EPDM (Ethylene-Propylene-Diene Terpolymer) roofing membranes are 100% vulcanized membranes made of a synthetic rubber Ethylene-Propylene-Diene Terpolymer. They were first introduced in the roofing industry in the 1960s and have since been used around the world in all types of climates. The production of EPDM membranes has a low embodied energy number (i.e. the amount of energy required to produce and implement a product from material extraction, manufacture and installation).
Studies prove that when it comes to the use stage, EPDM roofing membranes show exceptional durability compared to other roofing materials (see e.g. the "Evaluation of the useful life of EPDM roofing membranes” study by the German Süddeutsche Kunststoff-Zentrum). With a life expectancy of over 50 years, EPDM roofing membranes remain stable and unchanged over time, also thanks to their high resistance to ozone, UV radiation, microorganisms and severe weather conditions such as hail.
Another important factor is the outstanding elasticity of EPDM membranes. Even in extreme temperature fluctuations, they easily expand and contract, thereby accommodating to the potential building movements. That is why EPDM membranes can be used in a variety of climates, from the sub-zero temperatures of Alaska to the sun-baked landscapes of the Middle East. Last but not least, they do not contain volatile ingredients or products that may migrate or degrade over time, such as plasticizers or antioxidants, so there is no danger of the material becoming brittle or cracking, even after several decades of exposure.
Greenpeace, GreenTeam and the Dutch Institute for Building Biology and Ecology (NIBE), have put forward EPDM roofing membranes as the ones with the lowest environmental impact. NIBE’s assessment, carried out every two years, takes into consideration the initial costs (material and installation costs) as well as all hidden environmental costs (raw material consumption, energy consumption during production, etc.) of different types of roofing membranes. The result of this comparative classification shows that mechanically attached and fully-adhered EPDM roofing membranes have the lowest hidden costs, which makes them the most environmentally friendly flat roofing choice.
In addition to their low initial environmental impact and remarkable durability, EPDM roofing membranes are easy to repair, which means their service life can be extended beyond 50 years. They are also very adaptive. Even several decades after the initial installation, changing roof details, adding skylights, roof vents and other roof openings can be done easily without having to remove the membrane.
Thanks to these attributes, EPDM roofing membranes can play a key role in achieving the highest scores in recognized green building rating systems such as BREEAM® and LEED®. These programs evaluate buildings according to the efficiency with which they use natural resources and their overall impact on human health and the environment. What further enhances the environmental credentials of EPDM is its suitability for application on active roofs: green roofs, solar roofs and water-collecting roofs (also known as “blue roofs”).