– By Sharon Glorioso –
Literally installed in just about every single corner in the world, metal roofing is not just gaining popularity in the United States. In fact, most other countries adapted it before the United States did.
For example, in the 3rd Century B.C., copper roof shingles were installed on top of the Loha Maha Paya Temple in Sri Lanka, and the Romans used copper as roof covering for the Pantheon in 27 B.C. Later, copper and its alloys were used in European medieval architecture.
Many manufacturers and suppliers in the industry have partnerships and do much of their business internationally, as well as in the states.
Pushing The Metal Building Envelope
ATAS International, Inc., a manufacturer of metal roofing, metal wall cladding, metal ceiling panels and metal accessories, has four plants throughout the United States but ATAS produces systems for commercial and residential buildings around the world. The Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company has developed a network of international partners in places as varied as Colombia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Japan and the Netherlands.
According to João C. DaCosta, ATAS International’s director of international business development, ATAS has designed a long-term strategy to develop international markets, focusing on the increasing familiarity with metal wall and roof systems around the world and the technology advances that have supported their remarkable durability and unique look.
Another example is Petersen Aluminum Corp., based in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Internationally, Petersen Aluminum does business in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. Their most popular metal roofing panel is Snap-Clad, which holds up well in a saltwater environment.
At VMZINC, Laurent Heindryckx P.E., VMZINC’s Paris-based operational marketing manager, oversees new territories around the world and Heindryckx says that VMZINC has some very exciting metal roofing projects currently under construction worldwide. “VMZINC 1-inch curved and tapered double lock standing seam panels are being installed on the second phase of the Kennedy Town swimming pool in Hong Kong designed by Terry Farrel’s,” Heindryckx said. “VMZINC was chosen for its grey matte finish and ease of installation on this complex roof/wall; our technical team also provided the detailed panel layout.”
Other current international projects include a project where standing seam panels are being installed on the medical research institute of New South Wales in Australia; a meditation center in India that will use VMZINC roof scales; in China, monumental VMZINC bull eyes and dormer windows are being installed on a slate roof on a multimillion-dollar private residence inspired by XIX century French castles; and some VMZINC roof balustrades are being installed near London for the Queen of England.
International Educational Programs Help
ATAS has long been a driving force in the industry educational efforts to promote a better understanding of the many advantages of metal roofing systems.
Therefore, the idea of creating educational programs to help their international partners understand and promote metal roofing in their respective countries evolved as a natural step to develop projects overseas.
“When we started to expand our international network, it became clear that we had to design different approaches to target mature and emerging markets, based on how educated on metal roofing systems their architects, engineers, contractors and project developers were,” said DaCosta with ATAS.
“There is a sizable demand for metal wall and roofing systems in countries where they have not been historically common. Our international partners have realized they have to deal with initial resistance to the technology, provide timely information about the many panels we offer and support those leading architects and engineers who want to transform their curiosity into real business opportunities,” DaCosta said. “That was how our first international projects were born.”
ATAS’ partner in Colombia, EP Group, is one of such pioneers. Erick Perez, the company’s CEO, has been working with architects, engineers, local authorities and developers all over the country to increase their awareness of the many benefits of building with metal.
The climate in Colombia comprises a wide range of weather conditions: from very hot and humid cities to communities located in the cold slopes of the Andes Mountains. Colombians have relied for centuries on the traditional materials and techniques that characterize their Hispanic cultural heritage. Clay tiles and concrete walls have been used to build homes and buildings and have been adapted relatively well to the country’s many weather conditions.
Despite that consolidated historic trend, Perez identified an opportunity for metal roofing systems. In his constant conversations and discussions with architects, engineers and developers, he realized they often expressed the need to use different materials to obtain different textures, appearance and performance.
“We are working hard to promote metal wall and roofing systems in our country, as they have proven to be a viable option for traditional materials. And more importantly, they look awesome!” Perez said.
Weather Is A Big Influence
The project pictured of the carport and the main house shows how adaptable metal roofing systems can be, even when dealing with the toughest tropical conditions of a city like Jamundi, in the Colombian Department of Valle Del Cauca, where it was built.
“We used ATAS’ ScanRoof for the carport and Techo Tile for the main house, a spacious five-bedroom residence in Jamundi, in the outskirts of Cali,” says Perez. “ScanRoof was perfect for the carport because it was conveniently installed onto the existing wood frame. Techo Tile gave the appearance of traditional clay tiles, but without the stains and leaks that may occur quite often with those products,” Perez said.
ATAS’ Techo Tile prevents some animals and insects, such as bats, bees, wasps and birds from building their nests there, which is usually a problem when you have clay tiles on your roof, says Perez. “That happens because of the fact we install trims and flashings in areas where that problem would probably develop. Installing Techo Tile for the first time in Cali and over an existing wood frame was challenging, as we had to adapt the metal panels to a frame that had been designed to receive clay tiles, but we were amazed at how beautiful the roof looks now. It was really rewarding to see how pleasant the final result is,” Perez said.
“This project also helped eliminate myths about the metal panels being “hot”… visitors coming to the house now prefer to remain under the carport, since they perceive it to be cooler than other areas of the front yard,” Perez added.
“Despite the challenges of installing those panels for the first time in Colombia, we were pleased with the final results; the house looks clean, pleasant and very appealing,” Perez said.
Additionally, Petersen Aluminum has a lot of roofs made from their product throughout the Caribbean, says Dave Landis, southeast technical manager for Petersen Aluminum Corp.
“Most of our international projects are in the Caribbean. Aluminum is the choice every time because of the saltwater environment, and the work is split 50/50 between commercial and residential in terms of square footage,” Landis said.
“Our most popular roof panel is Snap-Clad, particularly because of our Miami-Dade Approvals for it in aluminum.”
Additionally, many products used hand-in-hand with metal roofing is perfect for climates with heavy rains, salt water environments as well as colder climates.
For example, DR!PSTOP, a product manufactured by Filc, based in Slovenia, is an anti-condensation felt used for metal roofs. These felts help sound control and are acoustic felts for metal roofs, which lower the rainfall noise and noise caused by indoor activities. They are also used for suspended ceilings and perforated wall panels for indoor use such as offices, waiting rooms, airports, train stations, etc.
“Our DR!PSTOP is used in different projects such as agriculture [stables and sheds], parking houses, residential houses, warehouses, projecting roofs, stadiums, petrol stations, yacht hangars and many more,” says Boštjan Gucek, who is responsible for heading up the DR!PSTOP team in Europe.
“Despite the fact that DR!PSTOP is a thin product (<1mm), it improves a lot of the acoustics inside buildings with metal roofs,” Gucek said. DR!PSTOP did two different measurements:
• Reduction of rain noise: rain noise is a kind of impact noise created by rain droplets falling on the roof. Metal roofs have a bad reputation because of that, compared to classical tiles. DR!PSTOP reduces rain noise on metal roofs by 12 percent (from 71 dB to 69 dB); and • Sound absorption: due to different activities there is a certain noise level inside the buildings, which can be unpleasant for some. Roughly, DR!PSTOP improves it by 10 percent.
For Petersen Aluminum Corp., some international challenges for them lie with communication. “Communication can be difficult because of the language barrier, depending on the country we’re doing business in,” Landis said. “Mostly we are shipping slit coil overseas, but sometimes we are shipping panels. The primary challenge is the proper packaging of the panels so they can be off-loaded from the flatbed truck in either Miami or Jacksonville then restacked inside the closed-sided overseas shipping container.
“To help overcome language issues it is extremely important to show a customer with both drawings and pictures that this is what we manufacture, this is how we pack it, this is how it ships, and this is how it should look when properly installed,” Landis said.
For VMZINC, in Europe, there is a 150-year tradition of zinc roofing and interestingly, insurance overseas is unique, said Heindryckx with VMZINC. “Installers are insured of course, and insurance rates are based on the number of successfully installed roofs. To get the best rates, roofing companies hire skilled employees coming from public trade schools. Public schools follow a specific curriculum based on the building code,” he said.
In contrast, the challenge in the United States, said Heindryckx, is that there are very few training schools. The quality of installation can vary greatly from excellent to poor. “Roofing companies that work with VMZINC products know that architects and owners have high expectations and thus need to treat zinc with care. Companies that work with VMZINC typically have an internal training program, are excited to work with zinc and generally have a high employee retention rate,” he said. “We [VMZINC] have several highly skilled trainers who teach installers the basic zinc principles and advanced techniques. Our policy is quite clear: we don’t provide any material warranty to installers unless they came to our trainings. Our trainings are free of charge for our customers; attendees receive a certificate of completion that must be renewed every five years. Despite these challenges, zinc is gaining popularity thanks to architects—still too few—who regularly specify VMZINC and our partner installers.
Market For Metal Roofing
According to Heindryckx, zinc roofing is very popular in Paris where more than 70 percent of the Paris roofs are in zinc. Several other cities in Europe have many zinc roofs too (but not quite as many, yet). VMZINC’s current biggest markets are in Europe where zinc has a very long and successful history. There is a long tradition in Europe to build for the long term, a trend that is coming to the United States, thanks to the work of the U.S. Green Building Council and architects who promote the use of sustainable products.
According to Landis, with Petersen Aluminum, the Caribbean, where they do a lot of business, the market there is about keeping costs at a minimum. “The Caribbean market is all about cheap,” Landis said. “Price drives too many jobs in the Caribbean, hence too much steel is used in these countries where steel should absolutely not be used.”
Advantages Of Metal Are Catching On Everywhere
Metal roofs have many advantages. “Its aesthetic appeal, its long-lasting properties and ease of installation make this product very sought after, either for intricate roof ornaments, or for stunning contemporary architecture,” Heindryckx, said.