Green Designer on a Cool Recycled Roof

by Dave on August 27, 2009

by Matthew Peterson

from Coastal Sussex Weekly, August 27, 2009

You know the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on Your Head”?  Well, if you are inside, chances are you need a new roof.  78 percent of the money spent on roofing in the U.S. is for re-roofing existing homes.  Perhaps you are about to build a new home and are looking at roofing choices.  Either way, it is time to think about roofing, roofing products and how your choices will affect your bottom line, the environment, life span costing AND aesthetics.  The world of roofing has had many recent additional products hit the market.  Traditionally, your choices were limited to asphalt shingles, metal, slate, or wood shakes.  While on the surface (pun?), those choices are still there, many similar products and product enhancements have come to light (pun?) that are friendlier to the environment, your home, and your HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system.

Let’s talk asphalt shingles first.  These shingles account for 75% of all residential roofs in the United States.  That is a big number but not surprising.  Asphalt shingles are the least expensive and most common product choice.  There are a few issues though that should be thought through.  Asphalt roofing commonly is made from petroleum based products and are bit harmful on the environment as they are seldom recycled (adding a little over 1.36 billion pounds to our nations treasured landfills annually).  Asphalt shingles are also not terribly energy efficient and, if not carefully chosen, may not be very durable.  Should asphalt shingles be the choice that you and your builder choose, consider a few items that will help with the environmental impact.  First, choose a shingle that has the most recycled content that you can find.  Second, choose the shingle with the longest warranty.  While 20 or 25 years may seem like a long time – research has shown that problems occur within a third to a half of that time so go for 40 or 50 years, you will not regret the decision.   Third, select a medium toned color (that still matches your aesthetic).  Why medium toned?  For our region we have both heating and cooling days.  The medium tones both reflect heat and absorb heat.  Over the course of the year, this is your best bet.  I could launch into a discussion on emissivity (a product’s ability to release absorbed heat) but I would be asleep, as would you, before I finished typing…Fourth, choose a manufacturer that is near to your building site, which if it is on the Delmarva Peninsula, you are in luck as we have a number of highly reputable suppliers and manufacturers near to us.  Also, when checking into manufacturers read about their dedication to the environment.  A few
RECYCLED ROOF (continued from page 13)

producers are not only using recycled content, they are also engaged in recycling shingles and improving the longevity of their product.  Remember in all things “green,” measure your opinions on things with the idea of: reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order.

Should asphalt shingles not meet your criteria for an environmentally friendly product and you convince yourself that spending a bit more upfront will save you money in the long term (which we agree with, by the way), there are great alternatives.

From our perspective, recycled composite shingles are a worthwhile product choice.  They can resemble shake or slate, are offered in a variety of colors, and can have great fire ratings, impact ratings, and offer 50 year warranties.  Most of these products contain 80% or more recycled content.  This content can be post consumer like milk jugs, plastic bags, and tires.  Otherwise, these shingles can be made from post industrial leftovers from the manufacturing of diapers and car bumpers – an odd combination, right?  These products are lightweight so they do not require any additional structural support – this is a good thing when you are “re-roofing”.

Metal roofs are a great alternative.  Some will say that they are rather overwhelming on an entire home and I may be among them on some cases.  That being written, metal roofs offer a great environmental resume.  They can have great insulation value, excellent reflectivity and can last up to twice as long as conventional shingles.  Plus, after the lifespan of the roof is over, the entire roof can be recycled.  If you are planning on replacing your roof with a metal roof, two things will be part of the discussion – first is cost and second is aesthetics.  Cost:  consider the value-add based on replacement time and on the amount of energy efficiency you will pick up.  On aesthetics, color can make all the difference.  Clearly, should you choose Fire Engine Red or Periwinkle Blue, the aesthetic of your house is going to change…as are your neighbors’ opinions of you.  Most manufacturers offer a number of beautiful colors that will serve to enhance your look.  Shades of grey and bronze can pull in the natural beauty of your exterior materials and put the finishing touch on your home’s curb appeal.

Rounding out this list are the old stand-bys – Slate and Split Cedar Shake.  Slate is extremely durable – long lasting and recyclable when its roof-fullness has passed.  Slate can last up to 100 years and takes weather conditions head on.  Slate is a non-renewable resource but considering its longevity and recycle-ability, it is more “friendly” than other products.  The typical drawbacks to slate are price (like really expensive) and weight.  Slate roofs will need additional structural support so consult a local roofing company or engineer for advice on that.  Split Cedar Shakes are attractive, can come FSC certified, and add insulation to your roof.  A few things to consider on this type of roof are again, cost, but more importantly are fire rating.  These roofs are fairly environmentally friendly until you soak them in fire retardant toxic chemicals – that doesn’t really help the cause.  Additionally, with shrinking and swelling, you must be watchful of moisture, mold growth, and harm to the under roof.

The choices for roofing are extremely important.  The roof of your home is an investment in the home itself – protecting you from the elements more than any other system involved in your house – and an investment in our environment.  The choices you make can be beneficial to your home, both aesthetically and from an energy efficiency standpoint.  Just because one product may be less expensive – don’t just look at cost – look at durability and insulation value – these will reduce costs monthly and over the life span of your home.  Remember – every small decision based on environmentally friendly principles has a positive impact on our environment.

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