Roofing Disruptors

Advancements That May Affect The Future Of The Industry

Oliver Olinger and Angie Lewis, Writers
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The introduction of asphalt shingles at the turn of the 20th century marked the dawn of modern roofing. And the industry has continued to gain momentum ever since.

Today, technology is the defining characteristic.

Roofs are no longer made to just keep the rain out. They’re engineered with scientifically advanced, high-tech materials and aesthetics that can retain and reflect heat, prevent algae staining and stand up to hail and high winds. They can also be ordered, delivered and installed in new ways, too.

These innovative developments — also referred to as “disruptors” — include:

Online Ordering

Several online retail conglomerates, including Amazon, currently offer small- to mid-level home improvement items at the click of a button — including roofs. After delivery, Amazon arranges with local contractors to provide installation.

As these types of services evolve, roofing companies may see a shift in how new roofing jobs are referred and materials are delivered. Networking for roofing contractors may soon include maintaining a good relationship with Amazon or other online sellers.

Chameleon Roofs

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are testing a special plastic film and spray paint that allows asphalt shingles to change color based on the amount of natural light they’re exposed to.

This “adaptive thermochromic roof system” would limit solar heat gain during hot weather and increase it in cold weather — an advantage over older cool-roof technology.

Simulations run on Department of Energy software show that the coatings could reduce energy demand by more than 5% in winter and more than 13% in summer.

High-Flying Nail Guns

Robotics students at the University of Michigan are experimenting with an octocopter capable of nailing asphalt shingles to roofs.

The drone is autonomous, which means it can position the nail gun, place a nail and move to the next point without needing human control.

In its current state, the aerial vehicle is slower than human roofers. However, much like a novice roofer going through the learning process, the system will also need to evolve.

Additional planned improvements include converting battery power into a tethering mechanism that would allow the drone to run indefinitely, as well as a mounted camera system that could read the orientation and position of a shingle.

Advanced Polymers

Traditional asphalt shingles can experience performance issues in extreme weather. But shingles manufactured with advanced polymers are made for better longevity.

Atlas Roofing’s StormMaster® Shake and StormMaster® Slate shingles with Core4™ Enhanced Polymer Technology can stand up to heat, cold, hail strikes and high winds. This technology helps StormMaster shingles combat thermal shock (the expansion and contraction caused by temperature variations) better than competing products.

Core4’s proprietary virgin polymers also give StormMaster shingles better elasticity, so they lay flatter during installation and seal more effectively. Plus, StormMaster Shake shingles stay on in winds up to 150 mph (with six-nail application).

DIY Building Projects

About 100 years ago, the Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog sold do-it-yourself houses that buyers could (relatively easily) put together themselves. Today, a brief Amazon search reveals results for DIY guesthouses, cottages, cabins and more.

Many kits come with all of the materials necessary for the building, except roofing shingles, which must be purchased separately. In the near future, the roofing industry may see a surge of small orders for just enough roofing supplies to cover 200-square-foot buildings.

Design Innovations

Despite myriad high-tech innovations in the roofing industry, asphalt shingles remain the most popular option. They, too, have seen a number of recent advances designed to increase their durability, longevity and ease of installation, including the Atlas Roofing HP42” shingle format.

HP42” shingles are larger and feature the FASTAC® double sealant line with the Sweet Spot nailing area. Installs go faster, with fewer shingles, saving contractors time and money on every job.

Solarglass Roof

In October 2019, Tesla launched the third version of its solar roofing tiles. The automaker planned to begin volume production in 2018, however the rollout was much slower than anticipated. CEO Elon Musk said his company needed to make changes to ensure the product would last for 30 years. He expects that the latest version will be rolled out to consumers in volume, which should make it cheaper as well.

Described as three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, Tesla’s Solarglass Roof “provides the lowest cost per watt of any national solar panel provider and is comparable in price to a typical roof with solar panels,” according to its website. Built-in technology also allows homeowners to manage their solar system and home energy consumption through the Tesla app.

Foreseeable Future

Some of these innovations are already being seen in the marketplace, while others are still in their infancy. But all represent pioneering breakthroughs in more efficient, forward-looking technology that may one day be commonplace in residential and commercial roof installations.