Flashback – the 1970s.
World and national events converge to rock the commercial roofing industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) becomes law. The roofing industry is a target. Passage of the Clean Air Amendment Act of 1970 raises concerns that emissions from asphalt kettles are violating clean air laws. The Arab oil embargo drives the price of asphalt roofing products way up, and way down in quality. The built up roof, which in one form or another had been dominant for 125 years, is suddenly out of favor.
Contractors Desperately Seek Alternative to Asphalt Roofing Systems.
Ironically they already had it. In 1967, notable architect, Eero Saarinen, specified ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), a single-ply rubber roofing membrane, for his high visibility project on the Yale University campus, the Ingalls Hockey Arena. The flexible rubber skin was ideally suited for the intricate contours of his roof design.
A decade later, acceptance of EPDM was still slow. In 1977, only four percent of the nation’s roofs were single-ply; but by 1980 it sky rocketed to 20 percent. It would have been even more, but the product was not available. Waiting lists were as long as six months.