recover scenarios makes a multi-ply hybrid roof an assembly choice that is here to stay.Interested in learning more about designing school rooftops? Check out available design resources school roof design resources here. And as always, feel free to reach out to the Building & Roofing Science team with questions.This article was written by Kristin M. Westover, P.E., LEED AP O+M, Technical Manager, Specialty Installations, in partnership with Benjamin Runyan, Sr. Product Manager - Asphalt Systems.

By Authors Kristin Westover

December 28, 2023

Flat roof with hot air welded pvc membrane waterproofing for ballasted system
Building Science

Thermal Bridging Through Roof Fasteners: Why the Industry Should Take Note

What is going on here?No, this roof does not have measles, it has a problem with thermal bridging through the roof fasteners holding its components in place, and this problem is not one to be ignored.As building construction evolves, you'd think these tiny breaches through the insulating layers of the assembly, known as point thermal bridges, would matter less and less. But, as it happens, the reverse is true! The tighter and better-insulated a building, the bigger the difference all of the weak points, in its thermal enclosure, make. A range of codes and standards are beginning to address this problem, though it's important to note that there is often a time lag between development of codes and their widespread adoption.What Is the Industry Doing About It?Long in the business of supporting high-performance building enclosures, Phius (Passive House Institute US) provides a Fastener Correction Calculator along with a way to calculate the effect of linear thermal bridges (think shelf angles, lintels, and so on). By contrast, the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code also addresses thermal bridging, but only considers framing materials to be thermal bridges, and actually pointedly ignores the effects of point loads like fasteners in its definition of continuous insulation: "insulation material that is continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges other than fasteners and service openings" (Section C202). Likewise, The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings: 2020 addresses thermal bridging of a number of building components, but also explicitly excludes fasteners: "in calculating the overall thermal transmittance of assemblies…fasteners need not be taken into account" (Section Admittedly, point thermal bridges are often excluded because it is challenging to assess them with simple simulation tools.Despite this, researchers have had a hunch for decades that thermal bridging through the multitude of fasteners often used in roofs is in fact significant enough to warrant study. Investigators at the National Bureau of Standards, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Research Council Canada, and consulting firms Morrison Hershfield and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH), have conducted laboratory and computer simulation studies to analyze the effects of point thermal bridges.Why Pay Attention Now?The problem has been made worse in recent years because changes in wind speeds, design wind pressures, and roof zones as dictated by ASCE 7-16 and 7-22 (see blogs by Jim Kirby and Kristin Westover for more insight), mean that fastener patterns are becoming denser in many cases. This means that there is more metal on average, per square foot of roof, than ever before. More metal means that more heat escapes the building in winter and enters the building in summer. By making our buildings more robust against wind uplift to meet updated standards, we are in effect making them less robust against the negative effects of hot and cold weather conditions.So, how bad is this problem, and what's a roof designer to do about it? A team of researchers at SGH, Virginia Tech, and GAF set out to determine the answer, first by simplifying the problem. Our plan was to develop computer simulations to accurately anticipate the thermal bridging effects of fasteners based on their characteristics and the characteristics of the roof assemblies in which they are used. In other words, we broke the problem down into parts, so we could know how each part affects the problem as a whole. We also wanted to carefully check the assumptions underlying our computer simulation and ensure that our results matched up with what we were finding in the lab. The full paper describing our work was delivered at the 2023 IIBEC Convention and Trade Show, but here are the high points, starting with how we set up the study.First, we began with a simple 4" polyisocyanurate board (ISO), and called it Case A-I.Next, we added a high-density polyisocyanurate cover board (HD ISO), and called that Case A-II.Third, we added galvanized steel deck to the 4" polyiso, and called that Case A-III.Finally, we created the whole sandwich: HD ISO and ISO over steel deck, which was Case A-IV.Note that we did not include a roof membrane, substrate board, air barrier, or vapor retarder in these assemblies, partly to keep it simple, and partly because these components don't typically add much insulation value to a roof assembly.The cases can be considered base cases, as they do not yet contain a fastener. We needed to simulate and physically test these, so we could understand the effect that fasteners have when added to them.We also ran a set of samples, B-I through B-IV, that corresponded with cases A-I through A-IV above, but had one #12 fastener, 6" long, in the center of the 2' x 2' assembly, with a 3" diameter insulation plate. These are depicted below. The fastener penetrated the ISO and steel deck, but not the HD ISO.One visualization of the computer simulation is shown here, for Case B-IV. The stripes of color, or isotherms, show the vulnerability of the assembly at the location of the fastener.What did we find? The results might surprise you.First, it's no surprise that the fastener reduced the R-value of the 2' x 2' sample of ISO alone by 4.2% in the physical sample, and 3.4% in the computer simulation (Case B-I compared to Case A-I).When the HD ISO was added (Cases II), R-value fell by 2.2% and 2.7% for the physical experiment and computer simulation, respectively, when the fastener was added. In other words, adding the fastener still caused a drop in R-value, but that drop was considerably less than when no cover board was used. This proved what we suspected, that the HD ISO had an important protective effect against the thermal bridging caused by the fastener.Next, we found that the steel deck made a big difference as well. In the physical experiment, the air contained in the flutes of the steel deck added to the R-value of the assembly, while the computer simulation did not account for this effect. That's an item that needs to be addressed in the next phase of research. Despite this anomaly, both approaches showed the same thing: steel deck acts like a radiator, exacerbating the effect of the fastener. In the assemblies with just ISO and steel deck (Cases III), adding a fastener resulted in an R-value drop of 11.0% for the physical experiment and 4.6% for the computer simulation compared to the assembly with no fastener.Finally, the assemblies with all the components (HD ISO, ISO and steel deck, a.k.a. Cases IV) showed again that the HD ISO insulated the fastener and reduced its negative impact on the R-value of the overall assembly. The physical experiment had a 6.1% drop (down from 11% with no cover board!) and the computer simulation a 4.2% drop (down from 4.6% with no cover board) in R-value when the fastener was added.What Does This Study Tell Us?The morals of the study just described are these:Roof fasteners have a measurable impact on the R-value of roof insulation.High-density polyisocyanurate cover boards go a long way toward minimizing the thermal impacts of roof fasteners.Steel deck, due to its high conductivity, acts as a radiator, amplifying the thermal bridging effect of fasteners.What Should We Do About It?As for figuring out what to do about it, this study and others first need to be extended to the real world, and that means making assumptions about parameters like the siting of the building, the roof fastener densities required, and the roof assembly type.Several groups have made this leap from looking at point thermal bridges to what they mean for a roof's overall performance. The following example was explored in a paper by Taylor, Willits, Hartwig and Kirby, presented at the RCI, Inc. Building Envelope Technology Symposium in 2018. In that paper, the authors extended computer simulation results from a 2015 paper by Olson, Saldanha, and Hsu to a set of actual roofing scenarios. They found that the installation method has a big impact on the in-service R-value of the roof.They assumed a 15,000-square-foot roof, fastener patterns and densities based on a wind uplift requirement of 120 pounds per square foot, and a design R-value of R-30. In this example, a traditional mechanically attached roof had an in-service R-value of only R-25, which is a 17% loss compared to the design R-value.An induction-welded roof was a slight improvement over the mechanically attached assembly, with an in-service value of only R-26.5 (a 12% loss compared to the design R-value).Adhering instead of fastening the top layer of polyiso resulted in an in-service R-value of R-28.7 (a 4% loss compared to the design R-value).Finally, in their study, an HD polyiso board was used as a mechanically fastened substrate board on top of the steel deck, allowing both layers of continuous polyiso insulation and the roof membrane to be adhered. Doing so resulted in an in-service R-value of R-29.5, representing only a 1.5% loss compared to the design R-value.To operationalize these findings in your own roofing design projects, consider the following approaches:Consider eliminating roof fasteners altogether, or burying them beneath one or more layers of insulation. Multiple studies have shown that placing fastener heads and plates beneath a cover board, or, better yet, beneath one or two layers of staggered insulation, such as GAF's EnergyGuard™ Polyiso Insulation, can dampen the thermal bridging effects of fasteners. Adhering all or some of the layers of a roof assembly minimizes unwanted thermal outcomes.Consider using an insulating cover board, such as GAF's EnergyGuard™ HD or EnergyGuard™ HD Plus Polyiso cover board. Installing an adhered cover board in general is good roofing practice for a host of reasons: they provide enhanced longevity and system performance by protecting roof membranes and insulation from hail damage; they allow for enhanced wind uplift and improved aesthetics; and they offer additional R-value and mitigate thermal bridging as shown in our recent study.Consider using an induction-welded system that minimizes the number of total roof fasteners by dictating an even spacing of insulation fasteners. The special plates of these fasteners are then welded to the underside of the roof membrane using an induction heat tool. This process eliminates the need for additional membrane fasteners.Consider beefing up the R-value of the roof insulation. If fasteners diminish the actual thermal performance of roof insulation, building owners are not getting the benefit of the design R-value. Extra insulation beyond the code minimum can be specified to make up the difference.Where Do We Go From Here?Some work remains to be done before we have a computer simulation that more closely aligns with physical experiments on identical assemblies. But, the two methods in our recent study aligned within a range of 0.8 to 6.7%, which indicates that we are making progress. With ever-better modeling methods, designers should soon be able to predict the impact of fasteners rather than ignoring it and hoping for the best.Once we, as a roofing industry, have these detailed computer simulation tools in place, we can include the findings from these tools in codes and standards. These can be used by those who don't have the time or resources to model roof assemblies using a lab or sophisticated modeling software. With easy-to-use resources quantifying thermal bridging through roof fasteners, roof designers will no longer be putting building owners at risk of wasting energy, or, even worse, of experiencing condensation problems due to under-insulated roof assemblies. Designers will have a much better picture of exactly what the building owner is getting when they specify a roof that includes fasteners, and which of the measures detailed above they might take into consideration to avoid any negative consequences.This research discussed in this blog was conducted with a grant from the RCI-IIBEC Foundation and was presented at IIBEC's 2023 Annual Trade Show and Convention in Houston on March 6. Contact IIBEC at or GAF at for more information.

By Authors Elizabeth Grant

November 17, 2023

very severe hail
Building Science

Defending Against Very Severe Hail

Think that your roof doesn't need protection against hail? Think again.Severe hail events are increasing in geographic footprint and are no longer just in hail alley. The geographic region that experiences 1 inch or larger hailstones has expanded to be nearly two-thirds of the United States. Nearly 10 percent more U.S. properties, more than 6.8 million, were affected by hail in 2021 than in 2020. Coinciding with the increase in properties affected by a damaging hail event in 2021, there was also an increase in insurance claims, which rose to $16.5 billion from $14.2 billion in 2020.Figure 1: The estimated number of properties affected by one or more damaging hail events. Source: NOAA, graphed by VeriskAccording to data from Factory Mutual Insurance Company (FM Global), a leader in establishing best practices to protect buildings, the review of client losses between 2016-20, showed that the average wind/hail losses averaged $931,000 per event. That's a significant impact on a business, and it doesn't account for the other effects that a disruptive loss could have such as headaches from the process of repairing or replacing damaged roofs. As a result, designing the roof to withstand damage from hail events has become not only a best practice, but a necessity.Why does hail size matter?FM Approvals is a third-party testing and certification laboratory with a focus on testing products for property loss prevention using rigorous standards. FM Global, through the loss prevention data sheets, requires the use of FM Approved roof systems. FM Global estimates their clients lose about $130M each year on average from hail events in the United States. Given the increasing volume of severe hail events and the resulting property loss, damage, and financial impacts, FM Global added to the requirements in the FM Loss Prevention Data Sheet (LPDS) 1-34 Hail Damage in 2018. Loss Prevention Data Sheets provide FM's best advice for new construction and for Data Sheet 1-34, this includes new or reroofing projects on existing buildings. Data Sheet 1-34 provides guidelines to minimize the potential for hail damage to buildings and roof-mounted equipment. FM Global intends that the data sheets apply to its insured buildings; however, some designers use data sheets as design guidelines for buildings other than those insured by FM Global.FM's LPDS 1-34 identifies the hail hazard areas across the United States: Moderate Hail hazard area, Severe Hail hazard area, and Very Severe Hail (VSH) hazard area which are defined by hail size. Note that the VSH area roughly correlates to Hail Alley. Hail Alley receives more hailstorms, and more severe ones, compared to other parts of the country.Figure 2: FM's LPDS 1-34 map outlining the different hail categories: moderate, severe, and very severe. The Very Severe area is most commonly referred to as "Hail alley".The hail hazard areas are divided by hail size, with the Very Severe hail hazard area being the largest hail size of greater than 2 inches. As a result, roofing assemblies have to meet the most stringent hail testing for designation in the Very Severe hazard area.Figure 3: Description of FM Approval hail regions.Even if you are not in hail alley, or one of the states in FM's Very Severe Hail area, hail larger than 2 inches still has the potential to occur throughout the contiguous United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks weather events throughout the United States, including hail. NOAA's hail database includes information such as location, date, and magnitude (size) of the hail stone for each event. A sampling of typical data is provided below; note that several states that are outside of FM's VSH zone, had hail events that would qualify as VSH, where hail stones were recorded to be larger than 2-inches in size.Figure 4: Hail events in states that are outside of the VSH area, but qualify as VSH by size.How Do I Design For Very Severe Hail?In order for a roof assembly to achieve a hail rating, the assembly must pass a hail test. FM Approvals designs the hail tests including a different test for each hail hazard area. Hail testing generally includes the use of steel or ice balls that are dropped or launched at roof assemblies in a laboratory setting. Pass criteria vary by the test, but generally visual damage cannot be present to either the membrane or components below. Roof assemblies that pass each individual hail test are FM approved to be installed in each hail hazard area.There are thousands of FM rated assemblies and it can be difficult to choose just one. To start, it is important to note that selection consists of an entire assembly, however consideration of all roof components including the membrane, coverboard, and attachment method each play an important role in how the assembly defends against hail.Membrane selection is critical for Very Severe Hail prone regions. Thicker roof membranes, as well as higher performance grades that will remain pliable under heat and UV exposure over time and will outperform standard grade materials. Fleeceback membranes also provide an added cushion layer that buffers hail impact.Coverboard selection is a critical component of the roof system design. High compressive strength coverboards are an effective means to enhance the performance of the roof system when exposed to hail events. A coverboard will enhance the roof's long term performance by fortifying the membrane when hail strikes as well as providing a firm surface to help resist damage from typical foot traffic. It will also help the roof insulation below withstand damage from hail. While conventional gypsum coverboards and high-density polyiso coverboards provide excellent protection against foot traffic and smaller hail, they are not effective for VSH. Coverboards for VSH systems were originally limited to plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). The use of plywood and OSB is very labor intensive to install as compared to traditional gypsum coverboards, increasing the cost of the installation. Recently, coverboard manufacturers have developed glass mat roof boards which are a reinforced gypsum core with a heavy-duty coated glass mat facer. Not only do these boards provide protection against 2-inch hail and are an important part of VSH assemblies, they are also a FM Class 1 and UL Class A thermal barrier for fire rated assemblies. These boards are 5/8" thick and are 92-96 pounds per 4'x8' board; about 30 percent heavier compared to plywood yet easier to install as they can be scored and cut like a traditional gypsum board.Consideration of roof attachment method is critical for selection of VSH assemblies. Historically, mechanically attached systems were not able to pass the VSH tests; when an ice ball hit the head of the fastener or plate, the result was a laceration in the membrane. To avoid failures of the membrane at the fasteners and plates, the fasteners were traditionally buried in the system; the insulation was mechanically attached and the coverboard and membrane were adhered. This is still a common installation method and as a result, there are a large number of assemblies where the membrane and coverboard are adhered. Additionally, burying the fasteners allows for the installation of a smooth backed membrane. With the development of glass mat coverboards, there are VSH rated assemblies that can be simultaneously fastened (mechanically attached coverboard and insulation) that utilize an adhered fleece-back membrane.Figure 5: VSH systems. Left is simultaneously fastened 60 mil Fleeceback TPO over glass mat VSH roof board and Polyiso Insulation. Right is 60 mil Fleeceback TPO over glass mat VSH roof board adhered in low rise foam ribbons to mechanically attached Polyiso Insulation.Figure 6: A sample of available VSH assemblies.SummaryWhy Should We Design for VSH?Severe hail events are increasing in geographic footprint and storms with hailstones that meet Very Severe Hail criteria are occurring throughout the country. While designing for VSH is a requirement if a building falls within the VSH area and is ensured by FM Global, many owners and designers are opting for roof assemblies that can withstand VSH storms even if they are not insured by FM Global. Material selection, such as coverboard and membrane, are key components to managing this risk. Glass mat coverboards and thicker, higher grade single-ply membranes, such as fleece-back, increase the roof assembly's resistance to damage. Choosing the right roof assembly could be the difference between weathering the storm or significant damage from hail.What are the next steps?Learn about GAF's Hail Storm System Resources, and as always, feel free to reach out to the Building & Roofing Science team with questions.

By Authors Kristin Westover

January 30, 2023

Don't miss another GAF RoofViews post!

Subscribe now