When tackling a construction project, we often prioritize its costs, performance, and design. But aside from these, there are several crucial factors you must consider as well. Sustainability is one of the most significant ones, and it’s gaining rapid traction in the sector due to the lasting benefits to house owners and the surroundings.
Roof repair and replacement can be some of the expensive renovations you can tackle. After all, your roof takes all the beating from the harsh elements—making them partially responsible for your house’s heat loss and gain. With this in mind, picking a sturdy and energy-efficient material should be one of your priorities.
What Makes a Roof Sustainable?
The more raw materials a roof has, the more environmentally friendly it is. In other words, these items should be made without reducing or damaging its resources. And the sourcing of the material shouldn’t leave significant or irreparable damage to the environment. Any roofing material using fossil fuels or mined materials doesn’t fit the category, since both come from non-renewable resources.
Here are the factors that make up an environmentally friendly roof.
Eco-friendly roofs reduce heat gain and loss from your home, making it more energy-efficient. Knowing this is information is crucial as 10% to 15% of house heat loss occurs via the roof.
Embodied energy showcases the total power used to make the roofing product. These include mining, processing, and energy consumption.
Recycling & Reusability
The production of environmentally friendly roofing materials should use recycled or reusable products. Aside from that, manufacturers should aim for total reusability, limiting or eliminating landfill waste.
Sturdy and eco-friendly roofing materials sustain their integrity for their entire expected life span. They should also withstand wind, fire, debris, snow, ice, hail, and moisture. Moreover, a durable roof decreases the need for replacement, reducing the usage of natural resources and landfill space.
Contributes to a Healthier Ecosystem
Environmentally friendly roofing materials don’t damage the environment during production or application. They shouldn’t release or emit toxic chemicals as well.
Environmentally Friendly Roofing Options
Slate is appealing and incredibly sturdy, and it can help you protect your home and surroundings in the long run. Although it requires a lot of resources for mining, processing, and transporting, its durability makes up for it.
After all, slate roofing can even outlast your home! It’s a better and more sustainable option over time. And while mining stone isn’t the most eco-friendly upfront, the results are worthwhile.
Wood Shakes & Shingles
Although wooden materials aren’t the most environmentally friendly, wood shakes and shingles are! They are the only sustainable roofing materials you can get your hands on, as long as they come from a sustainably harvested source.
Wood shakes and shingles production is only moderately energy-intensive. In short, it doesn’t need many resources, making it more environmentally friendly. But the downside is that it isn’t as durable as slate. Still, wooden shakes and shingles can last you for over two decades with proper upkeep.
You also don’t need to worry when replacing your wood shakes and shingles, as they’re 100% biodegradable. As long as they haven’t gotten treated with artificial additives or preservatives, they shouldn’t harm your surroundings.
Overall, wood shakes and shingles are one of the most sustainable options, primarily if you reside in an area producing them from FSC-certified wood.
Asphalt (Composite) Shingles
Asphalt shingles are moderately sturdy, offering excellent heat reflectivity—depending on their design and color. Usually, shingles are made from paper, minerals, tar, fiberglass, and other petroleum products.
So, while they are durable enough to last you a few years, they aren’t the most sustainable option over time. Still, it’s a cheaper alternative you should consider.
One of the greenest roofing options are recycled shingles! These can be made from different waste materials, from plastic to wood fibers. And some might be from clean post-consumer or post-industrial waste. Either way, recycled shingles are incredibly sturdy and look fantastic!
These help decrease landfill waste while reducing the need to extract and process raw or natural materials. And once these recycled shingles go past their expected lifespan, you can recycle them again!
Although metal roofing materials require a lot of energy to make, they last a while and look fantastic! Moreover, they also use high-recycled content and are recyclable after surpassing their expected lifespan. But beware; metal roofs need proper insulation as they are highly heat-compulsive. Even if they can reduce heat gain, it pays to be aware of your options.
Concrete Tile & Fiber-Cement Roofing
Concrete tiles and fiber cement roofing materials are often made using Portland cement, and producing it involves energy-intensive processes. Not to mention they also create high amounts of CO2 emissions.
Still, they are incredibly durable, making them a more sustainable option over time. But as sturdy as they are against the different outdoor elements, walking on them is not a good idea.
Remember, although they look similar to slate, they are much lighter!
Clay Tile Roofs (Terra Cotta)
Clay tiles are heavy, expensive, and durable. Authentic tiles are made from natural clay shaped and produced like ceramic tiles. Some variations come with “special” glazes or coats of paints for added appeal and durability. Overall, the clay used for these tiles comes from plentiful resources, whereas many manufacturers claim them to be sustainable.
Green Roof Systems (Living Roofs)
Green roof systems, a.k.a living roofs, are low-slope or flat roofs partially or wholly covered with vegetation. And these are either in the forms of grass or small plants, primarily species native to the local area. Aside from that, green roofs may also have growing mediums (made from soil or inorganic materials) and an artificial waterproof membrane.
So, even though green roof systems can be expensive to install and maintain, they’re 100% worthwhile. They offer many benefits, including absorbing rainwater and providing insulation for your house. Meanwhile, they can also help decrease heat in urban areas gathered from concrete and other building items.
The downside to green roofs is that they depend heavily on rubber membranes to waterproof the roof. These are often made from petroleum, which isn’t the most sustainable resource. Aside from that, green roofs are also heavy and need additional framing for support.
Cool (White) Roofs
One of the fastest-growing trends in the roofing industry, cool roofs, are made of a combination of white gravel and white adhesive. Because of the colors and materials used, these roofs are said to block the sun’s UV rays. It also helps keep the house from getting too hot, so you don’t have to use your air conditioner as much.
Installing cool roofs will save a lot of money you would have spent buying and setting up cooling machines. These roofing materials can also help stop carbon emissions. Since you won’t need to use air conditioners, you’ll use less energy in your home. And because they don’t soak up as much heat from the sun as other roofs do, these roofs last longer.
Solar panels and tiles are both types of solar roofing. Solar panels need a solid roof to sit on. Solar tiles, on the other hand, have solar cells built into conventional roofing materials like metals and shingles.
Solar roofing captures the sunlight and transforms it into useful electricity by harnessing the sun’s natural energy. It’s an eco-friendly roofing material that can make a significant reduction in your monthly energy costs. Since they both get energy from the sun, they do not add to air pollution.
Unfortunately, installing a solar roof is cost-prohibitive, keeping many people from opting for it. Solar roofs also need sunlight to work, so they must be placed in areas with enough sunlight exposure.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Eco-friendly Roof
Zinc and copper coatings on roofing materials should be avoided at all costs since they can easily be washed into sources of water and are toxic to aquatic life.
Check to see if there are any recycled contents in the roofing material. Most of the time, the higher the percentage of recycled content is, the better – but in the end, durability wins. Also, ensure the material can be recycled again when the roof is no longer useful.
No one looks forward to the annual expense and inconvenience of roof maintenance. Roofing should be long-lasting, and it should not require the use of any harmful chemicals in its upkeep.
Color and Reflectivity
If you reside in an area that experiences a lot of heat throughout the year, you should search for roofing materials that are light in color and have high reflectivity. They will reflect more of the sun’s rays, which will prevent your house from overheating like an oven.
Theoretically, the best roof would seem to be the one that weighs the most because it would be the most sturdy and unlikely to come off in strong winds. However, the current structure of your home must be able to sustain the weight of the new roofing material.
Is your roof almost flat, has a low pitch, or has a steep slope? Depending on the situation, some roofing materials work much better than others.
Choose roofing materials with the most extended warranty available, as this is a solid indicator of both the material’s quality and longevity.
For a better and cleaner home, choosing green roofing options is the way to go! And with eco-friendly roofing materials, you are making your house and the world a better place to live in simultaneously. Consider the roofing options mentioned above when getting a new home or renovating. If you’re struggling to choose a roofing material, discuss your options and contact a reliable roofing contractor in New York.