Energy Efficiency and Roofs

May 18, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

roofBoth the quality of an organization and the energy efficiency of the building that houses it start at the top. In one case, it’s the business plan. In the other, it’s the roof.

In an era heavily influenced by the strikingly new – the stunning capabilities of the Internet of Things and the cloud is perhaps the best example – it is worth paying attention to less glitzy but vital steps aimed at maintaining and increasing energy efficiency. Roofs are one of those things.

Energy Manager Today covers roofs, so to speak. For instance, we’ve recently written about green and reflective roof coatings. In general, there is no shortage of helpful information posted on the proper care and feeding of roofs. All of it either directly or indirectly impacts the energy efficiency of the building underneath.

Here are some of the most interesting and valuable:

Yesterday, Facilitiesnet posted a piece extolling the virtues of simply keeping a roof clean. Doing so, the piece contends, enables a longer lifespan, cuts down on repairs and optimizes performance.

The piece goes into a moderate level of detail. Messiness can lead to spills of caustic chemicals and other substances. These can damage the various layers of materials of which a roof is composed. Messiness can also lead to pooling of water, which can also be damaging.

Along with cleanliness, building owners must keep a sharp eye on the roof. Pfister Roofing, a company in Paterson, NJ, posted an infographic offering tips and advice on roofs. A key realization is that the care of the roof has a big impact on insurance premiums and the carrier’s willingness to put a claim through.

The infographic offers common sense – perform regular maintenance and remove branches – and specifics. It suggests looking closely under the roof (inside the structure) for mold, mildew and unexplained odors. On the outside of the roof, look for spots, blisters and wood damage (which may be a sign of insects). Gaps in the flashing and sagging also are a potential problem. Professional inspections every six months is recommended. Commegreen roofrcial roofs, the infographic says, generally last 20 to 25 years.

Brad Radford, the President of Bumblebee Roofing of Woodstock, Ontario, also wrote about potential causes of damage and the importance of inspections. Many of the best practices he recommends echo those suggested by Pfister Roofing. He adds that in addition to an inspection every six months, it is a good idea to investigate after major weather events and the installation or maintenance of rooftop equipment.

Radford wrote that “[s]tructural movement such as settlement, seismic movement and thermal expansion and contraction” can cause problems. Changes in the use of the building, the long term impact of manufacturing defects and other subtle issues can lead to issues that, if not confronted, can hurt the bottom line.

The impact of some faults on energy efficiency can be a bit indirect: Something that degrades over time – breaks, gaps and holes – eventually lets energy escape. There are things that have a more direct and immediate impact. For instance, the material used on the top layer of the roof and its color have a direct and immediate bearing on its energy efficiency.

School Planning & Management take a look at color. Though the piece is aimed at schools, its ideas are relevant to all buildings. The piece says that reflective Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), polyvinyl chloride, ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM) and ballasted systems are good roof approaches in hot climates. In colder climates, dark colored roofs – such as black EPDM – save energy.  It can be a big deal:

Selecting the right roof color is an easy way to decrease a school’s energy consumption. Conversely, choosing the wrong roof color can be a costly mistake: One study found that in northern climates during the heating season, the thermal heat loss associated with a white membrane is 30 percent higher than that of black EPDM. Because a roof is a long-term investment, choosing the right color can help reduce a school’s energy consumption and increase its sustainability for decades.

Two other energy saving approaches are discussed at MCBI. Actually, the piece covers three topics. One is was roof color, which is addressed by the School Planning & Management piece. The two other issues discussed in this piece are air barriers and insulation. Both are important topics. Amy Crenan notes that air leaks – even small ones – can lead to as much as 40 percent heat loss. This, she says, is the case no matter how well insulated the roof is. Perpendicular layers of insulation are recommended. The gap between the two can be the air barrier, she wrote. The EPA offers more on cool roofs.

The bottom line is that the top of the building is vital. Making sure that roofs are designed for the environment that they are in and are functioning correctly is a vital piece of the energy efficiency puzzle.

*Don’t miss our Environmental Leader 2016 Conference in June.  Click Here.

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