Let me stipulate I'm all for saving energy and preserving the environment. Like
fine wine, tax cuts and Chicago Cubs victories, more is always better.
Let me also stipulate the green building movement has created some great opportunities
for our members and the roofing industry. Contractors use more insulation. They
install vegetative and photovoltaic roof systems. And owners and designers are much
more interested in their roofs than ever before. All this is incredibly positive.
But we need to be sure in our enthusiasm for energy and environmental improvements
that we make good decisions based on good science. Absent that, the roofing industry
faces some significant unintended consequences. Consider:
- Using lightweight concrete, rather than traditional concrete, can earn a building
two LEED® points. But we're learning lightweight structural concrete roof decks
can retain moisture for a long time and have contributed to serious roof system
problems. (A roof system, alas, usually earns only one LEED point.)
- The use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is prohibited in adhesives and sealants
in some parts of the U.S., so the industry is using more low-VOC and water-based
adhesives. That's good for the environment but not so good for actually adhering
things. Some adhesives can only be applied, according to their manufacturers, when
the temperature is between 50 F and 80 F. Good luck with that in, say, Las Vegas
- A well-credentialed faculty member at Stanford University's engineering department
studied the effects of reflective roof surfaces and concluded they may actually
contribute to global warming. His theory is reflected solar energy destroys cloud
cover, leading to more solar energy, which leads to higher temperatures.
- New building code requirements call for the use of building materials "harvested"
(that's code-speak) within 500 miles of a construction site. That's good for reducing
transportation-related carbon emissions, but no one is quite sure how to harvest
asphalt in South Dakota, for instance.
Consider these cautionary notes in the bigger picture of saving energy and preserving
the environment. We will undoubtedly find solutions over time, which will result
in better, more efficient buildings. But when change occurs as rapidly as it has
during the past few years, it's important, every once in a while, to remember change
usually brings some surprises, too.