Since Homo sapiens first appeared he (or she) has needed shelter, which was most likely to be the nearest cave. As man developed, animals provided the main source of food and a need developed for temporary shelters whilst following the animal herds. The development of agriculture saw the move to more permanent dwellings which were located adjacent to the crops. The earliest example of a shelter used a woolly mammoth skin as a cover, which was supplanted later on by using a combination of mud and reeds to provide a more permanent structure with improved insulation properties. The disadvantages of this type of roof, as one might imagine, was that it was not particularly waterproof and made a good home for insects and vermin. Not ideal for anyone in any era!
More solid solutions
As seems to be often the case the Chinese were ahead of the game and around 5,000 years ago they developed glazed clay roof tiles for their buildings. The ancient Greeks and Babylonians developed flat earthenware roof tiles and the Romans brought a version of this type of roof tile when they called in around 100 BCE.
Around the middle of the 8th Century, thatched roofs were first in evidence, and this became the predominant roof covering. The materials to make thatch were easily accessible and it provided excellent insulation, but there was a drawback, as dried grasses tend to be rather combustible which is unfortunate, particularly when there are open fires. To show that health and safety can be effective, in the 12th Century, King John decreed that thatched roofs in London should be replaced by clay tiles. Thatched roofs in London were finally totally outlawed after, unsurprisingly, the Great Fire of London.
The production of clay tiles was quite localised and so they were often imported to meet the demand. Slate was also used, but again local to its production centres, but the usage increased with the development of the transport infrastructure, particularly the railway in the 19th Century. After the Second World War the development of concrete tiles outstripped other material and became the predominant choice for roofing.
The traditional types of roofing tile will always have a place, it is difficult to imagine a traditional Welsh house without a slate roof for example, but there are new materials and processes which will doubtless change the skyline in the future. Today there is a wide choice of roofing styles and materials including asphalt, metal such as aluminium or copper, and plastic polymer, which we use in our buildings.
Temporary building roofing
The roofing material in our basic temporary building is a single skin made from PVC. This provides excellent weather protection and allows in natural light, but what about if more insulation is needed? Our insulated buildings use a double skin pvc polyester membrane envelope which is inflated to provide significant insulation, but still allowing light in.
Roofing technology has moved on, and it allows us to offer a comparatively lightweight, but strong roof on our buildings, which is easy to clean and flame retardant. It is certainly more effective than a woolly mammoth skin – assuming we could get one!