Roofing Trends: Beyond The Call Of Duty

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By Jillian Ruffino
Published in the February 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Tecta America Corp. Photo: Tecta America Corp.

Itdoesn’t take the astute mind of a facility manager (fm) to understandthe basic purpose of roofing. Every facility needs this structure tokeep water out of interior spaces and to provide protection from otherdamaging climate conditions.

But what if roofs could be doing more? What if they could also reduce energy consumption or produce electricity at a low cost?

Forthose organizations looking to get additional benefits from theirroofs, there are several options in the marketplace that can equiproofs to accomplish even more for facilities. Today’s roofs can bedesigned for energy efficiency and, in some cases, can lower afacility’s costs by lessening HVAC needs. In the years to come, fms maysee roofs supplying energy captured from the sun through newer, lessexpensive solar technologies.

Mark S. Graham is the associateexecutive director of technical services for the National RoofingContractors Association (NRCA), headquartered in Rosemont, IL. He says,“The roof is being asked to do more today than keep water out of thebuilding. It is being asked to help out considerably with heating andcooling costs, or it is attempting to address different issues such asurban heat islands.”

Mark A. Gaulin, chief operating officerof Tecta America in Skokie, IL, agrees: “Today we’re talking about coolroofing, highly reflective roofing, energy efficiency, more insulationand R-value protection, and systems that can generate electricity, suchas building integrated photovoltaics.”

A New Perspective

Theroofing industry is making an irrevocable shift from traditionalthinking about this important building element. Drew Ballensky, generalmanager of Saginaw, MI-based Duro-Last Roofing, Inc., explains, “A lotof traditional roof systems are either black built-up tar and gravel orblack rubber. These materials have a tendency to get very hot in thesummer; they can reach up to 200°F on a hot day.”

Obviously,if a roof surface is hot, the building is going to become warmer,which, in turn, increases cooling costs. Ballensky recommends a coolroof surface (such as a reflective roof), which may reduce the surfacetemperature on the top of buildings. In fact, with the properreflective coating, a roof’s temperature may become only 10°F to 15°Fwarmer than the ambient air temperature, a comparatively smallincrease.

Gaulin explains, “For fms considering reflectiveor cool roofing, they should keep in mind that these strategies canlower costs by lowering the actual temperature on buildings 30% to 40%in the heat of summer.”

“It turns out,” Ballensky continues,“reflective roof systems not only keep your building cooler, but theyalso last longer. This is critical now with the way energy costs havegone up.”

His company manufactures the Cool Zone roofingsystem, which uses an ENERGY STAR® labeled membrane to reflect morethan 86% of the sun’s rays. The system may also reduce building energyconsumption up to 40%. (For a detailed analysis of how this system, orother ENERGY STAR labeled products may contribute to energy savings,visit the Roofing Comparison Calculator at http://www.roofcalc.com, and click on “Savings Calculator.”)

Coolroofing techniques may also improve insulation performance by cuttingback on summer heat gain. Today, some experts are calling for moreinsulation than what is traditionally found in roofs.

Grahamoffers this advice: “If you are in a re-roofing situation, one obviousstrategy would be to insulate. It is becoming increasingly popular forbuildings to insulate beyond the existing standards.”

Insulationis helpful, because it conserves energy by reducing the heat loss orgain of a facility. Other benefits include increased occupant comfortand the elimination of condensation on roofs in cold climates.

Animportant aspect of insulation is R-value, which is a measure of amaterial’s ability to hinder heat flow. The higher the R-value, themore likely it is that insulation is working effectively.

Considering Roofing Options

Thereare several issues for fms to consider before installing a new roof orbeginning a re-roofing project. For example: Where is the facilitylocated? What is the climate of this area? Does this facility have highenergy costs that need to be addressed? What does this roof need to accomplish for the facility?

Duro-Last Roofing When facility managers take a closer look at their present roof system,they should question whether the roof is accomplishing enough for thefacility. Could it be doing more, such as contributing to the reductionof rising energy costs? Photo: Duro-Last Roofing, inc.

Choosingmaterials for roofs can be an intuitive process. Graham explains,“Geography, climate, and building usage are big issues. For example, innorthern climates where facilities deal with ice and snow for largeportions of the year, making a roof reflective to save on coolingenergy costs is probably not the best idea. Adding insulation in colderclimates probably makes more sense, since this strategy can help inboth heating and cooling situations. But for those further south,reflectivity is a natural approach to take.”

Another climateissue involves urban heat islands, which are metropolitan areas thatare significantly warmer than their surroundings. This phenomenon iscaused by the greater heat retention of building materials likeconcrete and asphalt. In this case, strategies such as implementing reflective or cooling elements should be considered.

Fmsalways need to factor in the economic impact of installing any newcomponents. It is unwise to incorporate more expensive materials ifthey do not contribute to saving on energy costs in the long run. Fortunately, it may be that energy efficient roofing choices do not necessarily cost more, and they may help roofs contribute to the energy needs of the building.

Grahamsays, “The interesting thing about roofing is that it is one of theonly elements of the building where it is possible to get paybacks. Fmsreally don’t experience this with doors or walls or other components.If you design the roof properly, you can get heating and cooling costsavings.”

The period of time between roof installation andpayback may be getting smaller. In the past, according to Graham, itwas acceptable for roofs to have a payback period of seven to 10 years.(The federal government’s depreciation schedule on commercial roofingis 39.5 years.) Within the last few years, though, members of theroofing industry have moved toward the expectation of a dramaticallycloser payback time of 31/2 years.

When creating a buget, fmsmust consider both the initial costs as well as the entire lifecycle ofthe roof. Ballensky explains, “One of the big things to look at is howlong the building expects to have that roof. Is the facility savingmoney now, but it’s going to cost more later? Or are you getting a roofsystem that has very good longevity and doesn’t require a lot ofmaintenance?”

During the purchasing process for new roofs ornew roofing elements, it is important to find those products that haveupfront costs that make sense once long-term performance andmaintenance needs are considered. These factors will ultimately mattermost to fms.

Photovoltaic Future

There is anew wave of exciting roofing technologies on the horizon. Thesetechnologies will take today’s ideas about energy savings one stepfurther. They will serve not only to reduce consumption, but also to produce energy for a facility.

Photovoltaic(PV) cells convert light from the sun to produce electricity. Energycreated by PV cells has long been available through the use of solarpanels on roofs. The expense of this technology, however, hastraditionally been prohibitive for many facilities. New PV advancementsmay make them more accessible and easier to install in the comingyears.

Looking into the future, Graham predicts, “Probablythe big breakthrough we will see in the future will be related tophotovoltaics. We’re looking forward to integrated PV within roofsystems.”

For example, PV cells may be laminated to roofingsystems. Some research labs are looking into creating PV coating, whichcould be on the market within the next few years. (See “SustainableEnergy Production,” by Tom Condon, January 2008, for more about newsolar technologies and product development.)

Ballenskycontinues, “The companies that produce these systems are trying to makethem more efficient, since they are pretty costly right now. You wantthem to be as efficient as possible so they can have a quickerpayback.”

Some PV companies are working with roofingproduct manufacturers (such as Duro-Last) to marry PV systems withmembranes, so fms can install a PV system that goes onto the roof alongwith the membrane. Overall, most experts see PV as a technology that isbecoming increasingly easy to install, less expensive, and possiblybeneficial to facilities.

Roofing By The Numbers

Thereare a lot of numbers involved with roofing—the years before facilitiessee a payback from roofing investments, the depreciation schedule for aroof, and the costs associated with installing and maintaining a roofsystem are all part of the complex math equation that defines the roofpurchasing experience.

Another figure involved—and one thatoften bears a lot of weight—is the roof’s warranty. There are, however,some common misconceptions about this coverage that insiders in theroofing industry would like to dispel.

Gaulin says, “Somefacility managers believe that roofing is strictly driven by awarranty, and that the warranty will cover them under allcircumstances. Clearly that is not true.”

With his technicalexperience, Graham adds this note of caution: “Probably the largestmisconception about roofing is there is some research or technologyrelated to the roof system warranties that you get from manufacturersand contractors. However, they are largely set as a marketing incentiveby both contractors and manufacturers.”

Graham points outthat it is not uncommon to see a product that has only been availablefor a few years with a warranty up to 50 years. This number has noscientific basis.

Whether installing a new roof or updatingthe elements of an existing structure, there are multiple options forfms to consider. With today’s new roofing technologies and strategiesdesigned to increase energy efficiency in buildings, fms will need towait and see how these components will play out in the years to come.The current departure from traditional, somewhat limiting beliefs aboutroofing should open up new possibilities for reducing cost andconsumption in buildings.

This article was based on interviews with Ballensky, Gaulin, and Graham.

To discuss some of your experiences in real time, come to FacilityBlog; to comment on this article, send an e-mail to [email protected].

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