Universal Studios

Universal Studios

Fire Resistance of PVC (Vinyl) a Plus for Universal Studios Facilities Managers

ROOFING CHALLENGE: Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, had a unique roofing need — the park was seeking a fire-resistant roofing material that could stand up to extravagant (and potentially dangerous) pyrotechnic displays and the associated fire hazards, withstand constant foot traffic from maintenance workers and perform under all weather conditions, including high heat and rain. This durable roofing membrane needed to span nearly 3 million square feet of space, or forty roofs, when the park opened in 1990.


Universal Studios selected Seaman Corporation’s FiberTite Roofing Systems and their vinyl roofing membranes as the solution. The durable roofing membrane’s inherent resistance to fire, and ability to withstand the abuse of chemicals and punctures, made the material an especially appropriate choice for this project. The hot oils and lubricants that power the mechanical hydraulic systems at Universal Studios, and the red-hot debris from the pyrotechnic displays, present challenges most facilities managers never have to take into account.

Several years after the park opened, Seaman representatives found signs of wear on the roof sections most often exposed to fireworks displays and foot traffic from maintenance workers. While they had not anticipated that the roofs would be exposed to such harsh conditions, a simple solution was quickly identified – an 80-mil FiberTite membrane over the existing roofing membrane, providing a remedy that could continue to withstand the ring of fire the rooftops were subject to.

The added layer of protection also strengthened the membrane’s weather-resistant properties. Though it’s located in the heart of the Sunshine State, Orlando has its share of variable weather. An average year sees about 50 inches of rain and has only 92 sunny days, with the balance split nearly evenly between partly cloudy and overcast skies.

“The versatility of the vinyl membrane made the job of navigating the various roof shapes and angles a lot easier,” said Ben Smith, Florida sales manager for Seaman Corp. “The architectural designs we needed to accommodate supported our belief that vinyl was the right choice for this application.”

The fact that the original vinyl roofing membranes — installed when Universal Studios opened 15 years ago — still perform to the customer’s expectations speaks volumes about the quality of the product. Even as the park has expanded, it continues to specify vinyl membranes on its new roofs.