Building Enclosure: Resiliency in Construction

Source: Building Enclosure

Author: Louisa Hart



There’s been intensifying discussion recently about the resiliency of the buildings where we work and live, how we can improve their odds at surviving natural disasters and ensure that they can rebound quickly to be fully functioning. André Desjarlais leads the Building Envelope Group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He says there were two pivotal events that “really changed the roofing industry’s attitude,” towards withstanding the forces of nature, first Hurricane Hugo that devastated Charleston, S.C. in 1989 and then Hurricane Andrew that ripped through Florida in 1992. “These two storms really caused a lot of roofing-related damage and the studies that were done after those two storms showed that the building codes were insufficient to withstand those sorts of levels of wind.”


Based on this growing awareness that resilient design will require a systems approach, rather than a component-by-component focus, the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) has established a Resiliency Task Force, committed to ensuring that the construction industry has comprehensive, science-based information about its products and how they can be incorporated into resilient building roof systems. Spearheaded by its core members, Carlisle SynTec Incorporated, Firestone Building Products, and Johns Manville, ERA has established a website ( offering a “go to” source on roof system resilience, as well as resilience-related issues overall.

The website addresses the strengths of EPDM resilient roof systems, offering data on its well-documented decades long system performance and durability, but also specifics on its superior performance in the face of extreme weather events or other stresses, such as extreme heat and ultraviolet exposure. The website documents how EPDM membrane systems perform during extreme swings in temperature, its tensile strength which allows it to absorb movement cycles without fatigue, and its ability to withstand impact, abrasion and puncture.

Likewise, there is extensive data on EPDM roof system’s excellent wind-uplift resistance as well as detailed information on how incorporating EPDM as a vapor retarder creates a superior secondary back-up system should wind events effect the system above. The impact-resistance of this system provides protection against hail damage, the wind-uplift-resistance provides protection during hurricane force winds, and its ability to recover its original shape after significant expansion or contraction protects from earthquake damage.

Ellen Thorp, Assistant Executive Director of ERA, says that the new website is designed to help the construction industry create resilient buildings that will protect the people who live and work in them. “We know that EPDM is durable and long-lasting. We want builders to know that this tried-and-true product can be a powerful partner in meeting 21st Century challenges.”

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