Becoming “green” and making environmentally friendly purchase decisions is increasingly important to Americans. A roof may not be the first thing you think of when you think “green,” but when choosing a roof, it’s possible to make roofing choices with the environment in mind.
Any type of roof made with asphalt – shingles and built-up roofing products, for example – are made from fossil fuels. An estimated 10 million tons of shingles end up in landfills every year, which is not good for the environment. For this reason and a growing number of community initiatives to limit the amount of roofing waste in landfills, shingles are increasingly being recycled into paving materials and other products.
Metal roofs can be a good, environmentally friendly option for your roof. Although more expensive than shingle roofs, they can last decades longer on the rooftop. Metal roof panels usually include a large percentage of recycled steel content and are fully recyclable at the end of their roofing life. There are some environmental tradeoffs with metal roofs, when you consider the impact of mining, the energy used during production, and other factors.
Some commercial roof membranes, like PVC, have a smaller percentage of carbon-based materials in their composition and can be recycled, too. Also, because they are light-colored, reflective single-ply “cool” roofs will a reduce a building’s energy consumption and costs, plus help mitigate the urban heat island (UHI) effect. In addition to raising temperatures, UHIs can alter local wind patterns, promote the production of smog, increase humidity, clouds and fog, and impact precipitation.
There are also products to install on your roof to help go green. Solar panels can produce energy for building consumption. Rooftop gardens can reduce energy usage and help with water runoff.
The first job of a roof is to protect the building and the people and equipment it holds from the elements. Many commercial roofing options do that well, and provide additional environmental benefits. If you’re in the market for a new roofing system, consider your “green” options.