A work of art

Wagner Roofing Co. performs an installation on the dome-shaped roof system of the Kreeger Museum

  • The Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C.
Photo courtesy of Wagner Roofing Co., Hyattsville, Md.
  • A view of the old roofPhoto courtesy of Wagner Roofing Co., Hyattsville, Md.
  • The new Kreeger Museum roof
Photo courtesy of Wagner Roofing Co., Hyattsville, Md.

"I'd like you to design me a museum. But don't tell your partners that we're going to live in it."

According to The Washington Times, these are the words the late David Lloyd Kreeger said to architect Philip Johnson when he wanted Johnson to build a home for Kreeger, former president and chief executive officer of GEICO, Washington, D.C., and his wife, Carmen. Johnson's firm usually would not design private residences, and Kreeger's unique request was a way around that restriction.

Now solely a museum, The Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C., houses about 200 works of art from Kreeger's collection, which includes a variety of pieces, from African and Asian art to the works of artists such as Monet and Picasso.

The roof of the building consists of 15 large, unique domes. When the building needed a new roof, the art and domes were taken into account.

"Replacing the roof was a monumental project for the Kreeger Museum," says Judy A. Greenberg, director of the Kreeger Museum. "It was of the utmost importance for the museum to engage a roofing company that could deal with the complexities of the architectural design."


Wagner Roofing had been performing repairs at the Kreeger Museum for five years and installed a slate roof system on the house of Kreeger's son, Peter Kreeger. Because of this history, the company was chosen to remove the museum's old roof system and provide options for roof systems it could install successfully on a series of domes.

"Finding a roof system and insulation that would conform to a domed roof and was in the museum's budget was difficult," says Chuck Wagner, president of Wagner Roofing. "Our initial suggestion was flat-seam, lead-coated copper, which would conform to a dome slope and actually was specified on the original blueprints. However, it never was installed. This, of course, was extremely expensive, so alternative membrane roof systems were offered."

The Kreeger Museum's original roof system was about 7,000 square feet and consisted of a poured concrete roof deck, lightweight concrete topping and a single-ply membrane roof system. The roof also consisted of a grid that contained the 15 23- by 23-foot domes.

The roof had been experiencing problems for a while.

"Because the roof system had been leaking for so many years, the lightweight concrete was crumbling below the membrane roof system," says Lee Simon, estimator and project manager for Wagner Roofing. "Both the lightweight concrete and roof membrane were removed. In most areas, the lightweight concrete was removed with shovels and brooms. At the apexes of the domes, where there was less leaking and deterioration, a jackhammer had to be used to break up the lightweight concrete."

During the project, necessary safety precautions were taken.

"A cable was run from the apexes of all the domes around the building," Simon says. "Each worker used an individual harness and lanyard tied off to the cable."


Installing a new roof system on the museum involved a variety of issues.

"At Wagner Roofing, we're no strangers to difficult and historically significant projects," Simon says. "But this project was unusual because there were three challenges—the architectural significance of the building, parabolic shape of the domes and irreplaceable art collection. A single drop of water entering the building during roof system replacement was unacceptable."

Taking special care to protect the museum's art collection during the installation, Wagner Roofing installed a 30-year Firestone Platinum 0.09-inch-thick EPDM roof system and coated the EPDM using Firestone AcryliTop PC-100.

"In areas that were located over artwork, 1-inch-thick polyisocyanurate insulation was installed using Firestone ISO-Fix adhesive and Firestone Concrete Drive fasteners to hold the insulation while the adhesive cured," Simon says.

Wagner Roofing had to wait for appropriate weather before applying the coating.

"The final coating cannot be applied if rain is in the forecast for 24 hours after installation or if temperatures will be below 45 F," Wagner says. "So the final aesthetic coating was staged after the winter season."

A lower low-slope roof was used for staging materials, access and trash, and the roof level easily was accessible using a knuckle boom.

The company performed work on all of the domes, reroofing the 13 domes over the museum and office and repairing and coating the two domes over the garage.

And though the lead-coated copper was too expensive to install as the entire roof system, it was used for flashings at the skylights, vent collars and drains.

"The metal detailing also was difficult," Wagner says. "All the lead at the perimeter was installed on a radius and turned into a reglet. Lead was used because it is malleable and could conform to the radius of the dome."

The shape of the roof was the most unique aspect of the project, Wagner says.

"We work on low-slope roofs every day, and barreled roofs are somewhat common," he says. "A domed roof was something new."

In addition, the Kreeger Museum stayed open during the installation.

"The museum continued to function with tours and educational programs," Wagner says. "The sculpture garden located below four of the domed roofs with skylights had to be protected. Gold Leaf Studios, an art framing company hired to protect the art, built vented polyethylene structures to protect the sculptures."


"Developing and implementing solutions to a difficult roofing challenge was worth it," Wagner says. "The shape of the roof, the contents of the building, the need to insulate without reaching the dew point and working on a building of architectural significance all were challenging."

Wagner also had the unique experience of working with a family member during the project.

"One of the more satisfying aspects of the Kreeger Museum project was the contribution my daughter, Rachel, made," he says. "She restored the architect's model of the museum."

Those involved with the museum were happy with the results.

"Judy Greenberg, director of the museum; Marc Graver, the museum's operations manager; and Peter Kreeger are pleased with our work and allowed us to have a party at the facility to celebrate the successful completion of this phase of the roofing project," Wagner says. "The finished product will last 30 years."

Krista Reisdorf is managing editor of Professional Roofing magazine.

Project name: Kreeger Museum
Project location: Washington, D.C.
Project duration: October 2005-May 2006
Roof system type: EPDM
Roofing contractor: Wagner Roofing Co., Hyattsville, Md.
Roofing manufacturer: Firestone Building Products Co., Indianapolis


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