What It Means for a Roof to Be Sustainable
Sustainable roofs are something that is difficult to describe without actually being there as seeing and experiencing them for yourself. The problem is similar to that anecdote of some blind men trying to describe an elephant. One thinks the leg is a pillar, another believes the trunk is a snake and the third mistakenly guesses that the tusks are actually spears. Each blind man is unable to properly describe the elephant from their own point of view, and the same difficulty faces those who try to explain sustainable rooftops in all their glory.
There are a lot of words being used to compactly describe sustainable rooftops, and they often feel as contradictory as any two words can be. One describe these roofs as being both warm and cool, while others say they are energy efficient yet also provide clean energy. Even descriptions about their colouring can be contradictory and unhelpful. What these varied descriptions do manage to do is encapsulate just how many different functions sustainable roofs can have and the many ways in which they can have an effect on the environment.
We can say that sustainable roofs produce their own energy while at the same time conserving energy. They provide massive energy savings,that if used on a massive scale, could conserve as much savings as 700 trillion Btu for every year. The potential for untapped energy output from such devices, when used on a similarly massive scale, could be enough to surpass the power of about a dozen hydroelectric dams.
Sustainable roofing also captures rainwater, and if every roof in the area were to use that captured water, the result would be a major reduction in workload for city water sources. If used in sewer systems, the result could be a massive reduction in pollution levels.
Sustainable roofing can also have a major effect on the climate and the environment. This roofing greatly reduces the need for air conditioning. That in turn reduces heat in populated areas and cuts down on global warming.
The waste from roofing makes up about 5 percent of all the waste that is generated each year for the nation. Sustainable roofing cuts back on how much roofing materials would need to be used and how easily they can be reused.
Sustainable roofing is very durable and needs little maintenance or repair. It protects buildings more than conventional roofing, allowing for longer structure life and a reduced need for repairs.
The public is recognizing just how complex rooftop roles can be, and this is helping to establish a more complete set of standards in dealing with roofing. One such example of this new school of thought about roofing in practice is at an Alton, IL field station. Their new roofing techniques, made possible through sustainable roofing, garnered them the 2010 Innovation in Design award from the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing. This roof included a number of sustainable features, such as:
- Native plants integrated onto the roofing system to reduce the roof’s effect on natural flora.
- Lighting for the building supplied through a series of of solar tubes mounted on the roof.
- Building power supplemented by solar panels on the roof.
- Retaining system from storm water that irrigates the entire building site.
- A reduction of air conditions and heating needs for the building thanks to efficient roof insulation.
- A new design in roofing efficiency that ensures longer life for the entire building.
- Efficient use of roof space by addition of a classroom there.
This impressive and creative roofing design sets new precedents for efficient roofing and raises the bar high for those who are tasked with creating efficient roofs themselves. New technologies were put into place with this roofing system that pose new challenges for roofers as they try to make the most of them.
Some new technologies, like roof day-lighting and some solar power systems open up new fields of disciple. These kinds of technologies require specialists in the field of solar power modelling and electrical design. The new water retention measures used on this roof may require experts in thermal modelling.The biggest challenge raised by this new standard in roofing is how to make all the systems integrate seamlessly. There are a lot of different green methods being put into practice here, and it can hold exciting meaning for a variety of fields. Those in charge of making these systems work have to determine how the integration of one system negatively or positively affects the other systems involved. They have to consider the benefits and negative impact some systems may have on other systems.
As roofing becomes ever more complex, new tools may need to be created to deal with them effectively. Roofing Matters is a guideline for sustainable roofing that has been created by the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing. Much like LEED and Green Globes, which serve the needs of an entire building, Roofing Matters ensures that all environmental roofing systems in the same building are working together and maintaining a certain level of quality and effectiveness. The program actively awards those who achieve high standards of roofing practices that are environmentally responsible.
Roofing Matters deals with five different areas that factor into efficient roofing design for roofing systems of the low slope variety. These areas are the management of materials, the management of energy, the management of water, the management of a building’s life cycle and advancement and innovation in roofing. All of these areas of functionality are broken down further into subsections. Each of those subsection is guided by a set of criteria that ensures quality and efficiency at every step of the design and implementation process. Roofing Matters began as a pilot program that served to test the waters. A more complete version was released in 2011, and it included changes adapted from practical learning experiences.
The roofing industry plays a very important role in advancing the energy security of the nation. Rooftops in the commercial space alone cover billions of square feet. If that space were to be used in the most efficient way possible, the benefits to energy production and energy savings could be phenomenal.