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Posted by McElroy Metal ● May 28, 2024 8:00 AM

What Is the Best Roofing for a Data Center?

What Is the Best Roofing for a Data Center?

Recent studies predict a 10-20% annual growth in data center construction until 2030. Data centers are energy-intensive, consuming 10 to 50 times more energy per square foot than other commercial building types. This means choosing the right roofing solutions is important, affecting everything from geographic suitability to performance. The right choice can make the difference between successful operations and failed investments.

As data centers have a large roof-to-wall ratio, selecting the right roofing materials is a crucial decision for building owners and design teams. Data center roofs must check certain requirements, including:

  • Low maintenance
  • Climate resilience
  • Long life expectancy
  • Energy efficiency
  • Cost-effectiveness

Each factor plays a significant role in ensuring the data center operates efficiently and remains protected from environmental conditions.

Understanding Data Center Roofing Requirements

Data centers have unique roofing needs due to their high energy consumption and heat generation. For purposes of heat shedding and minimizing land costs, data centers are often built in locations with extreme weather conditions. As such, engineers must consider several critical factors when choosing roof materials:

  • Reroofing projects can be especially risky for data centers because the process involves exposing servers and data to weather elements, risking potential failure. Therefore, product life expectancy often becomes a deciding factor in the roofing product selection.
  • Roofs must perform well in challenging conditions such as extreme temperatures, heavy snowfall, and high humidity.
  • While many data center roofing designs place extensive mechanical equipment on the roof, when site conditions allow, placing mechanical equipment at ground level leads to easier equipment maintenance and lower installed roofing costs. Further ground-mounted equipment leads to a roofing system that offers optimal performance, greatly reduced opportunity for leaks, and a longer life expectancy.
  • Effective thermal management is essential to regulate internal temperatures and prevent overheating.

Common Types of Roofing Materials Suitable for Data Centers

Common roof types for data centers include:

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing offers several benefits:

  • 50—60-year Life Expectancy
  • Easy solar integration
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Reflective properties for enhanced energy efficiency
  • Durability
  • Fire resistance

These advantages provide long-term protection and cost savings. However, metal roofing has some limitations. Initial costs may be higher than other options, though metal roofing provides lower overall lifecycle costs. Additionally, owners and builders need to be educated on proper installation techniques. For optimal results, typical rooftop equipment should be relocated to the ground to minimize building ingresses.

Membrane Roofing (Single-Ply)

Membrane roofing options such as TPO, EPDM, and PVC offer the following benefits:

  • Lightweight
  • Reflective properties for enhanced energy efficiency

However, single-ply membranes are prone to punctures and require regular maintenance. Membrane roofing systems also typically last 20 years in comparison to 50-60 years for a metal roof.

Green Roofing

Green roofs offer energy-efficient roofing for data centers with several benefits, including:

  • Improved insulation
  • Enhanced sustainability
  • Effective stormwater management

Nevertheless, green roofing has limitations. For instance, they need a higher initial investment and a strong building infrastructure to support the added weight. They also require ongoing maintenance to maintain the health of the vegetation and the performance of the roofing system. For the aforementioned reasons, the use of green roofing has struggled to gain the momentum once thought possible.

Comparative Analysis of Best Roofing Materials for Data Centers

Roofing Type
Energy Efficiency
Maintenance Requirements
Metal Roofing
Higher initial cost; lowest lifecycle cost
Excellent (50–60-year life expectancy)
High: excellent solar integration; high reflectivity
Membrane Roofing
Lower initial cost; highest lifecycle cost
Moderate (20-25 year life expectancy)
Moderate due to reflective properties
High (vulnerable to punctures)
Green Roofing
High initial investment
Varies greatly based on plant health and maintenance
Excellent (insulation; stormwater management)
High (ongoing maintenance)

Analyzing the three types of roofing for data centers reveals distinct pros and cons.

  • Metal Roofing: Despite its higher initial investment, it offers excellent life expectancy, durability, fire resistance, and energy efficiency, ultimately delivering the lowest long-term costs and risk to servers, data, and equipment.
  • Membrane Roofing (TPO, EPDM, and PVC): This option is lightweight and cost-effective initially but has a shorter lifespan, higher maintenance needs, greater risk to equipment, and higher overall long-term costs.
  • Green Roofing: Excels in insulation and sustainability but requires a significant initial investment, additional building infrastructure to support the added weight and high ongoing maintenance.

Overall, metal roofs tend to equal or outperform membrane and green roofing in all categories except upfront costs.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Maintenance and upkeep for data center roofs vary by type.

  • Metal roofs need minimal maintenance, focusing on periodic inspections.
  • Membrane roofs require regular checks for punctures and tears and routine repair upon identification of issues.
  • Green roofs need consistent vegetation care and drainage system monitoring.

Following manufacturer-recommended long-term care practices, like scheduled inspections and prompt repairs, maximizes lifespan and efficiency for all categories.

Durable, Energy-Efficient Metal Roofing by McElroy Metal

McElroy Metal has led the industry in metal roofing, metal siding, and substructural components for more than sixty years. For both commercial and residential construction, our team of experts can deliver the solutions you need.

To learn more, contact McElroy Metal today.

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About McElroy Metal

Since 1963, McElroy Metal has served the construction industry with quality products and excellent customer service. The employee-owned components manufacturer is headquartered in Bossier City, La., and has 14 manufacturing facilities across the United States. Quality, service and performance have been the cornerstone of McElroy Metal’s business philosophy and have contributed to the success of the company through the years. As a preferred service provider, these values will continue to be at the forefront of McElroy Metal’s model along with a strong focus on the customer.

Topics: Metal Roofing

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