Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 2

Q: How are PVC roofing systems sustainable?

A: More than 26 Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) confirm that PVC roofing membranes are an outstanding sustainable choice for many reasons:

  1. Energy efficiency.
  2. Mitigation of urban heat islands that cause elevated levels of air pollution.
  3. Waste reduction throughout their life cycle: production, shipment, installation, post-consumer disposal.
  • Only 43 percent of PVC membrane composition is derived from nonrenewable fossil fuel feedstocks, compared with other single-ply and built-up systems that contain a much higher percentage.
  • PCV requires less energy to produce than competitive products.
  • They typically last for 20 to 30 years, reducing the rate of waste flow into landfills.
  • There is virtually no scrap in PVC roof manufacturing or installation.
  • PVC roofs can often be installed directly over old roofs.
  • Many PVC roof manufacturers have post-use recycling programs.
  • PVC roofing membranes are inherently recyclable, and are the only roofing material that can be recycled back into roofing products.
  1. Extremely low contribution to greenhouse gases and hazardous emissions, due to closed-loop manufacturing.
  2. There are at least 10 categories in which white PVC roofing systems can help earn points under the LEED® rating systems.

Q: Why do PVC roofing systems last so long?

A: Among the reasons that PVC roofing systems typically last between 20 and 30 years with very little maintenance are the following:

  1. Reflective properties extend the useful life of the roof substrate materials by reducing the rate of deterioration by as much as 75 percent.
  2. Waterproof characteristics that prevent PVC from rotting, rusting or corroding.
  3. Custom prefabricated systems from some manufacturers that help ensure optimal installation and long-term performance.
  4. Heat-welding properties that create seams that are stronger than the membrane itself while eliminating the need for chemicals, torches or other hazardous installation methods.
  5. Inherent flame resistance strengthened by the addition of flame retardant additives, which facilitates Underwriters Laboratories Class A ratings and Factory Mutual Class 1 ratings.
  6. High resistance to chemicals, grease, and other harmful substances that is common on rooftops.
  7. Simple repair procedures normally accomplished by heat-welded patches or seams.

Setting The Bar For Sustainability

Numerous terms and ideas are used to describe products, processes and techniques that are said to be sustainable or provide high performance. Terms such as “green,” “environmentally-friendly,” “recyclable” and “long life-cycle” attempt to define the concept of sustainability. But what really is sustainability? How do you determine whether a product is truly sustainable or not?

Along with the growth of green design programs such as LEED® and Green Globes, there have been efforts by state and local governments to add sustainability guidelines to building codes. The federal government has indicated it plans to add green design guidelines to its building requirements as well.

Guidelines for many performance criteria are established based on standards. There are ANSI standards for PVC sheet roofing, for measuring emittance and for calculating a solar reflectance index. There are LEED standards that attempt to set the bar for high performance building design and construction. There are standards for wind loads and for material strength and thickness. Sustainability standards already exist for a few building products, but not for single-ply roofing. Without specific, complete standards for single-ply roofing, PVC-based products could become part of a broad category that would not accurately or effectively present the complete green picture for vinyl roofing.

The Vinyl Roofing Division of the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association has undertaken an ambitious effort to develop and obtain approval for an ASTM standard for Sustainable Thermoplastic and Thermoset Single-Ply Membrane Roofing. The process is anticipated to take another 6 – 12 months, but in the end the standard will provide solid guidelines as to what constitutes a sustainable single-ply roofing system. Stay tuned for updates as the project progresses.

The High-Performance Trend

High-Performance Roofing is part of a larger trend toward High-Performance Buildings – a hot topic among builders and managers involved in the construction and renovation of school systems, government buildings, and other facilities. The Department of Energy (DOE) has established a High Performance Building initiative that focuses on promoting energy-efficiency nationwide. DOE defines the benefits and objectives of High-Performance Buildings and “whole-building design” as:

  • Energy consumption reductions of 50 percent or more
  • Reduced maintenance and capital costs
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Increased occupant comfort and health
  • Increased employee productivity

High-Performance Roofing systems can contribute significantly toward all of these High-Performance Building objectives. As part of a High-Performance Building, an HPR system acts as a vital, performance-enhancing umbrella that protects the facility from the elements, enhances the performance of other building components, enables uninterrupted operations, and contributes to the health and performance of occupants.

A high performance building is a complete system made up of sub-systems including electrical, flooring, HVAC, roofing, doors, windows, insulation and many other components. Achieving high performance requires that all these elements work in harmony. This means that every part of the system must perform its own functions without negatively impacting the performance of any other part of the system. Ideally, at least some of the sub-systems should actually enhance the performance of other sub-systems. High performance buildings not only operate at optimal levels, but they minimize the negative effect on the local environment while maximizing the health and comfort of building occupants. Any weak link will cause sub-optimimal performance for the entire system.

Contrary to some popular myths, HPR systems that are cool and sustainable do not necessarily involve additional costs. In fact, one essential definition of a High-Performance Roofing system is that it reduces life-cycle costs (LCC) significantly without substantial tradeoffs in performance or longevity.

In our final installment we will discuss the Five E’s of High-Performance Roofing.

Faces of Duro-Last: Curt Jaffe

Curt Jaffe
Curt Jaffe - Regional Sales Manager

Curt Jaffe has been with Duro-Last for nearly three years, and works out of Duro-Last’s Grants Pass, Oregon, office. He has been the regional sales manager for California since June, 2009, and is responsible for territory development, contractor recruitment, and corporate account development. Curt also supports independent sales representatives and authorized Duro-Last roofing contractors in his area. Prior to his current position, Curt was the regional sales manager for the Rocky Mountain region.

Curt has over 20 years of sales and management experience in the electrical and plumbing fields. His background in these construction-related industries has helped him become the successful manager he is today.

In the brief time he’s held his current position, Curt has brought a measure of stability to a challenging marketplace. According to Curt, “Northern and Southern California are two distinct markets when it comes to commercial roofing contractors. However, because Duro-Last pursues direct long-term relationships with independent contractors, we have a compelling story to tell regardless of where the roofer’s business is located.” In fact, Curt has been very successful in his short California tenure, bringing several top-tier SoCal roofing contractors on board during the past few months.

In addition, Curt has worked diligently both with Duro-Last staff and local contractors to establish a stronger presence with the California architectural community.

The variety of daily activities brought about by the diversity of the California market keeps him on his toes and ensures that there’s never a dull moment. But what really drives Curt are the relationships he has built with contractors, independent sales reps, industry contacts and Duro-Last corporate staff. As he says, “what I’ve truly enjoyed during my time here is that Duro-Last has always conveyed the feeling that you are one of the family. And it’s a big family – one that includes employees, contractors and independent reps. The level of support and the sense of camaraderie is like no other place in the industry.”

Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 1

In this seven-part series, we will address common questions about polyvinyl chloride – PVC.

Q: How long have PVC, or vinyl, roofs been around? Are they among the leading systems for commercial roofing?

A: Originally introduced in Europe in the early 1960s, PVC roofing systems were among the first single-ply commercial roofing materials. Today, reinforced PVC roofs – also called vinyl roofs – account for 65 percent of the European commercial roofing single-ply market, and North American growth has outpaced the commercial roofing industry as a whole for more than 10 years. In 1985, PVC roofing systems were the first single-ply roofing products to obtain a standard designation from the American Society for Testing and Materials (now ASTM International): ASTM D4434 – Standard Specification for Poly (vinyl chloride) Sheet Roofing – which is regularly updated. Today, PVC is an increasingly popular thermoplastic roofing membrane worldwide.

Q: What makes PVC roofs so special?

A: PVC roofing systems have witnessed tremendous growth in recent years due to a variety of standout characteristics, notably: longevity; durability in harsh weather and temperature extremes: low life-cycle costs; energy efficiency; heat and solar reflectance; flame resistance; chemical and grease resistance; ease of maintenance; ease of flexibility of installation; and inherent recyclability/re-use, among many other benefits. Often referred to as the first “cool roofing” system, PVC is energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable, long-lasting and cost-effective.

Q: How are PVC roofs energy-efficient?

A: Lots of ways! White PVC roofing systems not only reflect sunlight and solar energy to save building owners up to 40 percent in annual electricity costs, they also improve the performance of the underlying roof insulation by 25 to 50 percent; extend the useful life of the roof by as much as 75 percent; enable rooftop cooling equipment to run more efficiently; contribute to better indoor air quality and comfort; and collectively help mitigate the effects of urban heat islands and the air pollution they cause.

A comprehensive environmental profile of vinyl roofing systems can be downloaded from the website of the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association.

Warranty Considerations

Twenty-, thirty-, and even fifty-year warranties – the range of commercial roofing warranties available has increased significantly over the past few years. Does that mean a longer coverage period is automatically better?

Of course, you want a warranty that covers a reasonable period of time. Roofing systems are expensive. If the roof should fail, you should know whether the manufacturer will stand behind it.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a longer warranty is the one to choose. You need to evaluate the conditions the warranty covers and the steps you’re required to take to ensure that it remains in force. Some longer manufacturers’ warranties sound good, but as they say, the devil is in the details.

As a starting point, you’ll want to know whether the roofing installation must pass an inspection, often conducted by the manufacturer or an independent third part, before the manufacturer will issue the warranty. There is nothing wrong with having a newly installed roof inspected. However, you should know before the installation process begins if this is required in order to activate the warranty.

Some manufacturers require the building owner to conduct regular roofing inspections, and then to submit reports showing that the roof has passed the inspections. Virtually all manufacturers require roofing inspections and extra payments for warranty protection beyond the standard coverage period.

Other warranties require an initial payment from the building owner. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it helps to know this before you decide to use that manufacturer’s product.

Many warranties limit the amount to be paid if the roof fails. For instance, they may cover the replacement materials needed, but not the labor required to install the new roofing system. Contrary to conventional wisdom, many warranties do not cover the damage a building’s contents might sustain due to a roof failure.

In addition, damage caused by “acts of God,” such as hail storms or hurricanes, may not be covered under the warranty.

Building owners should also know whether they can transfer ownership of the roofing warranty if they sell their building.

Before purchasing a roofing system, building owners should be sure that the warranty offers a reasonable amount of coverage for a reasonable period of time. When the choice is between a highly restrictive longer warranty, and a shorter one that offers better coverage, the shorter warranty probably will be a better value.