The greening of coatings

Is the roofing industry on the verge of a biobased boom?

These days, roofing contractors are confronted by many options when it comes to the rapidly growing market for green buildings and their roof systems. Typically, the question for most building owners, specifiers and architects desiring an environmentally friendly roof system is whether it will be a living green roof system or a highly reflective one. But there is another option, which comes in the form of biobased roofing products such as reflective roof coatings, adhesives and sealants.

What they are

Biobased roofing products are derived from rapidly renewable plant oil polymers designed not only to replace but outperform petroleum-based products. Currently, building products such as roofing materials, adhesives, caulks, stains, paints, insulation and sealants primarily come from petroleum. In fact, according to research conducted by the United Soybean Board (USB), one-third of all foreign oil consumption in the U.S. is tied to the polyurethane product industry. These products start out as extracted crude oil, and it takes an incredible amount of processing to convert crude oil into the petroleum chemistries commonly used in the roofing industry. These processes—not the finished products—are the real offenders when it comes to environmental pollution.

On the other hand, agricultural oils have been called nature's perfect chemistry. Oil that can end up on a consumer's dining room table as salad dressing, for instance, also could be taken directly to a polymer reactor and used to create a host of industrial polymer-based products. For instance, processing agricultural oils for industrial building product use as urethanes or polyurethanes takes less than 20 percent of the inherent energy and subsequent environmental effect needed to produce comparable petroleum-based industrial building products, according to USB research findings.