Rethinking Copper as a Low Maintenance, Low Risk Alternative

Amazing! Rethinking Copper as a Low Maintenance, Low Risk Alternative

Information about Rethinking Copper as a Low Maintenance, Low Risk Alternative

Phil Puccio

Copper vs Synthetic

Copper has been a versatile and prestigious building material for centuries. Striking, durable and recyclable, it meets many aesthetic and functional requirements. But alongside its many benefits, there are some significant problems with listing copper as a material of construction in any significant quantity. When it comes to designing a roof, the pitfalls of specifying copper can sometimes outweigh the benefits.

The first – and often biggest – problem is cost. Copper is a material that offers excellent durability but can significantly increase the construction cost of a project. Using a synthetic alternative costs 50-60 percent less per square meter, which equates to savings of several thousand euros over a larger roof area.

The high monetary value of copper poses risks even after completion. Like lead, copper is often stripped from buildings to be resold. For example, at Leigh Road Baptist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, thieves stole the copper used to refurbish the tower just before the scaffolding was removed. To protect the church from further theft, the tower and dome were subsequently renovated using Soprema’s Flagon Copper Art. The synthetic waterproofing membrane has provided high performance and copper appearance with lower cost and risk.

compare performance

While copper’s natural aging is part of its appeal for some, the developing patina isn’t always seen as an advantage. A synthetic cone impregnated with copper particles for a true copper look offers a durable and high-performance alternative that will retain its freshly built aesthetic for decades to come.

A synthetic membrane is also more temperature stable than traditional copper. The natural expansion and contraction of copper can cause the roof or copper elements to deform in hot or cold weather. During the summer months, copper’s natural property as a conductor can also increase the building’s solar gain, which can affect indoor temperatures and cooling load requirements, impacting the building’s running costs and comfort levels.

Buildability and design potential

Although copper is a soft and malleable metal, it cannot offer the flexibility of a synthetic roofing membrane to conform to any shape, including complex curves. The membrane can also be cut to fit the contours of any building design.

Flagon Copper Art is suitable for either fully bonded or mechanically fastened installations and can be installed as a standing seam roof with hot air welded joints to the membrane after installation. For example, the dome of the Baptist Church in Leigh-on-Sea was installed as eight triangular pieces of membrane with standing seam joints to complete a perfectly symmetrical element.

Looking to the future, relating to the past

Whatever the design ambitions or renovation needs, a synthetic copper membrane can be used to offer all the aesthetic benefits of copper combined with the versatility of a flexible, durable waterproof membrane.

There will always be a place for traditional building materials, but as the supply chain increasingly makes alternatives available, there is an opportunity for designers to achieve the wow factor they are looking for at reduced cost, risk and maintenance.

To learn more about Soprema’s copper membranes Click here.

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