When it comes to roofing, we’ve all seen some design and management fails. But would you expect these problems from a company as design-conscious as Apple?

And yet, in Chicago, the Apple Store’s roof is falling under scrutiny. Here’s a quick look at the issue. We figured it was something our roofing software users might have an opinion or two about!

Chicago Store Entrance, Courtesy of Apple

An Innovative, Forward-thinking Roofing Design

In theory, this Apple Store’s roof seemed fresh and innovative: a roof that mimics a flat, thin MacBook Air:

VIDEO: https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/10/apple-michigan-avenue-opens-tomorrow-on-chicagos-riverfront/?videoid=1508477855833

Apple’s site describes the Chicago store’s innovative roof design like this:

“Every design feature serves to minimize the boundary between the city and the Chicago River. Even the building’s 111-by-98 foot carbon-fiber roof was designed to be as thin as possible, and the entire structure is supported by four interior pillars that allow the 32-foot glass facades to remain unobscured.”

Pretty cool, right? At least during warmer months of the year. Once winter hit, a local Chicago site reported and heightened awareness of the roof’s failure to address function as well as form.

What Went Wrong

You can read the original report on Spundart (it’s worth a peek to see some of the fun Tweets this whole thing has inspired), but here’s a quick rundown.

First, here’s a summary of how the roof was supposed to work, as reported by The Verge:

“After the ice melts through Apple’s heating system, the water was supposed to be drained through four internal support columns, instead of through the gutter like buildings normally do. Back when the Chicago flagship was first unveiled in October last year, people marveled not only at its shiny physical appearance but also at its heating and cooling system that involves pumping water from the river to stay green.”

This carbon fiber material is just one part of many forward-thinking ideas in the roof’s design, including advanced cooling and heating systems.

Unfortunately, the roof lacks a design-inherent alternative for when those systems malfunction, which is precisely what happened. The roof’s heating system failed, creating an ice problem.

But even more than that, many Chicagoans wondered at Apple’s slow response to overcome the design flaw. Instead, Apple simply roped off a large part of its courtyard where the roof’s water run-off collected then froze into dangerous ice.

Takeaways for the Roofing Industry

Your roofing company may not be working on a building as expensive as this, but there are still things to learn here. Indeed, this isn’t the only building in Chicago or other cold areas to wall off the sidewalk below a leaky or dangerous roof, but it did create unnecessary problems for Apple.

What are the takeaways here for roofers? I thought of three:

  • With all the innovation going on in the roofing industry, it’s important to still address fail-safes for when those technologies don’t work as planned–and to offer a ready counter-solution for the short-term. For example, our company makes cloud-integrated roofing software, but we designed that software to also work offline in the field–because connectivity glitches happen! That way, our users aren’t left high and dry at the job site.
  • What if Apple or its property management company had addressed the ice accumulation another way? What if they focused on the cause rather than roping off the resulting ice, which was only the result. At JobNimbus, we’re continually updating our software as well as our mobile app. It’s about addressing as many user issues as we can get to, rather than just relying on workarounds to patch up the results of those issues. We’re committed to that ongoing process!
  • While this situation is ultimately about Apple’s inadequate response to an immediate safety issue, maybe whoever designed this roof could have educated Apple (or Apple could have trained its local management) regarding how to troubleshoot the problem. We don’t know the ins and outs of what broke down here, but the point is even the sleekest, most innovative products can be misunderstood or underutilized without world-class training and support.

Looking in the Mirror

To these points, Apple has been an excellent example of each, the Chicago incident. Exploring issues like this one isn’t about pointing the finger at something that didn’t work wonderfully well. It’s about examining the ironies and looking in the mirror.

That’s what we’ve tried to do with JobNimbus–keep looking in the mirror. We believe that’s a big part of why our product helps so many roofing businesses. If you haven’t jumped in with our 14-day trial yet, give it a try and see what we’ve created for your roofing business.

If you use JobNimbus and love your experience, could you share that with us by leaving a review on Capterra or Software Advice? Reviews help direct others who might be looking for a robust CRM and project management roofing tool. We appreciate it!

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