Thermoplastic polyolefin is the literal terminology of what commercial roofing companies around the world call TPO. The material is a single-ply reflective roofing membrane that is made of polypropylene and ethylene-propylene rubber that is polymerized together. The membrane itself has been accepted in the market of commercial roofing by broad businesses across the country. The reasoning behind this huge upswing in support is because TPO has more performance and installation advantages than common other forms of membrane. TPO is among the fastest growing commercial roofing products in the modern world and there is no doubt that it will continue to rise.
It is cost effective when compared to other roofing systems. The thicker the membrane the more resistant to tears, impacts, and punctures that can easily happen while being installed. Standard thickness’ are 45 mil, 60 mil, and 80 mil. The resistance between a 45 and 80 mil membrane is an estimated increase of 50%. It also has great flexibility to allow for movement while the construction workers are putting the membrane together on the roof itself. What is even more amazing is how it is able to be installed on low and high slope surfaces, as well as being able to be heated and reshaped or melted multiple times. Flexibility allows easy access to some tight areas on the roof as well as rapid installation which helps keep costs down. Another way this innovation cuts down costs drastically is by being available in large panels/sheet sizes. It reduces the number of panels/sheets ordered in a shipment in comparison to a typical modified bitumen 3 foot wide sheet. That also means less welding/adhering of seams. Standard rolls of TPO come anywhere from 6 ft wide to 12 ft wide.
When most people are looking at a building, they rarely think about the color of the membrane on the roof. With that said, it is in fact in the minds of the many business owners that have to pay their air conditioning bills. It has been proven that buildings with light colored roofing are able to reflect the sun’s energy and reduce the amount of heat taken in. Not only does it benefit the building itself, but it also has a significant impact on the surrounding area as a whole. Today a key issue that comes up, especially in down town city areas is the Heat Island Effect. These reflective roofs can help reduce that effect.
Some quick facts about this particular membrane are that it has been used for nearly 40 years and started off in the country of Italy. TPO is typically installed in three colors that are the most generic being white, grey, and tan. Not only has TPO been a breakthrough in commercial roofing but it is also used for underground cabling and waterproofing. This use began around 30 years ago.
Sooner or later roofing will continue to bring about changes just as it should be, but as of now, what is really changing is how TPO is being brought to the forefront with good reason. Over the course of the past decade the market for TPO has increased by 20+% for year over year growth according to a major manufacturer. Just in the United States alone 28% of commercial roofing is TPO based (Industry Data 2012) and as more consumers and businesses are enlightened, the market will continue to expand.
*Article researched and written by Jaret Sweatt