Advancements in Roofing and Waterproofing

The roofing system is the interface between a controlled indoor environment and the elements outside. Its role in managing temperature and airflow, moisture and humidity is vital to building performance and resilience. A growing number of extreme weather events are challenging the traditional approaches to roof construction and waterproofing, requiring innovations in materials, systems and practices.

Whether defending against hurricane-force winds, trembling earthquakes or scorching heat waves, these changes are driving advancements in the fields of roofing and waterproofing. These include new materials and advanced construction practices that are enhancing protection against common problems; delivering better energy efficiency; and reducing maintenance costs over time.

For new construction projects, Salas O’Brien can provide enclosure consulting including contributions to the design details and MasterFormat Division 7 (Thermal and Moisture Protection) and Division 8 (Openings) specifications that will be incorporated into the Contract Documents. We can also assist in preparing critical submittals and shop drawings that will be reviewed for adherence to the requirements of the Contract Documents.

Among the first of mankind’s building structures were simple thatched roofs made from straw, branches, and reeds. These were set at a slope, or pitch, to allow rainwater to drain off them. Later, thicker branches and timbers were used to span a roof with clay or another relatively impermeable substance pressed into the interstices between them. This allowed the gable, or pitched, and hip, or hipped, roof forms to emerge.

As building codes and designs evolved, roofs were insulated with a variety of different materials. The most recent innovations in the field of insulation have focused on the use of a material called extruded polystyrene (XPS) for both its insulation value and durability. Unlike polyisocyanurate insulation, which tends to absorb moisture, XPS does not; this allows it to maintain its R-value over time and reduce the need for periodic replacement.

Other recent developments in roofing and waterproofing technologies include green or “cool” roofs that are engineered to reflect more sunlight and prevent the absorption of solar heat. These are gaining popularity with building owners who are looking for ways to reduce their utility bills. Other new technologies that may become more common include 3D printing of roof components to reduce both waste and labor; moisture-activated adhesives that are designed to withstand moisture; and phase-changing materials that can change states from absorbing to releasing heat.