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Revving up roof tiles

Revving up roof tiles

By Candace Sofianos King
SA Roofing investigates revolutionised roof tiles and learns how this building material is garnering attention for its innovation and sustainability.

The design, application and maintenance of roof tiles have taken a significant turn in recent years thanks to new technology, innovative products and forward-thinking experts in the field.

The world finally got to see South African-born golden boy engineer Elon Musk’s innovative solar roof tiles, which have been in the pipeline since 2016 when Musk’s electric manufacturing company Tesla acquired SolarCity.

What makes these tiles so unique is that they look like traditional shingles and collect 98% of the solar energy that traditional solar panels do. The tiles are required to look opaque from street level while remaining transparent to the sun. This was achieved by designing a special louvered glass, which functions in the same way as window blinds.

“This is a connector that has to last for more than 30 years. It has to be weatherproof, heavy rain, snow, slush, salt, water leaking – it’s like connector hell,” said Musk. Locally, these energy efficient solar roof tiles would work perfectly given South Africa’s sunny weather.

On South African soil another eco-friendly roof tile invention has come to the fore – Thevia Roof Tiles are 100% recyclable and have been designed to solve many of the problems of traditional roof tiles by producing a stronger product made only of waste materials. These tiles, which were awarded the 2016 California Green Building award, weigh just a quarter of traditional concrete tiles and are twice as strong.

“This is a connector that has to last for more than 30 years. It has to be weatherproof, heavy rain, snow, slush, salt, water leaking – it’s like connector hell.” – Elon Musk.

An example of concrete roof tiles in Kleinmond, Western Cape. Image: TCITesla’s textured glass solar roof tiles come in four varieties of photovoltaic shingles. Image: TeslaElon Musk’s innovative solar roof tiles. Image: Tesla

A solid case for concrete

According to Bryan Perrie, managing director of The Concrete Institute (TCI), concrete roofs are highly practical in both urban and rural applications. Perrie highlights that concrete is increasingly becoming the roof covering material of choice for a wide variety of practical reasons.

Perrie says the development of high-tech computer modelling systems – coupled with advances in concrete technology and waterproofing – have elevated roof design and construction far beyond previous limitations.

Perrie says for housing in both urban and rural locations, there has been a rapid growth in the specification and application of concrete roof tiles. “There is a timeless aesthetic appeal in concrete roof tiles, and the installation process is relatively simple. It requires no additional finish, is labour-intensive and has low maintenance requirements. The roof pitch enhances interior thermal comfort by encouraging the convectional flow of hot and cold air caused by natural ventilation.

“Whether specifying in situ or precast concrete for roofs, the material presents the means to create shelter that is at the same time both impressive and sustainable by harnessing concrete’s natural qualities of sculptural flexibility, durability, affordability and thermal mass in conjunction with best practices and quality construction techniques,” he adds.

For housing in both urban and rural locations, there has been a rapid growth in the specification and application of concrete roof tiles.

Waterproofing tiled roofs

To protect the longevity of roof tiles, local manufacturers are turning towards producing safeguarding products. One of South Africa’s foremost authorities on waterproofing, Gordon Anderson, who consults to a.b.e. Construction Chemicals, highlights the importance of maintaining roof tiles through waterproofing.

a.b.e, part of the Chryso Southern Africa Group, has been manufacturing products synonymous with waterproofing in South Africa for almost 80 years. Anderson’s reputation in waterproofing is equally impressive – he is a former managing director of Gundle Coatings, a board member of the Derbigum Group and boasts decades of experience in waterproofing under his belt.

Drawn from his extensive experience, Anderson says during heavy rainfall seasons, certain measurements should be put in place to maintain roof tiles. “All gutters should be cleared of debris and downpipes checked to see if they are running freely. A visual inspection of the tiles would show any cracked or broken tiles, which should be replaced. Roof valleys should be checked and cleaned to ensure free flow of rainwater.

He continues, “The ridge tiles should be inspected for displacement or cracking. Tile cracks can be treated with rubberised liquid bitumen emulsion, which must be used in conjunction with a membrane which can be used to waterproof flashings, parapet walls, roofing joints, laps and roof screws on corrugated roofs. As most tiled roofs have parapet walls, the crowns of these walls should be examined for cracks in the plaster. Deterioration of the wall will be speedy if the correct actions are not taken.”

 

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