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Answers to Your Top Questions about Energy Efficient and Eco-Friendly Commercial Roofing

Have questions about the energy efficiency of various commercial roofing options? Or wondering whether there are eco-friendly choices available to improve your building’s roof? You’re certainly not alone!

Here at Heidler Roofing, our customers seek our expertise on ways to cut regular business costs by installing better-performing and “greener” roof materials on both new and existing commercial and industrial buildings. There are many ways to create a roof that works for your building (especially if it has a flat or low-sloped roof) – and the environment – instead of against it.

Let’s answer some of the questions we’re asked most often about efficiency performance and eco-friendliness of various materials and systems.

Does a white roof save energy?

In short – yes. You may have noticed that many large commercial buildings these days tend to have lighter colored roofs instead of the traditional black, non-reflective ones that were installed throughout much of the 20th century. The reason for the growing popularity of white roofs isn’t based on changing style preferences, though it is based on a certain “cool” factor.

White roofs are what’s known as cool roofing, a term that describes technological advances in materials that allow these structures to control temperatures in and around the buildings they cover. Some of this has to do with the natural reflectivity that the color white provides vs. the color black (think about how you feel wearing a white t-shirt on a hot, sunny day outdoors compared to wearing a black one), but this advantage is boosted by what a roof is actually made from (or coated with), too.

As we talked about in an earlier blog post, white roofs save energy and cut cooling expenses during the hottest months of the year when the sun is shining brightly for longer daylight hours. This can save you significant money on air conditioning, and also helps keep un-air conditioned spaces like garages and warehouses more comfortable to work inside.

Some white roofs don’t perform as well as darker roofs during the winter months, however, when absorbing the sun’s heat is beneficial for snow and ice melt, and when heating is required to keep your building more comfortable inside. Here in our home service area in the mid-Atlantic region, frigid and snowy winters are a legitimate concern, but cool roofs often still outperform traditional black roofs despite their “solar radiation control” properties.

What type of roofing is the most energy efficient?

Did you know that there are over 3,000 roofing products and materials that are ENERGY STAR®-certified and qualify as cool roofing?

That’s a lot to sort through when choosing the best option for energy efficiency on your building’s roof.

And, in fact, it’s not easy to point to one type of roofing over another as the most energy efficient because, as the old saying goes, “your mileage will vary.” In other words, your building’s overall construction, size, and location will affect what type of roof provides the best efficiency. It’s always smart to consult with a professional, experienced roofing contractor to help you determine what type of roof will satisfy your building’s unique needs.

Some of the energy efficient, cool roofing materials you’ll be presented with as options for your low-sloped or flat roof include (read more about each type in our earlier blog post):

  • Built-Up Roofing (BUR) Systems – BUR roofs have been in use for over 120 years, and they are still installed today because of their cost-effectiveness. Increasing energy efficiency in these roofs is done in a number of ways, which can include making the top-most layer from mineral-surfaced sheets consisting of reflective granules.
  • Single-Ply Membrane Systems – Single-ply systems may be made from a long list of materials with unique characteristics and advantages, but they all involve membranes applied as one layer. Thermoset/EPDM, PVC, and TPO are some of the most common types of single-ply roofing systems, and account for the vast majority of commercial roofing installations today – EPDM is especially popular because the material is resistant to thermal stress and its efficiency is excellent in a wide range of climates.
  • Metal Roofing – Made from a variety of metals, though mainly affordable steel and aluminum in commercial installations, metal roofing is both energy-efficient and eco-friendly. It also retains most of its reflectivity as it ages while membrane systems tend to lose performance over time and require restorative coating.
  • Green or Garden Rooftops – A premium roofing option that is part garden and part multi-layered roofing system that both protects the building beneath it and supports the living vegetation above, green rooftops have a long list of advantages from the aesthetic to the environmentally friendly, especially in urban settings. These roofs are costly to install and require ongoing maintenance to keep plants healthy.
  • Reflective Roof Coatings – Generally used on older existing roofs to restore or add new reflectivity, coatings can be applied to a range of roof surfaces, such as asphalt shingles/sheeting, gravel, metal, and single-ply membranes. While these coatings are chemically-derived, they increase a roof’s durability, which is ultimately good for the environment.

What is the most eco-friendly roofing material?

While it may seem like green roofs would be the most eco-friendly, the fact that they are not widely installed today due to their complexity and expense mean that their positive impact is somewhat limited.

Metal roofing is often considered the most eco-friendly roofing material that is also commonly installed and affordable for many commercial building owners, mainly because it is recyclable and long-lasting. That said, all cool roofing material helps the environment by reducing energy consumption in high-demand seasons.

Many single-ply membrane systems and even BUR systems are designed for long-term durability, so materials are not often being carted away to landfills. This also makes more traditional materials, when installed by skilled professional roofers, eco-friendly, too.

Are metal roofs environmentally friendly?

As we just discussed, metal roofs check a lot of the boxes for being friendly to Mother Earth. Metal roofs are made from recycled materials, are recyclable at the end of service life, and are also very easy to make reflective – either with coatings applied on-site following installation or during the manufacturing process.

Have more questions?

Heidler Roofing is the commercial roofing leader in the Mid-Atlantic region. If you’re looking to gain energy efficiency from your commercial building’s roof or construct a new facility that adheres to strict environmental impact guidelines, get in touch today. We are ready to help you find the best roofing for your building’s needs.