St. Aloysius Roof: The Wind and the Metal

Earlier this month, we were pleasantly surprised to see the roof replacement at St. Aloysius Church featured in Metal Architecture magazine (link to article). Naturally, the article focuses on the metalwork but there was much more to the project than the “double-locked, brush-rolled stainless steel roof panels”.


The need for the roof replacement was the result strong storms in early April 2017.  Heavy winds caused extensive damage in the DC area.  Twisted metal, scattered wood decking, and exposed trusses made for dramatic images of destruction at St Al’s that were featured on numerous local news outlets (WTOP Photos and  WUSA9 Video).


Based on GBR’s long relationship with Gonzaga College High School, we were brought in shortly after the winds subsided to begin work on designing the roof replacement. It quickly became apparent that additional structural repairs would be necessary.  The winds of the storm had taken hold of an improperly attached metal gutter and used it to peel back the roof panels — pulling with them pieces of the wood decking and purlins.  What we discovered were timber roof trusses that were never properly anchored to the unreinforced masonry bearing walls and a church structure that lacked proper lateral bracing.


Working with Granzow Structural Engineers, we set out to detail the new eave condition to reinforce and anchor the trusses.  The top courses of the brick bearing walls were removed to allow anchors to be inserted while maintaining the profile and appearance of the original roof.  New structural sheathing was installed to create a diaphragm that provides lateral bracing for the building structure.  Stainless steel was chosen to replace the old terne-coated roof. New attic ventilation and lightning protection were provided and the new box gutter was properly detailed and installed. We even were able to include a new skylight and thorough cleaning of the stained glass over the chancel area.


In the end, this was much more than a roof replacement project.  The wind pointed us to some larger problems that needed to be addressed and all work was completed in less than a year after the storm.  And, of course, those stainless steel roof panels look amazing!