At age 28, Francis McPartlon is tackling the biggest roofing job of his life: Santa Fe Opera’s iconic sweeping crown.
Last year, he led the largest stucco job Santa Fe Stucco & Roofing had undertaken in its 25 years — the 180,000-square-foot Thornburg Investment Management campus.
McPartlon has built Santa Fe Stucco & Roofing into the largest such firm in Northern New Mexico since taking over the family-owned company in 2014. He recalls starting with 20 to 30 jobs a year with $250,000 in annual revenue.
Now the company has 130 employees with more than 500 residential and commercial jobs a year, bringing in $10 million to $11 million annually. And it will upgrade the weatherizing system on one of the most famous roofs in the opera world.
“We believe we can do this,” said McPartlon, the company’s president and CEO. “This is exactly how I designed the company to handle projects like this. I made a company to handle huge volume and large-scale projects. We on a daily basis run 10 projects a day. Taking a project like this is right in our wheelhouse.”
Stucco and roofing is a unique sport in Santa Fe, where stucco is everywhere and McPartlon estimates flat roofs cover 98 percent of local structures. Elsewhere, maybe 3 percent of home roofs are flat, he believes.
Stucco and flat roofs require far more care than typical construction everywhere else.
“We have so much shift in the weather, which can cause houses to expand and contract so much, which causes degrading in stucco,” McPartlon said. “After 12 years cracking, you can fit a credit card into the crack.”
That time came for Thornburg Investment Management in summer 2019 at its Santa Fe headquarters, a large stuccoed building with three wings.
“This was normal preventative maintenance based on the life of the structure when it was built in 2009,” said Michael Corrao, director of global communications at Thornburg Investment Management. “We maintain the building so [the stucco] wasn’t cracking. Little things can escalate quickly. The formula they used should be good for 20 years.”
The time also came for Santa Fe Opera, whose third opera house roof has endured 22 years of the local climate. The roof isn’t precisely flat, but it’s not gabled or pitched, either.
“It is so unique,” McPartlon said. “You don’t really have a term for it. You can almost call it a floating roof structure. … With flat roofs, it is super important to keep them maintained. If a roof is over 15 years old, you should be looking at maintaining it every year.”
Christopher Hufnagel, Santa Fe Opera’s director of operations, is well aware of that, too.
“The roof [membrane] is nearing the end of its life,” Hufnagel said in an email. “When installed in 1998, a lifespan was known at that time. It has been well cared for over its lifespan and has held up well. As we near the end of its life, we are taking measures to prevent larger issues that could arise by delaying the replacement process.”
The opera declined to discuss the project’s cost.
Santa Fe Stucco & Roofing started work Nov. 9, first removing the 1990s 60-millimeter thermoplastic polyolefin roofing weatherizing membrane from the roof surface. McPartlon’s company will install 115-millimeter fleece-backed TPO that has a higher hail rating and longer warranty.
McPartlon estimates the job should take 20 to 25 days.
“The opera is being really proactive,” McPartlon said. “That is really important. The roof is probably two or three years from being a problem.”
Even the casual observer recognizes the “How did they do that?” dynamic of the Santa Fe Opera roof. The puzzle is no less daunting for a roofing company.
“It’s extremely complicated,” McPartlon said. “The logistics are difficult. Removing material, getting it on ground safely, getting new material on roof safely is difficult. The building itself, there are not many access points. We have to be very careful with the overall structure of the building.”
The access points are not necessarily convenient places for construction crews, he said.
“The roofing process is extremely difficult because of the design of the roof: the canopy roof, the swoop. There are the ballast stick structural poles. We have to work around them and make sure they don’t get damaged. The most vulnerable areas are any canale and roof penetration. You have to make it meticulously waterproofed.”
The Santa Fe Opera roof now has a guardian in Santa Fe Stucco & Roofing.
“We don’t think of this as a one-and-done project,” McPartlon said. “We think of this as a partnership for 20 years. Not only do we go back every year, we encourage them to call us.”