A Bright Idea That Tops Them All
From the spires and roofs of the celebrated castles and cathedrals of Europe to the solid copper "Golden Temple" in Kunming, China, or the famous baptistery doors of Italy's Florence Cathedral, copper and its alloys, bronze and brass, have continued to serve as decorative and functional elements on some of the world's oldest and most famous architecture.
Here in North America, our copper landmarks are a little younger, but no less impressive. Copper can be found atop city skyscrapers, halls of government, universities and other institutions across the land.
Historic Christ Church in Philadelphia is the oldest-known copper-roofed church in America, dating back to 1727. However, the most enduring copper icon in U.S. history is the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, sculpted in 1884 from over 160,000 pounds of the semi-precious metal.
In recent years, a new market has taken a shine to the glittering metal that when combined with iron and sulfur once fooled prospectors into thinking it was gold. Influenced by the development and availability of new, lightweight copper roofing shingles, more homeowners are choosing copper roofs for reasons both aesthetic and practical.
Various estimates put the lifespan of a copper roof at more than 100 years, while asphalt shingles - the most commonly used roofing material in America - are said to last 15-30 years, on average. This makes copper one of the most cost-effective roofing materials on the market. The reason for its longevity is the natural patina that develops with age and serves as a protective shell when copper is exposed to the elements.
Putting the Green into Green Building
Copper is both literally and figuratively a green building material. Besides its green patina, the metal is environmentally friendly, boasting one of the highest recycling rates of any engineering metal. And, copper shingles will never be discarded or wind up in a landfill. Instead, because of their value, they can be salvaged and recycled.
Other key attributes of the premium metal are its fire resistance and ability to withstand the extremes that Mother Nature can dish out - like high winds, heavy snowfall and excessive temperatures.
Paradigm Shingles, Inc., of Vermont, which manufactures and distributes the "Bennington" copper shingle, cites the metal's remarkable longevity as a key selling point, along with its natural beauty and ease-of-installation.
Taking a Shine to Copper
Homeowners turn to copper to add refinement and a sense of luxury to their homes, says David L. Hunt, manager of architectural services at Revere Copper Products, Inc., which developed its first copper shingle over 50 years ago for the commercial market. Copper roofing shingles are particularly popular in vacation spots like Colorado's "ski country," and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he says.
Kent Schwickert, president of Schwickert Inc. in Mankato, Minnesota, an architectural sheet metal fabrication and roofing company, agrees. He attributes the increased interest in copper shingles to a "desire for uniqueness" among affluent homeowners.
Consumers are "going outside the box" to find quality products for their homes, says Schwickert, whose company recently entered the residential roofing market. For these people, a roof is "more than something to protect them, it provides an aesthetic value to their home."
According to the Copper Development Association, there are at least a dozen manufacturers supplying copper shingles to contractors across the continent. A partial listing can be found at the association's Web site in the Architecture section. Cu