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Umbrella Roof

Mary Poppins Comes Home To Roost
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I hated asphalt roofing from the time before I ever knew there were any alternatives. I've used asphalt, cedar, and metal roofing and one thing I've learned about roofs is that nothing lasts forever. Given that, I started wondering, what was so magical about 20 or 25 years, the duration of a reasonable roof? We paint our houses ever few years, why should we ask our roofs (rooves?) to be maintenance free for four or five times as long? And why must they be so damned *ugly*?

Walking in the rain in Beijing recently, I was struck by the amazing array of choice in umbrellas here-- Rainbowed, striped, polka dotted, solid colors out the whazoo, and it struck me that built a bit more robustly, and stuck into sockets similar to those used for flags, one could simply cover one's roof with umbrellas, and have a beautiful, and very personal effect if so desired.

For the imagination free, hundreds of black umbrellas. For my 12-year-old's choice, a roof that spelled out ALIENS LAND HERE, for the nationalist of any nation, a variation on the country's flag-- Sure, you'd want to cover the sheathing with something reasonably waterproof-- asphaltic paper, ice and water shield, roll roofing (a heavier version of the first choice)-- so that dribbles would roll downhill and off. But you wouldn't have to *look* at it.

Would you have to fool around with it more than an ordinary roof? Almost certainly, but so what, that's what ladders and staging are for. Either you could go up every year or two or three (depending upon climate and the robustness of the cloth mostly) and replace damaged umbrellas, or change the pattern and color scheme, or else have someone do it for you. Change your roomate? Change your roof from TAMMY AND PETE FOREVER to SINGLE AGAIN. Election year? VOTE SMEDLEY! in patriotic colors... It wouldn't cost all that much more and it would make houses both more attractive and fun. Cloth, I think should be something like the fabric used for awnings, tents or boat cushions. The handles perhaps fiberglas or other composite. The ribs, beefed up a bit, but weight's not really a cause for concern. The main problem, as with so many great ideas, is getting your Other Half to agree to it in the first place....

hulot, Dec 01 2003

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       I dunno. Awnings and boat covers don't last as long as even cheap roofs. I'm thinking of a few problems here: UV fading/deterioration, wind and the big killer: snow.
Cedar Park, Dec 02 2003
  

       Yeah, Cedar Park, most cloth doesn't last as long as a cheap roof, but so what? "Permanent" roofs aren't permanent, and umbrella roofs would be even less so, but they'd be easy to fix, and they'd be nicer to look at. Sure, UV, wind, rain, and snow are all issues, but people still use awnings, tents, rag top cars and other cloth. Shoot, a lot of traditional wooden boats use canvas for decking-- and that gets rougher use than a roof.
hulot, Dec 03 2003
  

       What goes up a chimney down but not down a chimney up?
dobtabulous, Dec 03 2003
  

       Hurricane-tested, or would I float away with Poppins?
RayfordSteele, Dec 03 2003
  

       a chimney sweep's brush - heh
po, Dec 03 2003
  

       //but so what?// People get a bit nervous when it comes to water falling down on all of their possessions.   

       That being said, I think this could be a good idea as a roof cover - something that might make your roof last longer that you replace every few years. Make mine look like snow.
Worldgineer, Dec 03 2003
  

       People need to relax about the whole water on their possessions thing... But really, roll roofing all by itself is a very servicable roof. But it's hell to look at. The umbrellas would keep most of the water off, and the dribbles and drops that dripped through would be as nothing to the real roof. In fact, they would make the roofing last longer than it ordinarily would, taking the brunt of weather and sun.
hulot, Dec 03 2003
  

       There are some fabric roof buildings already built, but it is one large piece of fabric. I think they use fibreglass for fire resistance and wind strenght.
eengineer, Mar 29 2004
  

       rope climbing robot will solve your problem
pashute, Nov 17 2014
  

       How about solar panels? It seems really odd to me that solar panels aren't designed to BE the roofing material. For typical installations you pay for a whole roof, then cover as much of it as possible with solar panels. When the roof wears out, the solar panels need to be moved to replace the roof underneath. Sure there are solar shingles and such that attempt to look like other roofing material, but they seem like a bad compromise. It seems we would be much better off to just have large solar panels designed to cover the entire roof. There might need to be some inactive area on the edge of each panel to allow shingling them without shading part of the active area. You'd also need trimmable dummy panels for doing diagonal bits. Depending on the roof pitch, you might also use the dummy panels for the north side, or maybe just go with umbrellas there to make up for the ugly roof on the south side.
scad mientist, Nov 17 2014
  

       [Scad] Given the variation in roof size and layout, it's going to be a lot easier to manufacture small panels that can be installed to conform than trying to custom manufacture larger panels. Taking that consideration in mind, solar slate does more or less what you want.
MechE, Nov 19 2014
  

       Yeah, solar slate does look pretty nice, but from what I've read, this type of system is typically much more expensive than more traditional solar installations. I'm not sure if these comparisons factor in the cost of the roofing material underneath the traditional panels, but when installing traditional solar panels there is an additional cost of carefully installing the solar panels in such a way that they don't compromise the integrity of the roof underneath.   

       It seems to me that if you're not trying to mimic or blend in with some preexisting roof type, it should be possible to design a solar roofing system that is MORE cost effective than a traditional roof + solar panels. It could be designed to attach directly to roof sheathing, or maybe even instead of the roof sheathing.   

       I don't really care what the size of the modules ends up being. I suspect that the ideal size would be larger than a standard piece of slate or tile, but smaller than most traditional solar panels. I'm guessing something that is about as large as can be handled easily by one person might be about right. I think the perceived problem is that it will look "strange". In my opinion that is irrelevant. The only reason that current roofing systems don't look "strange" is that we've gotten used to them. The first people figuring out how to use slate on a roof didn't choose the size and color of the slabs based on how they looked but on how they functioned and could be reasonably installed. People didn't originally make copper roofs because they wanted them to start out blindingly orange then turn a sickening mottled green. They used copper because it kept the water out and we've learned to appreciate the patina, since those roofs have lasted so long.   

       We need to embrace the appearance of solar panels composed of round slices of silicon with gaps in between, possibly arranged honeycomb style for better packing. We need to embrace the appearance of whatever sized modules work best for low cost installation. Maybe we should even embrace the idea of irregular steps in the overhangs since the solar panels can't be cut to fit (may need to deal with some gutter issues). Sure, some famous architects will declare this to be an abomination, but if we can get over that hump, 100 years from now when paint on solar panels are the thing, they'll have systems to paint honeycomb patterns of solar cells on the roofs of historical buildings to maintain that early 21st century look because noncrystalline solar cells are no longer available to replace the old ones.
scad mientist, Nov 19 2014
  

       [Scad} If you didn't mind a simple, rectangular, shed or gable roof, most of the difficulties would go away (I think many roofs are needlessly fiddly anyway). And do away with shingling; use gaskets (and expansion joints if needed) on the edges of the panels instead.
spidermother, Nov 24 2014
  

       As for [hulot]'s idea, while lots of small umbrellas would protect the underlying structure from damage by light, and keep it cooler, they won't keep the rain off.
spidermother, Nov 24 2014
  

       They would but, given round umbrellas, each would need more than half its area underneath the one(s) above it. I'd suggest pneumatic open/closing. A spiral would look neatest though be guaranteed not to work in any but pretty much a strictly vertical downpour.
FlyingToaster, Nov 24 2014
  
      
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