Roofs are not the first thing most people when they think of green building, but green roof design can actually play a tremendous role in the energy efficiency and overall sustainability of a would-be green home or other building. Roofs can absorb a tremendous amount of heat from the sun’s rays, exacerbating the urban heat island effect, reducing indoor comfort, and increasing carbon emissions and air pollution due to greater load on air conditioners and other cooling units.
Green roofing systems are exploding in popularity around the nation as a growing number of home and business owners are learning about the financial and environmental benefits of more energy efficient roofs.
Examples of Green Roofing Technologies
The following are examples of some of the best green roofing technologies currently available:
Cool roofs reflect the sun’s heat back to the sky instead of absorbing it and transferring it to the building below. On a hot summer day, a dark colored roof can reach temperatures of 150° F or more. This heat is transferred to the attic and other rooms in the house, raising the interior temperature and increasing summer cooling bills. In contrast, white or other light colored “cool” roofs may be little warmer than the outside air temperature.
Green roofs, also known as living roofs, are roofs that are partly or completely covered with plants. The combination of the plants and the growing medium, not only provides substantial energy savings thanks to their insulating and shading effect, they also offer many additional benefits, depending on the plants chosen. Green roof installations range from casual rooftop “meadows” to formal gardens and can be used to provide a local source of fresh produce for city dwellers, to provide habitat for urban wildlife, or simply to provide an oasis of calm and beauty for urban residents. Green roofs also improve air quality thanks to the air filtering performed by the plants.
Solar shingles are thin film photovoltaic cells that convert the sun’s energy into clean electricity. Solar shingles are made to resemble traditional asphalt shingles and are easy to install and maintain. Solar shingles can not only substantially reduce utility bills, they can even earn extra income for the owner of the installation, though programs such as net metering that allow the solar producer to sell unused electricity back to the power company!
Three Green Roofers Making the World a Cooler Place
Kurt Horvath, owner of Intrinsic Landscaping, based in Glenview, Illinois, installed one of the Chicago area’s first green roofs and has traveled extensively in Europe studying European green roof technologies. Since 2001, Intrinsic Landscaping has installed over one million square feet of green roofs in the Chicago area. In addition to green roof design and installation, Intrinsic Landscaping also designs and installs living walls, and provides traditional landscaping services with a holistic, low impact focus.
New York-based Green Roof Collaborative offers design and engineering services for green roofs, also specializing in assisting property owners to file the paperwork for tax incentives and other programs designed to mitigate the cost of green roof installation.
Roof Menders, based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, offers a variety of cool roof installation services and options, including cool flat roofing, cool metal roofing, and more. They install cool roofs both for new construction and remodeling projects, and work frequently in both Pennsylvania and Maryland. Roof Menders also offers tin and copper roof installation and restoration.