Roof Aging Farm dedicated at Graham Creek Nature Preserve

By Jessica Vaughn / jessica@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 4/23/18

FOLEY – For those who know Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley, you know you can find a multitude of different types of activities there. From kayaking to hiking to disc golf, Graham Creek offers …

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Roof Aging Farm dedicated at Graham Creek Nature Preserve

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FOLEY – For those who know Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley, you know you can find a multitude of different types of activities there. From kayaking to hiking to disc golf, Graham Creek offers patrons hours of enjoyment. On Thur., April 19, a new type of activity was dedicated in Graham Creek: a science project that will benefit the Gulf Coast as it explores our weather and the impact that it has on our own homes.

Two brand-new pavilions have been constructed at Graham Creek, offering shade to all preserve goers. What you can’t see with the naked eye is what’s going on beneath the shingles on the roof.

With a crowd of Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) employees, Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association (AIUA) board members, City of Foley officials, Alabama Department of Insurance representatives, Smart Home Alabama, and Ben Murphy Company employees, the new 15-foot by 30-foot pavilions were presented.

“Today is an exciting day for the city of Foley and for IBHS and certainly for the AIUA,” said IBHS Market Development Manager for Fortified Program Alex Cary. “Alabama is currently leading the nation in fortified, so we’re pretty excited to have that claim, and there’s a lot of people in this area that have to do with that … This year we surpassed 1,000 for the Strengthen Alabama Homes Program, so that’s been a very, very exciting program for the state.”

While the pavilions appear to be shade structures (which they will indeed be used for), they will actually be a 20-year study that, once completed, will offer information into roofing on the coast.

“We’re going to be studying the roof that is being weathered as we speak to see how it ages,” said Cary. “There are sensors that are installed underneath the shingles, and there’s actual wires that come down and connect with a pole behind this pavilion, and that pole will ultimately have some instrumentation. We’re going to be collecting weather data and all sorts of data about what’s happening to this roof.”

There are panels that are in the roof that can be removed, and when the time comes the panels will be shipped to the IBHS research facility for testing to see how they have been weathered and how they are aging. These tests will be at 5, 10, and 15-year intervals, with the test ending on year 20.

“This is the first roof farm that we have in the Gulf Coast, in any sort of coastal, really humid, hot climate like we have here, so it’s a unique study for what we have thus far,” said Cary.

Many farms currently in testing are in the Midwest, meaning the farms on Graham Creek will offer unique data.

The project would not have come to fruition without the partnership between IBHS, AIUA, and the City of Foley, who all came together to provide funding and location to conduct this research with the end goal of helping to make homes safer.

“This all started when the City of Foley was able to acquire this property some 12 to 15 years ago,” said councilman and AIUA board member Charlie Ebert III. “Through various partnerships, private, public, and other governmental entities, the city has been able to provide amenities here. This is just an example of one of those partnerships, with AIUA and IBHS. We’ve partnered with the Department of Conservation, we’ve partnered with private bicycle clubs, the disc golfers … It’s just been phenomenal the number of different people who have come together to create what we see today.”

Not only can patrons at Graham Creek find shelter under the pavilions, they can also see science in action as the pole collects data from the roof, recording the aging process.

“When you think about the long-term benefit, we’re going to have scientific data that’s truly going to help the safety and security for all of the residents of Baldwin County, and our customers that we also serve in Mobile County, to have some assured benefit of the safety and security of literally the roofs over their heads,” said Chairperson of the AIUA Board Sue Cook.

The partnership between IBHS and AIUA began approximately two years ago, when the organizations began discussing several ideas to implement. The roof aging farm was brought up during that process.

“What I’m excited about as a data nerd is understanding what we’ll get out of the results that we’ll see from the roof aging farm,” said Vice President of the Board for AIUA Mick Quinlan. “The reason being is you’re better set if you have better data; the closer you get to your own experience the better you’re going to understand what the impacts will be. To have this right in your backyard, to understand exactly how the weather is going to impact your backyard, it’s fantastic, and it ultimately will allow us to better prepare ourselves for the future.”

Not only will the data gathered from the roof aging farms at Graham Creek benefit everyone here locally, the information can also be applied to other coastal communities with weather like our own.

Everyone is invited to visit Graham Creek and check out the new pavilions. As you enjoy the shade they provide, you can also rest assured knowing they are collecting data that will be put towards improving the safety of homes in our area. For more information, contact Graham Creek at 251-923-4267.