UPDATE: It has become increasingly difficult to find the MRCA T&R Committee TPO Advisory – in fact, MRCA has deleted it from their website (we believe this is due to pressure from big TPO manufacturers who do not want negative press). Here is the original of this document – MRCA TPO Advisory
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Original article: In the single ply roofing market, TPO roofing membranes are continuing to experience significant growth, competing for a share of the pie with both PVC and EPDM membranes. While TPO is newest of all three membranes, officially introduced into the US market in the early 1990’s, its manufacturers have been working hard on developing a formula that would offer a competitive advantage in terms of longevity, durability and price over PVC roofing membranes. It took more than a decade and a challenging process of coming out with 36 different ASTM drafts of an industry standard for TPO before finally in 2003 an ASTM Standard 6878 was approved. The ASTM standard went through two more revisions in 2006 and 2008.
However, as recent as 2010, some questions still remained as to the longevity and durability of TPO membranes especially under conditions of heat and solar overload. These concerns were first raised by the Midwest Roofing Contractors Associations Inc in their TPO advisory to the contractors in February 2010. This advisory drew a lot of attention and raised a lot of questions for professionals in the industry. Subsequently, MRCA’s advisory was addressed by both Firestone Building Products (TPO membrane manufacturer) and by a panel on “TPO’s Long Term Performance” during MRCA’s 61st Annual Conference, held in October 2010. Since this is the most recent update available on the state of TPO roofing membranes, it is important for roofing contractors and consumers who are considering installing a TPO membrane to be aware of this information, as this can have a significant impact on the decision whether or not to choose a TPO membrane for their roof.
Summary of the original MRCA TPO Advisory
MRCA’s initial reason for issuing the TPO advisory to its members was the fact that the association got enough information from different sources in the field that indicated high solar and loading and elevated temperature lead to premature aging and failure of TPO membranes. Specifically, thermal and solar loading lead to the premature exhaustion of anti aging components such as anti oxidants, UV absorbers and heat and light stabilizing compounds within TPO material. This issue was particularly noted in the Southern states because many TPO membranes that have been locally installed were exposed to a level of heat load that they were not able to withstand. The advisory was issued on February 10, 2010.
The committee brainstormed specific suggestions on dealing with issues of solar and heat loading in working with TPO membranes:
1. Be aware of situations where sun light is reflected back on the TPO membrane; such as areas below metal and glass or highly reflective curtain walls, or high profile reflective wall flashings.
2. Look for heat emitting equipment or heat exhausting vents or dark emissive materials laid on the roof that further increase the temperature of the TPO membrane, as well as areas under or over elevated temperature operations.
3. If there is a situation where it is known ahead of time that there will be elevated temperatures over 160 degrees F or elevated solar load, it is best to question the TPO manufacturer whether their product can adequately withstand these conditions. It is also possible to consider alternative products that are known to withstand this loading, or alternatively consider changing roof design to forestall the loading.
4. If you have an existing TPO roof that is functioning under the conditions of elevated solar and heat load, it is advisable to inspect the membrane for incipient, developing or obvious local problems. Then, the membrane’s manufacturer should be approached for directive on how to best address or rectify the issue.
While no names of manufacturers or specific brands of TPO that have experienced these problems were revealed, MRCA did mention that one of the manufacturer’s was working to address this issue by changing the membrane’s formulation, another explicitly suggested not to subject its TPO product to high heat and solar overload, while other manufacturer’s issued no responses and took no action.
Summary of Firestone Building Products’ Official Response to MRCA’s Advisory
Quickly following MRCA’s advisory, Firestone Building Products which manufactures UltraPly TPO issued an official response to the advisory on February 19, 2010. The company assured its customers that after conducting its own investigation, it was found that there was no evidence in the field that UltraPly TPO was experiencing any issues related to solar or heat overload. The investigation was conducted based on internal records in on-going laboratory and field testing, customer feedback, and warranty records. The company also stated that it has not changed the formulation for UltraPly TPO since its inception in 1998, testing the formula to meet the highest standards and to ensure that the membrane will remain durable even under extreme conditions. More specifically Firestone assured its customers that UltraPLy TPO is able to perform in extreme high temperatures and solar conditions of deserts in the Southwest, the heat and humidity of the South, as well as in the cold climates of the North.
Its notable that no other US TPO manufacturer issued any official publicly available statement in response to MRCA’s advisory.
Published date: September 24, 2012