Rowan Brick Maker Lays Foundation for Green Growth
Salisbury-based Taylor Clay Products Inc. has developed a concrete roof tile containing a catalyst that can help reverse air pollution.
Now Charles Taylor, President of Taylor Clay Products, is pushing to expand the market for the tiles here - and possibly across the country.
Taylor's 100-employee brick-making company in southwest Rowan County started making the specialized tiles in October.
Marketing began in November. So far, the tiles are being sold to commercial and residental roofers as an alternative to high-quality asphalt shingles. The prices for the two roofing materials are comparable, Taylor says.
Taylor hired Berthold Mueller, a German native, to make the anti-pollution roof tiles. Mueller has installed production lines for clay and concrete roof tiles in Europe, where tile roofs outnumber asphalt shingles, Taylor says.
"Europeans are a little ahead of us on some of this stuff," he says.
The Salisbury operation, called MaxLife Roof Tiles, is now making about 8,000 tiles per week after Taylor spent more than $1 million to launch production.
Mueller considers Taylor Clay Products the perfect setting for making the roof tile. And Taylor is the logical entrepreneur to guide the development, Mueller says.
"I like his open mind," he says of Taylor. "You give him an idea and two weeks later he's pushing you to implement it."
Taylor remains consumed by the concrete tile project.
"If every house in Charlotte had these roof tiles on them, we'd all be breathing better."
John Wear, Executive Director of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College in Salisbury, says the tiles really work. "It has a tremendous value," he says. Wear says small steps such as the Taylor concrete roof tiles are preferable to new federal air-pollution rules.
"Solving it without regulation, that's a good thing," he says.
Robert Van Geons, Executive Director of RowanWORKS, says MaxLife will create jobs as well as help improve air quality. "I'm excited to think that part of the answer to this problem was developed in Rowan County," he says.
Here's how the concrete tiles work: Mixed in with the concrete in the roof tiles are thin layers of titanium that absorb nitrogen oxide. Without the conversion process, nitrogen oxide is converted by sunlight into ground-level ozone, or smog, Wear says.
Instead, the nitrogen rinses off Taylor's treated concrete roof tiles in rainwater and often onto grass, where it acts as a fertilizer. "When it rains, it puts nitrogen in your yard and your grass grows faster, so you have to mow it more," Taylor says.
There's another benefit to concrete tile roofs: wind safety. The tiles will stay in place during a Level 3 hurricane, or winds of 135 miles an hour.
The downside? Tile roofs are more expensive to install. But as Taylor points out, the roofs last a lifetime.
"Sometimes it's best to pay more at the beginning," he says. Taylor is working on ways to cut those costs, though. "My goal is to make it affordable for the average person," he says.
Taylor Clay Products was founded in 1949 by Taylor's father. Its work in Charlotte can be seen on the precast panels for the facade of Hotel Sierra that opened uptown last year.
Taylor would like to set up small roof tile plants around the country, located near the major population areas. That would save on the cost of transporting the heavy and bulky tiles.