It seems we have entered into the Green Revolution with everything from Automotive to Zookeeping going “green”. Is it really that easy to be green? Kermit would be thrilled. I have found out that not all greens are equal, in fact many are not any greener today than they were last year or last decade. It takes more than putting a green leaf and a recycle symbol on your website or print collateral to be considered a “green” company, or at least it should.
When we opened Element Smart Roofing over a year ago, we did so with the understanding that this would be a company with “green” building as it’s core infrastructure. The process in which we developed relationships with manufacturers, clients, vendors and other business partners centered around this very ideal. I take a look around my industry and find many companies jumping aboard the “green” bandwagon, this would be great if I felt they were sincere in this effort to revolutionize our way of building and living, however I know many of them are simply following a trend and do not want to be marginalized in a sales pitch.
It takes a lot of research and development to actually undertake “green” initiaties within the roofing industry. For example, I know one company that claims they recycle 90% of their tear offs, as we do. As a stakeholder in the King County Mixed Use Asphalt program, I am kept abreast on who, what and where recycling of shingles actually finds and end user. There is only 1 or 2 recycling centers that go beyond the shredding of aspahlt to actually recycle the shingles into mixed use asphalt for paving projects, and most of these roofing companies do not use them. Secondly, there is a rather inconvienent process to preparing a jobsite for recycling efforts, one in which most companies do not employ or their roofers refuse to follow these detailed procedures.
There is currently very few companies that will recycle cedar shake tear offs due to lack of end user or lack of landfill space for the mulch to sit for months on end. The other problem is that many cedar roofs have been treated with chemicals or oil rendering their usefulness as mulch in gardens a bit volatile, not that it can’t be done but the leeching oil and chemicals is not the best product for your landscaping.
Until now most of this information is not well known or passed around in the circles of the roofing industry as most companies have a fleeting interest in it, mostly to keep up with the Joneses (hey a double entendre..owner is Richard Jones). If you are seriously interested in our recycling efforts please ask our roofing consultant and he can explain our process and partners and give you accurate and honest assessment of where your roof is going when it leaves your driveway.
There are products that many roofing companies offer that are “green”er than traditional materials, but will also cost you more green than most can or are willing to afford. Let’s face it, we would all love to live in perfect harmony with nature and have sustainability as our standard building codes, but until there is more competition in the marketplace most “green” roofing materials are going to be priced for those who have a purpose for the product or price is not an issue. Some of these products are the recycled rubber shingles that are manufactured by such companies as Carlise’s EcoStar brand or the EuroSlate/EuroShake.. the DaVinci is not a recycled rubber product (it is synthetic). While these products are actually rather striking in appearance and very durable, they leave a lot to be desired in way of affordability.
A much more affordable and yet overlooked ‘recycled’ roofing product is metal. Yes, the same metal you see at your local post office or shopping center. Most metal is at least 30% post consumer recycled metal and 100% is recyclable. Even better is that there are quite a few companies that will actually pay (albeit not a whole bunch) for your metal waste as there is and has been and end market for recycled metal. Not to go on a pitch for metal roofing products (I should get a commission for this entry), but if you are planning a water catchment system, there is no better product in the industry for the core of this water harvesting system, and that is your roof. The water coming off a metal roof is much cleaner than any other pitched roofing product (PVC is also rather compatible, but is a flat roofing product). The resins, VOC’s and organic material contained in most other products do not make an ideal roof for renewable water containment (usually used as landscaping irrigation) and none would be recommended for potable water usage unless a sophisticated filter system was implemented.
There is also Green Roofs, which are becoming more popular, but have many issues with structural load bearing and are also rather pricey to date. If you are an owner of a residential property and your home is older than 5 years, I can 90% guarantee that your roof would need to be retrofitted to sustain the added weight of a vegetative roof system. This is not to say that it is not worth your while to look into this type of system if you have a serious interest in turning your flat roof into an extra yard or garden area, just that it may require some reinforcing of the roof infrastructure (trusses, rafters, beams, etc) before you get to the roof system itself, all of which add to the bottom line. We love Green Roofs and are developing this part of our business rather intently. Europe has been building this way for decades and are far ahead of us in everything “green” and most of Green Roofing (vegetative roofing) technology has come from Germany and France. We believe there will be codes set for a certain amount of Green Roofing for commercial properties in the near future and as prices drop a larger market for residential retrofits.
If the vegetative roof systems are fun than the solar roof systems can be labeled as practical. Okay, it is true that it may take years to recoup the cost of the initial installation, but something about generating your own power grid from the sun intrigues all of us. Currently there are quite few products on the market for solar roofing. From solar shingles to solar laminates that stick onto such roofing surfaces as metal. there are also the traditional solar ‘grids’ that can be mounted on a roof, the best being a metal roof with standing seams using S5 clamps. Other solar grids can lay on top of flat roofs, the most recent being solar tubes that catch solar energy from the top as well as the reflective sun rays from the roof membrane as well. I would recommend using a grid over most shingles and laminates as the grids still offer the most bang for your buck. The real trick for solar roofing to catch on in the industry is the engineering and electrical implementation of these systems. Most roofing companies would have to employ a 3rd party to help with the install of these systems, and the cost to do this is passed on to the consumer making an already pricey project into possibly a real money cruncher. The demand in Seattle for solar is picking up and more companies are investing time and resources into offering these services, we are one of them. We hope to be announcing a new product in the near future for anyone interested in solar roofing. I’ll write a post announcing this product and service when we launch it (this summer).
We certainly appreciate the buzz and adoption of the “green” way of business and hope our competitors and peers in the industry are as sincere as we are in making Green Building the normal way of building, otherwise the term itself becomes diluted and cliched. There is a difference in saying you are “green” and being “green”, actions do speak louder than words.
I will say this about being “green”, this is a revolution that seems to be based on doing something for our planet. This thinking is flawed, it is not about our planet. Our planet will be here when we have become extinct, global warming is a threat to our species not our planet, The planet will evolve and regenerate a new environment and new species that can adapt to Earth’s changes. Going “green” is about us, we need to go “green” to shed our wasteful and damaging lifestyles set forth from the Industrial Revolution, we need sustainable building, renewable energy and passive energy and building to become our primary function in relation to Earth. Being green is about securing a better future for the human race, not mother Earth. Earth is reaching a tipping point that has given us pause for concern and has helped launch the “green” revolution, to trivialize it into a marketing tool only would be a disservice to not only consumers but companies that truly believe in this fundamental philosophy.