Are you in the market for a new roof? Whether you are building a brand new residential or commercial space or in the process of remodeling, it is important that you are aware of the benefits that a cool roof could potentially provide your home or office and the environment. Other than being the most eco friendly roofing option available, cool roofs (also known as ‘white roofs’) offer other non environmental benefits like lower energy costs, low tech and low hassle. There are many sustainable cool roof types to choose from. Each cool roof type has its fair share of advantages as well as disadvantages so make sure to read through the following options carefully in addition to doing your own extensive research to find the cool roof option that is right for you. Choose cool and be cool!

Cool Roof Types

Wood Shingles or Wood Shakes

This roof type has gained long-term popularity among homeowners and roofers alike for affordability and ease of access and installation. Even though they tend to be the most popular option, many traditional wood shingles and wood shakes are not as environmentally friendly as you would suspect. Most wood materials have a bumpy surface making them the least reflective roofing option. The bumpier the surface of the roof the less likely it is to reflect sunlight and the more likely it is for heat to build up in and around your home or building. Additionally, the conventional harvesting of trees is not a sustainable practice for the environment. And it’s also important to note that wood roofs cannot be used in any areas that are highly prone to brush or forest fires.

On the other hand, wood roofing can be an environmentally friendly option if they are installed with sustainable practices in mind and in an area that is not prone to forest fires. It does take a good amount of careful engineering to install wood shingles and wood shakes correctly for the most sustainable benefits. Eco-friendly wood materials are made from recycled or reclaimed lumber or sustainably grown trees and are processed locally to reduce costs and energy.  In addition to purchasing a local and sustainable material, wooden roofs can also be made greener by smoothing out the surfaces of the shingles or shakes and treating them with reflective pigments and white paint to reduce heat buildup.

Metal Roofs

On the contrary to what you commonly hear about metal roofs, they are actually a highly sustainable cool roofing option. You may have heard that metal or tin roofs tend to soak up light and produce extreme heat. While this is true of the traditional metal roofs that were built 60 – 70 years ago, modern day metal roofs are now produced with a heavily coated metal material that reflects and retracts light and heat to keep your homes comfortable and the environment green and safe for living. You can make the roof even more sustainable by adding a coat of light colored paint over the coated metal. Like wood materials, its best to make use of a metal roof that is made from locally sourced recycled materials. Once installed, a metal roof can last up to 50 years and can then be recycled again, which reduces a large amount of waste in the long run.

The only possible disadvantage of a metal roof is the increased noise during rainstorms or other harsh weather conditions. However this can be solved with proper insulation and skilled engineering. There are really no major downsides of a metal roof. The list of positive and environmentally friendly benefits could go on forever. Modern day metal roofing is durable, fire resistant and a great option if you are looking for a simple way to collect rainwater for gardening or other household purposes! A coated metal roof will keep any home or building warm in the winter and cool in the summer and always dry and protected from rain or snow.

Reclaimed Clay or Slate Tiles

Clay and slate tiles are very desirable as they give any home a gorgeous and rather luxurious appearance. These tiles have the longest history of the cool roof types as they date back to 1300AD. Both clay and slate roofs are extremely sustainable and good for the environment. For these reasons they are still widely used by homeowners all over the world. One of the biggest attractions of tile roofing is its durability, which allows a roof to last up to 100 years! Because of the nature of the clay and slate materials, they are commonly used and favored in warmer climates. The heaviness of the clay and/or slate keeps the cool air inside on a hot day. And the curved shape of clay creates insulation from both hot and cold temperatures.

However, the sturdiness and durability of these materials do make them a very costly option and they can be a pain to transport as well as an energy guzzler. Even with this major disadvantage, clay and slate tiles are still a big win with an infinitely long list of benefits that many times outweigh the initial cost for most people. Slate and clay are already naturally green materials on their own since they are produced by the earth. But you can still make a tile roof even more eco friendly by purchasing repurposed salvage tiles. Slate and clay can also be found in lighter colors to retract light and decrease heat buildup. Transportation and installation is the hardest and most costly part. After the tile roof has been installed, the sustainable benefits begin to add up and you will have a roof that will last you a lifetime and beyond!

Living Roof

Get even closer to nature by planting a garden on the roof! Simply seal up the roof and put in some planters. A plant roof will give any home natural beauty and curb appeal. This may be the best cool roof option yet! Its eco-friendly and green… literally. Living roofs provide bountiful benefits and they are a great option in urban areas since the living roof ecosystem helps moderate heat and cleans the air. Living roofs, also known as horticultural roofs, are made by installing a sealed material to the surface of the roof so that soil beds can be placed on top. It is important to note and understand the three different types of horticultural roofs: Intensive, extensive and trays. Extensive roofs are generally made thicker and heavier to support larger plants while Intensive roofs are thinner and lighter and commonly found on smaller structures. While both are permanent structures, extensive living roofs are made so that a few feet of soil can be placed on the roof, giving you the option to house everything from flowers and shrubs to trees and crops or any other type of living vegetation! Trays are different from Intensive and Extensive roofs in that they are a non-permanent option made with containers or planting trays that are installed temporarily and filled with plants and vegetation. With just about any green roof type however, you will be able to interchange the plants on your roof throughout the different seasons or as often as you like to support a variety of habitats. In addition to the many environmental benefits, green roofs also reduce rainwater runoff from your roof, offer additional cooling and insulation (which reduces heating and cooling costs) and they provide a beautiful natural aesthetic to an otherwise neglected space.

Plant roofs are amazing, beautiful and extremely beneficial to the environment, but they can be expensive to install and very high maintenance. A green roof may require regular inspections and structural reinforcement, especially if you choose to go with that maximum soil depth Extensive option. Consistent maintenance and upkeep can become very costly rather quickly. And roofing repairs would be more difficult should you ever have to fix something beneath the surface of the living roof. These are all things to keep in mind when considering installing a living roof. Many times however, the benefits are well worth the drawbacks.

Solar Roof

Small solar cells can be embedded into many types of traditional roofing materials including shingles and metal. The technical term for this type of solar paneling is “building integrated photovoltaic technology.” This type of solar roofing technology tends to be pricy to attain and install compared to other cool roofing options. However, solar panels and power generated shingles are less expensive today than they were in the past and prices are continuing to decrease as solar power is becoming more common. Even with the high price of solar panels, increasing solar power usage does offset other energy costs in the home or office. And this can potentially save you a large amount off your energy bills over time. Be forewarned though, as it often takes years to start saving on energy after your initial investment.

The biggest downfall of solar paneling for most people is the appearance. Most panels are big and bulky and tend to not fit well with the design of the building or roof. However there is now the option to install solar shingles which come in a variety of styles, so you are sure to find one that will fit flawlessly into your home or building design and in most cases they go completely unnoticed!

Roof Overhangs and Skylights

Building a roof overhang is another great cool roofing option and a very sustainable way to cool your home. It does take skilled engineering and an experienced construction team to build a properly structured roof overhang. A highly efficient roof overhang is built as a deep slanted ledge off the main roof that is positioned correctly in relationship to the rise and fall of the sun. A roof overhang casts enough shade on your home or building and which reduces the amount of energy used to cool the building and in turn saves money on electricity bills. Seems like a win-win situation! If you choose this option, just make sure you are paying attention to construction costs. This type of roof addition can be quite costly if you are adding it on to a pre built structure. Consider this roof if you are already planning to build an addition to the structure of the building or building completely from scratch.

Skylight roofs are another option to use in order to build a roof sustainably and with eco friendly practices in mind. The main benefit of skylights on the roof is the large amounts of natural light it provides your indoor space. With skylights you can also get some solar heating in your home during the cold months! But in the warmer months of the year they come with quite a few drawbacks. The natural light can bring additional heat into the building in the summer months, especially during those prime hours of direct sunlight. Skylights are also rather expensive to purchase and install, so make sure you do your research to make sure it’s the right option for you.

Additional Cool Roofing Materials

Single-ply Thermoset Roof

  • A structure made from oil and natural gas with strong sealing for ultimate insulation
  • Good for withstanding damages including harsh weather conditions and sunlight

Single-ply Thermoplastic Roof

  • A welded structure made with fire retardant materials that absorb ultraviolet light
  • Highly resistant to oils, animal fat and bacterial growth which make them good for restaurants and other similar business types

Built-Up Roof

  • A flat roof “built-up” with layers of asphalt and usually topped with white asphalt rock

Recycled Shingles from Waste Materials

  • Recycled tire rubber

Modified Bitumen

Whatever roofing option you choose for your new home or office, it is important to choose a sustainable, environmentally friendly option that will last a long time and save energy throughout its lifetime. Because saving energy is not only good for the environment but it is also good for your wallet! Installing cool roofing materials is a great way to cut costs and create natural renewable energy for the environment. You are sure to be happy with the cool roof option you choose for years to come.

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