John Quigley is coordinating Hanson Roof Tile's expansion across the country.
Pallets of concrete roof tile are stacked at Hanson's yard. Right: Concrete roof tile, such as these from Hanson Roof Tile's Sanderson, Fla., plant, are growing in popularity across the United States.

While many producers approach the huge residential market from the foundation, some look at its peak potential. Concrete roof tiles are emerging as one of the concrete production industry's fastest growing segments.

Roof tile production across the country is on the rise. And it's about time, since tile is the predominant roof covering material worldwide. According to the Tile Roofing Institute (TRI), the industry's marketing organization, tile roofing is a $603 million industry in the United States. Tile, which includes clay and concrete, continues to grow in popularity, and is now the dominant roofing material along the West Coast, across the Sunbelt, and in Florida.

In early 2006, Boral Limited and Lafarge announced its joint venture concrete roof tile business, MonierLifetile, will invest $69 million to build new roof tile plants in Las Vegas and Lake Wales, Fla. The producer reported that the new Las Vegas facility will service customers in that city, and will free up capacity in MonierLifetile's Rialto plant in Southern California and its Phoenix plant.

Many experts suggest there are many valid reasons why roof tile sales will continue to grow. First, concrete roof tiles are the preferred material in some of the nation's hottest residential markets, such as the Southwest, Florida, and Texas. Bolstering the consumer's acceptance has been a sustained and successful effort by tile producers and roofing contractor organizations to certify tile installers.

Second, there's durability. Many coastal regions have adopted more stringent building codes requiring roofs to resist higher wind load factors. As a result of this code update, residential designers have zeroed in on standardizing trusses. In many circumstances, the installation cost for a deck support for a concrete roof tile is about the same as for other roofing options.

And now there seems to be a sound environmental reason to promote expansion. MonierLifetile has been participating in the Oakridge National Laboratories' residential energy use studies. Researchers hope to determine the best ways to make roof systems more energy-efficient. They base their evaluations of cool roof performance under the auspices of the California Energy Commission.

According to the producer, the most current test results suggest tile roofs have better emissive ratings, compared to roofs using reflective coatings. This indicates that the vented air space between the roof deck and the installed tile reduces the amount of heat entering the roof of a building by an amount equal to about 30 points of reflectivity.

From the eaves up

Few producers have experienced this dramatic growth as much as John Quigley. Quigley has devoted his entire career producing concrete roof tile. He entered the industry after graduating with a mechanical engineering degree and accepting a job at a plant in Fontana, Calif. After more than 20 years, he is rapidly expanding the process across the country.

From his office at the same plant at which he started in California, Quigley is now coordinating the building of roof tile production facilities in Arizona, Texas, and Florida.

It's a busy time for Quigley, as his employer, Hanson Roof Tiles, has been opening a new plant about once every six months. In 2006 and early 2007, Hanson added plants in Sanderson and Deerfield Beach, Fla. The producer plans to open a new operation in Fort Worth, Texas, later this year.

Quigley recognizes several important trends in roof tile production. Market growth has forced producers to step up production. When he began, producers would target a rate of between 80-90 tiles per hour. In the current market, production targets are closer to 160.

Along with production rate increases, demand for innovative styles has exploded. While most plants focus on four or five styles and colors that target the local market, consumers are constantly looking for new styles. Thus, in highly competitive markets, plants can have tens of molds and offer hundreds of styles in different colors.

Along with higher production rates and broader product offerings, another trend is producers' increased awareness of the environment. For example, Quigley has reviewed all of the materials used in the tile coating processes to reduce the amount of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. “Recently, we've gone even further, working with one of our vendors to develop a unique coating designed specifically to reduce the VOC content,” he says.