Earlier this year, SPRI—originally the Single Ply Roofing Institute—celebrated its 25th anniversary. Its original mission was to promote and advance the use of single-ply roof systems, which it did so successfully that product promotion now is of less importance to the organization than standards development and technical programs.
We can go back a little further in the industry's history to mark the real emergence of single-ply roof systems—to 1977 and the First International Conference on Roofing Technology held in Gaithersburg, Md. There, the industry was made aware of the technical and performance successes and potential of a new generation of materials. We knew we'd need to learn a new language of roofing—partly the language of chemistry (polymers, most notably) and partly the language of application methods (who'd ever heard of heat welding?).
Although a 30-year span during our industry's entire history is the equivalent of the click of a nail gun, it's worthwhile to consider what the advent of single-ply roofing has meant.
It brought new, substantial and credible material manufacturers that saw market opportunities and gave building owners a new set of roofing options. It enabled the industry to attract new workers who could work with tapes and adhesives instead of mops and kettles. And it set the stage for technological improvements that include having reflective roof surfaces capable of integrating photovoltaic cells.