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Although introduced to the United States in the 1800s, metal roofing has been a key element of global architecture for nearly 2,000 years. Over the centuries, copper and similar alloys have been integral to the design and construction of medieval structures in Europe and even used to cover the Pantheon in 27 B.C.

Due to their long-term durability and colorful hues, metals ranging from copper and aluminum to stainless steel and zinc-coated steel have continually risen in their commercial contractor sales. In fact, Roofing Contractor’s 2016 State of the Industry Report found that about half of survey participants expected metal sales to increase.

This growth is likely based on a rising understanding of traditional metal roofing benefits. In addition to lasting 40 or more years depending on the material, metal roofing is significantly lighter in weight than standard tiles, 100 percent recyclable, and will not spark or flame during fires or if hit by lightning. Since most reflect solar heat, they also have been shown to reduce cooling costs.

However, there are drawbacks. For instance, some metals dent or corrode easier than others, and the matching of materials for repair can be difficult as most products change color over time.

As a result, the market is continuing to evolve with new products such as tin-plated stainless, which is increasingly becoming a value-added substitute for lead-coated copper, zinc/tin alloy-coated copper used as roofing, wall-cladding, flashing, rainware, interior design and other forms of building envelope applications. Originally developed to withstand the harsh climatic conditions found in Central Europe, tin plate/matte and terne currently can be found nationwide on the roofs of historic and commercial sites, as well as in rural and light industrial areas that are susceptible to extreme environmental conditions.

Available in 439, a high chromium, no nickel ferritic stainless steel for normal atmospheric applications and 316L for more corrosive environments, tin plate/matte differs from terne in that it is covered in a coating consisting of 100 percent tin. In contrast, similar products are commonly coated in 50 percent tin/50 percent zinc alloys. Subsequently, tin plate/matte provides superior corrosion-resistance in the harshest climates, ease of soldering, 20 percent more malleability and an elegant gray patina finish after a relatively short time in the elements.

Recently, these advantages were realized during the design and build of a new three-story, 53,616-square-foot academic center at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Centerpiece to the entire project were two domes placed above the facility at a 72-degree angle for visibility from miles around. After researching the design and construction of numerous domes, the project’s architects decided on tin plate/matte for the structure’s stainless steel outer core. In the end, the project team blended the elegance of collegiate Georgian architecture with the iconic look of the old south while offering the necessary protection from high winds and severe storms for the next hundred years.

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