It has been my privilege to work in the roofing industry for more than 36 years, starting as an estimator in 1976.

For much of that time I have been involved with single-ply roofing products, which started to gain market attention about the same time I landed my first roofing job.

Just as it was tough for me to gain experience and qualifications as a newcomer to the industry, it was difficult for single-plies to earn a place of respect among modern roofing systems. It took some time to overcome initial problems of design and installation practices, but many dedicated people and strong companies worked hard to overcome these obstacles and develop the wide variety of durable and dependable single-ply roofs we use today.

Looking over the many outstanding roofing projects that have been submitted to the Center for its annual Excellence in Design Awards, it’s easy to see how modern sustainable single-plies have advanced in durability and value. Common single-ply features observed on these award-winning projects include:

• Improved surface durability featuring increased membrane thicknesses and cover boards.

• Proactive roof traffic protection through the use of walkway systems and roof traffic planning.

• Improved storm resistance through increased wind uplift and hail ratings as well as the use of air and vapor barriers.

• Redundant detailing at critical areas of the roof using double flashings/seams and sacrificial membrane layers.

• Improved roof system “intelligence” based on new leak detection and monitoring technologies.

Not only do these features make modern single-ply roofs more durable, they make them more sustainable. In fact, the Center has been able to bring greater public attention to these important durability factors through the RoofPoint sustainable roof rating program. By including a separate section focused on durability, RoofPoint is unique among green construction rating systems. (RoofPoint credits for durability are listed in  Figure 1.) And many of these durability factors have their origins in the development of modern single-ply systems.

 Much of the new focus on durability embodied in sustainable roofing programs like RoofPoint can be traced back to the continuous process of improvement in modern single-ply roofing. And in that process of improvement, single-plies have become something different: Now they’re more than just a single ply!