There is a house in Omaha, Neb., that is unlike any other in the state—perhaps the country. Built under HUD's Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), this "Concept Home" is loaded with 60 of the best technologies and products home building has to offer and is seen as a model for the future of home construction. The roof the agency chose to use on the house is made from metal.

"Given the PATH Concept Home's concern with sustainability, efficiency, and flexibility in an affordable-home format, a metal roof was a sensible design choice," says Darlene F. Williams, HUD's assistant secretary of policy development and research, which supports PATH. "Along with its durability and fire resistance, the metal roof ensures the concept home will have beautiful, energy-efficient protection for generations to come."

Going the distance

Long the material of choice for agricultural outbuildings and barns, metal roofing has become the darling of the architectural community. Architects who favor metal—such as Kaplan Thompson Architects in Portland, Maine, and Peter L. Pfeiffer, principal of Austin, Texas-based Barley & Pfeiffer Architects—like it because it is attractive, lightweight, fire resistant, and durable.

According to the Metal Roofing Alliance in Belfair, Wash., a metal roof will last two to three times longer than a traditional asphalt roof. Once apt to corrode, especially in seaside applications, metal roofs now come with specialized finishes and coatings to handle salt spray.

"Steel metal roofing has a 'metallic coating' made of either zinc or a combination of zinc and aluminum ... [which] prevents rust from forming and is bonded to the steel at the factory," the association writes on its Web site. "Paint is then applied over the metallic coating to provide the long-lasting color homeowners desire."

It is one of these coatings that Follansbee Steel says allows its roofing to last longer than any other type of metal roof—and longer than asphalt. "The roofing features a zinc-tin alloy so it provides a good coat for the coast," says Lauren Ban, a public relations representative for Follansbee. "We have conducted a test where roofing withstood up to 5,100 hours in a salt-spray machine." HUD's Williams agrees, which is why the PATH house is clad in Follansbee's product.

Bill Zeigler, third-generation owner of Zeigler Contracting in New Ringgold, Pa., has witnessed metal roofing's longevity, having recently repainted a metal roof that his grandfather had put on. And since metal roofing weighs about a third as much as shingles, Zeigler says, it can go on over the shingles, avoiding the need for tearoff and thus saving space in landfills.

Green Roofs

For pros focused on sustainable design, metal roofing's recycled content and ability to be recycled also can be attractive. Manufacturer Taylor Metal Products, for instance, says on its Web site that its product can contain 90 percent recycled content, including 60 percent post-consumer content. Citing the NAHB, Taylor reports that composition roofing materials make up more than 5 percent (1.36 billion pounds) of the waste dumped in landfills each year. "Metal roofing is all recyclable if a home is torn down," says Tom Black, executive director of the Metal Roofing Alliance.

The recyclable and aesthetic qualities, plus the longevity and potential to harvest rainwater, are what sold Don Myers, president of Sustainable Development in Salem, Ore. "It's a good, solid product, and the roofs look nice," Myers says.

Metal is the most commonly used surface for rainwater harvesting, according to the DOE, in part because algae and mold don't grow on metal. Sustainable Development installed rainwater barrels in its Pringle Creek project in Salem for landscape irrigation. That's a big LEED point getter, says Matt Owen, principal at Taylor Metal.

Having a metal roofing fabricator located near the project also earns LEED points, says architect Mark Kogut of Opsis Architecture in Portland, Ore., and the project architect for Pringle Creek.

Proper installation is important, though, Myers says of standing-seam metal roofing. "It seals up real tight if installed right."

Another green benefit of metal roofing is that it allows for easy attachment of solar panels without penetrating the roof, says Black, and thin-film voltaics can be laminated to standing-seam roofs.

Home buyers who choose metal roofing may be eligible for a federal tax credit if the roofing is Energy Star-rated, notes Zeigler. He's seen interest in that growing as consumers look to reduce their utility bills. Coatings that reflect solar energy are key to requiring less cooling, Kogut says. Asphalt roofs also can be coated, he adds, but metal roofing has been doing that longer.

Price Wars

But if metal is so good, why aren't more production builders using it on their houses? The asphalt roofing industry says the fact speaks for itself: Asphalt accounts for almost 70 percent of the yearly installed squares in this country, the group says, because it is better. The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association says that its product offers all of the attributes—low maintenance, long life, high performance, and good looks—but does it better, for a lot less money.

"Asphalt costs significantly less than higher-priced rivals (including tile, wood, cedar, slate, and metal) while totally outperforming them," the asphalt association says on its Web site. "But the savings don't end there. Because asphalt roofing is durable and requires little or no maintenance, it goes on saving you money throughout the life of your roof."

The metal industry concedes that its products cost more, but the group counters that the long-term financial benefits offset price. Because of metal's fire resistance, home buyers in almost 20 states can receive up to a 35 percent discount on their insurance premiums. Additionally, the metal industry says metal roofing can save up to 40 percent in annual energy costs, and some systems qualify for the 2006 Energy Tax Credit.

In short, it costs more initially, but the industry says the attributes and the long-term cost benefits make it more than worth it. Plus, they say, it will likely be the only roof a house ever needs. -- BUILDING PRODUCTS

This article originally appeared in Builder magazine. Diane Kittower and Maggy Baccinelli contributed to this report.

ATAS International. The manufacturer offers a wide variety of metal roofing products that includes standing-seam or corrugated panels, tiles, and shingles. Weather-resistant, lightweight, and strong, the products come in different gauges and in a wide range of standard and "trend" colors. 800-468-1441.

Met-Tile. The company says its metal "tile panel" roofing system offers the beauty of traditional roof shingles without the weight. Tile construction seals out wind and rain and prevents blow-off in strong winds, the company says. It will not rot and is resistant to fire and termites. Each panel measures 3 feet wide and 2 feet to 20 feet long. Ten colors are available. 800-899-0311.

BlueLinx. SteelLinx metal roofing is low maintenance, the manufacturer says, and is resistant to damage from high winds, hail, snow, and rain. The product is available in a range of Cool Chemistry colors, including polar white, emerald green, burgundy, and burnished slate. 800-839-2588.

Everlast. The Everlast II OMNI series features an enhanced primer that provides a thicker, more resistant raw material layer of defense against corrosion while promoting paint adherence, according to the maker. Panels are 38 inches wide and provide 36 inches of coverage. The major ribs are 9 inches apart and have two minor ribs in between them; a stiffener is added to all major ribs, making the panels stronger. 888-399-0059.

Follansbee Steel. KlassicKolors pre-painted Terne II metal roofing comes in a wide selection of colors that are designed to last, the company says. The tile's base sheet is coated with a zinc-tin alloy and then painted with solar-reflective coatings so the roofs offer energy-efficient properties. The company fabricates standing-seam and corrugated panels. 800-624-6906.

Millennium Tiles. These stainless steel roofing tiles are made with 70 percent recycled content and weigh less than traditional materials such as asphalt or slate. The corrosion-resistant panels can be produced in their natural finish or in a colored prismatic process—not paint—that will not fade, chip, or discolor, the firm says. Tiles measure 15 inches by 9 inches. 262-723-7778.

Tamko. MetalWorks Cool Colors shingles promote energy efficiency with high solar reflectance that helps lower energy costs, according to the maker. They are available in a wide range of styles and colors, including StoneCrest slate in Vermont blue, Sierra slate grey, and Sequoia red; StoneCrest tile in Sierra slate grey and Vermont blue; and AstonWood in timber brown, Sequoia red, and canyon copper bronze. 800-641-4691.

Decra. The stone-coated-steel roofing systems use aluminum-zinc-alloy-coated steel, covered with 3M ceramic-coated stone granules, and are sealed with a polymer coating. Styles include tile, villa tile, shake, and shingle. Different colors and color blends are available to complement various home exteriors. 877-463-3272.

Taylor. Taylor Metal roofing features the Kynar 500 paint system, which utilizes pigments designed to reflect infrared light, help reduce heat gain, and conform to Energy Star criteria for steep-slope cool roofing products, the maker says. The coating also provides long-term protection against color change and chalking. The roofing may have up to 90 percent recycled content and 60 percent post-consumer content. 800-574-1388.

Custom-Bilt Metals. With solid 26-gauge Galvalume construction and an interlocking tab design that aligns panels and creates a waterproof channel, Vail Titan Select shingles stand up to harsh weather, the company says. The Cool Roof Reflective Paint System, which features BASF and Kynar 500 reflective pigmentation technology, provides for efficient cooling performance, the maker adds. The roofing carries a Class A fire rating, a Class 4 hail-resistance rating, and 110-mph wind-resistance rating. 800-826-7813.

Allmet Roofing/Metals USA. The manufacturer's metal-shake product lines have the appearance of wood with all the benefits of metal. The stone-coated product is weather resistant and low maintenance, lightweight—1.3 pounds per foot—and has a Class A fire rating, the company adds. Three lines are available in a variety of colors. 800-265-9357.

ASC Building Products. Skyline Roofing standing-seam panels feature the DuraTech xl advanced coating system that provides color retention and integrates the Zincalume substrate for anti-corrosion and durability. The roofing is made up of 25 percent to 30 percent recycled content. It has a 12-inch or 16-inch net coverage and has a concealed fastener design. 800-272-7023.