01 June 2023

The benefits of standardised approaches to roof systems for commercial buildings

Roof systems designed around a standardised approach can help to deliver commercial buildings more quickly, and with a proven level of performance

Building Systems UK - A Tata Steel Enterprise



Opting for roof systems designed around a standardised approach has the potential to deliver commercial buildings more quickly and with a proven level of performance. It introduces an element of prefabrication and offsite construction, which gets the manufacturer involved in the design process at an earlier stage, to the advantage of the projects and its timelines.

Standardisation in roof systems does not mean a restriction in design freedom. Instead, it means system manufacturers can develop new solutions aimed at improving the efficiency and sustainability of construction. Rather than individual buildings effectively being prototypes, standardisation can help make assembly and disassembly a reality, culminating in an increased rate of reuse and recycling of roof system products.

What is required from the roof system of a commercial building?

The commercial sector encompasses many different building types and construction methods – including offices, supermarkets, retail premises, warehouses and logistics buildings. In many cases, buildings incorporate a mix of uses.

These uses have significantly different requirements, requiring a range of solutions to suit individual projects. For that reason, ‘standardisation’ is never going to mean one product or system capable of being used across different building types.

From a building performance perspective, factors such as thermal efficiency, wind loading, corrosion and fire performance requirements all influence the choice of solution. Practically-speaking, project timescales, warranty requirements and procurement method which hold sway over the most appropriate roof system for an individual project.

There can also be little-known or unexpected factors that impact on roof specification. The floors of warehouse buildings, for example, are typically very sophisticated. They require a watertight and airtight environment in order to control the humidity and allow the concrete to cure correctly. That puts an even greater onus on the building envelope specification.

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What does standardisation look like in roof systems?  

Options for commercial building roof systems included insulated panel systems or site-assembled built-up systems.

Insulated panels are effectively a ‘single fix’ solution, as they incorporate all of the required elements of the roof build-up. There is a strong element of prefabrication – and therefore standardisation – to them, as the manufacturing process delivers a consistently high-quality product whose performance is predictable, reliable and less likely to be impacted by poor installation.

Panels also offer speed, it being possible to install much more rapidly and efficiently compared to a site-assembled solution.

Site-assembled systems rely more on the skill of the installer, but are arguably more ‘customisable’ in terms of being able to combine different component options. Here, standardisation is more about optimisation of the components.

For example, manufacturers can offer roof deck profiles optimised for certain purlin spans or loading conditions. The component may not be precisely optimised for any individual project but, rather than producing a specific profile, manufacturers hold stock of their standard profiles and have that stock readily available to service projects quickly.

Regardless of the choice of system that is most appropriate for a given project, standardisation offers a number of benefits in terms of manufacturer involvement. Nobody knows their product better than the manufacturer, meaning better technical support and the ability to engage with the manufacturer earlier in the design process. This builds relationships, gives confidence in the system, and can impact positively on future projects too.

How might standardisation develop in roof systems for commercial buildings?

Supported by government policy, commercial building design and construction is increasingly moving towards design for manufacture and assembly, or DfMA.

DfMA, and its use in construction platforms (known as P-DfMA), is taking system solutions to the next level. It makes greater use of prefabrication and offsite manufacture, producing systems and components that can be ‘assembled’ rather than constructed using traditional on-site techniques. This makes it quicker and more efficient to deliver quality buildings that are more sustainable.

With DfMA and construction platforms, manufacturers produce an array of standard solutions and repeatable elements that can be configured in different ways to suit the requirements of individual projects. Bespoke components can still feature, but the time and material resource they require is reduced thanks to the level of customisation made possible by the standardised elements.

In time, we are likely to see DfMA and P-DfMA develop into the use of cassettes that are designed to interact directly with unified structural frames. Roof system cassettes would be a fully offsite solution, supplied to projects ready to fix. Over the life of the building, individual cassettes could be maintained and repaired, or replaced if necessary, without disturbing the rest of the roof.

And at the end of the building’s life, cassettes could easily be demounted from the frame, This provides a much more sustainable alternative to sending existing materials to landfill . The condition of each cassette could be assessed, with refurbishment carried out as necessary. The useful life of the cassettes could therefore be extended across multiple buildings, increasing the reuse and recycling of roof system components.

About Building Systems UK roof systems for commercial buildings

Building Systems UK (BSUK), part of Tata Steel UK, offers roof system solutions that can be tailored to individual projects’ needs. BSUK manufactures, and directly supplies, Trisomet® insulated panels, the site-assembled Trisobuild® built-up system, and RoofDek structural steel roof decking.

Building Systems UK are members of the SEISMIC II consortium – a landmark demonstrator building showcasing the full capabilities and possibilities when utilising MMC (Modern Methods of Construction). The key objectives for Seismic II was to design, test and develop the roof, ceiling, internal/external wall, cladding and flooring systems for schools and other markets. In addition to this, the Seismic II project sought to develop a digital process from 3D CAD file to manufacturing line, establish the whole life cost and carbon of the Seismic platform and design an automated manufacturing line. This building system consists of floor cassette, ceiling cassette, internal / external wall system including internal liner and cladding that are focused on reducing module assembly time for manufacturers as well as being a pre-assembled kit of parts, for assembly directly on site.

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Building Systems UK’s products are backed by the 25-year Platinum® Plus guarantee. A system solution with Platinum® Plus features components selected from a broad range of compatible roofing and cladding products, chosen on the basis of the building type and function. 

The system guarantee incorporates a complete range of responsibly sourced and traceable accessories: all flashings, boundary gutters, fillers and sealants, ancillaries, stainless steel fixings, GRP rooflights, and safe link systems.

When specifiers choose a Platinum® Plus-backed system, Tata Steel helps to create a complete roof system specification and advises on the selection of components to deliver the necessary performance.

That includes thermal, acoustic, fire and structural performance, as well as durability – ensuring that the system will do what is claimed for the life of the building, and thereby helping to reduce the performance gap between ‘as designed’ and ‘as built’.

To find out more contact the Tata Steel building envelope team.

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