Historically, commercial and industrial buildings with low-slope roofs have been covered using built-up roof technologies, using layers of hot asphalt and roofing felts. The advent of single-ply roofing technologies in the United States came in the mid-1960s, with vinyl membranes arriving shortly thereafter in the early 1970s. The concept was attractive to roofing contractors and building owners, because single-ply technologies offered a clean, safe, energy-efficient and cost-effective alternative to built-up roofs, as well as greater design flexibility with slopes and roofing aesthetics.
In that same time period in Europe, single-ply roofing membranes were being used widely and successfully. As the industry grew, European companies and their American counterparts made advances in formulation and installation techniques. It was this transfer of technology between continents in the early 1970s that really began to drive the expanded use of vinyl roofing systems in the United States. Soon after, in the mid- to late-1970s, prices for asphalt began to rise sharply, further encouraging specifiers, contractors and building owners to seek alternatives to built-up roofs.
Today, some of the first vinyl roofs installed are still in service. The knowledge base and performance record that have grown during the vinyl roofing industry's nearly 40-year history give it an added advantage today over many newly developed competitive single-ply systems.