The aftermath of phenolic foam

High oil prices that affect energy prices and cause material shortages certainly make the headlines. But it may surprise you to learn these same economic factors during the late 1970s contributed to one of the largest class-action settlements in the history of the roofing industry. And roofing professionals still are affected by the consequences of that lawsuit.


During the late '70s, near the end of the Iraq-Iran eight-year war, oil prices peaked. Consumers felt it at the pump where gasoline went from about 30 cents per gallon to a dollar or more. Building owners and managers became increasingly concerned with heating and cooling costs, and building officials started enforcing energy codes requiring higher R-values for roof system installations.

Until then, most buildings had minimum amounts of insulation, such as 1 1/2 inches (38.1 mm) of board insulation. By the 1970s, contractors and manufacturers addressed the added concern of increasing R-value, which, in turn, increased roof system thickness. This complicated roof system designs, particularly with renovation projects. In addition, building officials began to enforce fire-resistance requirements over metal deck construction.