Green Roofing

Posted on
December 15, 2015 by

Environmentally Friendly Roofing

When we think about sustainability, we don’t often think about our roof.  However, most homes are roofed in asphalt shingles, a material with a short life, high environmental impact, and low reusability. It’s not safe to drink the water that runs off of these roofs, but there’s no regulation about letting it run into the soil. If your roof is starting to show its age, why not replace it with something better? There are a number of options when it comes to environmentally friendly roofing. Here are a few.

The Living Roof
This is one of the most popular choices when it comes to green roofs. Literally green, these roofs contain a layer of soil or soil substitute, and plants grow on top of them. They significantly increase the insulation value of the house, help it blend into its surroundings, and they’re generally beautiful. Topsoil that’s been displaced during construction can also be used as part of a living roof.

Green roofs can provide a pleasant place to sit, can allow growth of herbs or native plants and can help reduce your heating bill. In cities, they reduce the urban heat island effect somewhat, and they also keep storm water from running off onto the street or ground. Plants can help remove pollutants from the air and water while on your roof, and they’ll help increase the local wildlife population. These roofs are becoming more common in large cities, where incentives are being offered to place a living or “green” roof on buildings.

There are some downsides, too. Green roofs are much heavier than a traditional roof. That means they require a more complex infrastructure to hold them up. If poorly designed, they may leak or allow animals to colonize a home. However, this won’t happen if your living roof is properly designed.

Metal Roofs
There’s some debate about the sustainability of metal roofing. On the one hand, it’s a material that lasts a long time, almost never needs to be replaced, and can be recycled after removal. On the other hand, metal production is an environmentally damaging process. For the best of both worlds, recycled metal can be used, but that’s not always possible. However, for those who want to collect rainwater for use around the home, enameled metal roofs are a good choice, as they don’t contaminate the water.They’re lighter than living roofs, but heavier than a conventional asphalt shingle roof. Make sure that your building can support the weight.

Shake Roofing
Cedar shakes are another popular roofing material. Made of untreated cedar, they won’t rot the way many other woods do, and they last longer than asphalt. Eventually shakes do wear out, however, and their production requires harvesting of trees.

Ceramic Tiles
A long standing tradition in the Southwest, ceramic tile roofs are also nontoxic and long lasting. While individual tiles may need to be replaced from time to time, the whole roof is usually durable. Unglazed tiles are the most popular, but glazed ones also exist. Kilning clay into tiles requires a reasonably large amount of energy. That means that, like a metal roof, there’s a lot invested in tile. However, the durability and nontoxic properties of this material offset the problems for many. Tiles tend to be expensive, and are also very heavy.