Why Are Cool Roofs a New Trend in Eco-Friendly Design?

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Image by Alexander Annenkov via Flickr Creative Commons license.

Any small effort businesses and individuals make toward being more environmentally-friendly has a positive impact on the world. For this reason, more and more people are looking to sustainable solutions for their living and working spaces. Cool roofs are one new trend in eco-friendly designs. Experts estimate about 90% of the roofs in the United States are not eco-friendly and are designed with dark materials which absorb heat rather than reflecting it.

A cool roof does exactly the opposite, helping keep temperatures inside a structure cooler and reducing energy use. Cool roofs are particularly important in urban areas where heat islands occur, swelling already hot temperatures to unbearable levels.

Creating a cool roof can be done through a bright colored coating or reflective tiles. Traditionally, a cool roof is a flat roof with a coating that goes over top of the existing roof. However, even a steep tiled roof can be made cool through the use of reflective shingles. There are many benefits to using cool roofs.

1. Reduce Energy Use

Adding a reflective coating to your building lowers the internal temperatures and you’ll use less energy to cool your home or office. The overall energy savings can equal as much as 15% of cooling costs, but savings will vary based on the size of the building and the climate. During the hottest months of the summer, the internal temperatures in cool roof buildings are noticeably lower than buildings without reflective roofing material.

2. Provide Green Office Solution

Around 40% of the carbon emissions in the US come from office buildings. What if you could do a variety of things to reduce the carbon emissions from your own building? A cool roof makes a good first step. Either purchase a building that already has a reflective coating on the roof or cover the existing roof. Not only will your company be greener, but you’ll reduce the costs of cooling. For manufacturing facilities, you’ll lower the internal temperatures and create a safer work environment for employees.

3. Attract Eco-Friendly Buyers

When it’s time to sell your home or office building, already having as many green features in place as possible goes a long way toward attracting eco-friendly buyers. While installing a cool roof may not increase the selling price of a structure, it’s one of those perks that makes your listing more attractive than comparable properties around you.

Business buyers may like the idea of saving money on energy costs or making employees more comfortable while working. Work with a realtor who understands the value of a green building and how to push the benefits to buyers.

4. Cool Urban Heat Islands

As mentioned before, heat islands are a serious problem in urban areas. Buildings are packed close together and if a number of them have dark surfaces, which attract heat, the temperatures soar way beyond what they should. This is a particularly dangerous situation for anyone with heart or breathing conditions and has led to death in some cases.

One European study found adding cool roofs reduces the “population-weighted temperature” by about 23%. The biggest impact occurred during daylight hours.

5. Minimal Costs

You might wonder how much installing a cool roof costs in comparison to a traditional roof. Surprisingly, the costs aren’t as high as you might expect. As with any roofing project, the cost varies based on the pitch of your roof, but you can expect to pay around two to three dollars per square foot for reflective shingles. A traditional asphalt shingle roof can run as low as one dollar per square foot, but have been known to run upward of four dollars per square foot. Your local utility company might offer rebates – call and ask what’s available in your area.

Is a Cool Roof Right for You?

A cool roof can save you money on energy in the summer, but if you live in an area where it doesn’t get as hot or you have a short summer season, the added cost of cool roofing might not be the best use of your green energy dollars. Look at the potential savings and the benefits both to the environment and to you personally as you make your decision about installing a cool roof system.

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