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
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 during summer.
- 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
- 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...
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