A Sighting of Bigfoot

Recently, I have received questions about carbon content and carbon footprints associated with roofing. Before we can track down the source of those footprints we need to know what we’re searching for.

The technical definition of a carbon footprint is that it is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a person, company, business or country over a given time. A more generic definition is that it is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment based on the greenhouse gases produced. This second definition includes more than just carbon dioxide produced.

A primary carbon footprint considers the most direct impacts, like the use of a car or airplane. A secondary carbon footprint looks more at the entire lifecycle of activities or processes, such as with the production of a product. There are lots of theories as to how and what to measure to determine an individual carbon footprint. Numerous calculators attempt to put a numerical value to a product’s or process’ carbon footprint, but there is no single agreed-upon standard. The concept of “cap and trade” is even being debated as a means to controlling carbon footprints.

The cap and trade issue deals with controls placed on total carbon dioxide emissions. Contrary to what many people think, cap and trade is not a policy for regulating Wall Street or providing health care. A Rasmussen poll found that 76% of Americans have no clue what cap and trade means. Yet, the system, if implemented, is essentially a tax that could have broad implications for the costs of generating electricity or producing goods and services. With this scheme, carbon emissions are limited or capped and an organization is allocated an allowance for the amount it can emit. Then, companies buy and sell capacity based on whether they are emitting more or less than their quota. This could have the effect of shifting power plants from using coal, an abundant resource in the U.S., to natural gas to generate electricity.

Natural gas is the main fossil fuel source for producing ethylene used in making the vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). VCM is a key component in polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). Increases in natural gas demand will increase its price and increase costs to producers of vinyl products, including roofing and other construction components.

This is a very complex interconnected issue that is being hotly debated. There will no doubt continue to be many changes to environmental regulations in the near future. Construction specifiers are anticipating these changes and are beginning to include them in their design considerations. Construction and facility management professionals should stay informed to be able to respond appropriately.

Cool Roofing Tax Incentives

Two main Federal tax incentives exist for installation of cool roofing, but as with any Federal government program there are qualifications that need to be met.

Residential Tax Credit

At this time, single-ply membranes are not eligible for a tax credit on residential applications. However, if additional insulation is installed during roof replacement, the cost of the insulation can be claimed as a credit.

Commercial Tax Deduction

In general, tax law allows a deduction for part or all of the cost of energy efficient building property that the taxpayer places in service between December 31, 2005 and December 31, 2013. Several conditions must be met to qualify for the commercial tax deduction:

1. The building must be within the U.S. and must meet the requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001 – Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

2. To qualify for the maximum total combined deduction for all lighting, HVAC, hot water, and building envelope property installed, the total annual energy and power costs of the building must be reduced by at least 50 percent. A partial deduction is allowed for each separate building system. The IRS set the following target reductions in March 2008:

  • Interior lighting – 20%
  • HVAC and hot water – 20%
  • Building envelope – 10%

Cool roofing is partially qualifying if it is estimated to reduce the total annual energy and power costs by 10 percent or more. The maximum deduction amount for partially qualifying property is $0.60 per square foot of the building.

3. The Performance Rating Method (PRM) must be used to compute the percentage reduction. Calculations are based on a reference building located in the same climate zone as the taxpayer’s building and containing the new building component that has been incorporated, but is otherwise identical to the reference building. The Department of Energy maintains a list of qualified software to be used to calculate energy and power costs for certification.

4. To claim the deduction, the taxpayer must obtain a certification provided by a qualified individual. The taxpayer is not required to attach the certification to the tax return, but the taxpayer must maintain proper records to establish the entitlement. A qualified individual:

  • is not related to the taxpayer claiming the deduction;
  • is an engineer or contractor that is properly licensed as a professional engineer or contractor in the jurisdiction in which the building is located; and
  • Has represented in writing to the taxpayer that he or she has the requisite qualifications.

A certification must contain:

  • the name, address, and telephone number of the qualified individual;
  • the address of the building to which the certification applies;
  • one of five statements (as outlined by the IRS) explaining the manner in which the building envelope property satisfies energy efficiency requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 7

This is the final posting in a seven part series.

Q: I’ve heard that PVC cannot be recycled. Is this true?

A: No. In fact, PVC is inherently recyclable. Vinyl materials can be reprocessed and recycled repeatedly, and PVC is the only roofing material that has proven to be recyclable back into new roofing products. In Europe, PVC roofing materials have been recycled for nearly 15 years. In the U.S., more than one billion pounds of post-industrial vinyl are recycled annually, and that number is growing. Many U.S. PVC roofing manufacturers have established recycling programs, including Duro-Last Roofing, Inc.’s sister company, Oscoda Plastics, Inc. has recycled an annual average of almost six million pounds of vinyl over the last three years using PVC scrap from at least 20 sources representing at least 10 types of products, including film, sheeting, seats, air domes, automotive and, of course, roofing.

The Vinyl Roofing Division of CFFA initiated a feasibility study for national recycling in January of 2008. PVC can also be safely incinerated to recover and use the latent energy, or land-filled. In fact, many landfills use PVC liners to contain contamination.

Q: Didn’t the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) just propose a new LEED system for health-care facilities that awards sustainability points for avoiding halogenated products like PVC?

A: Yes. Last November, the USGBC issued a draft proposal for LEED for Healthcare (LEED-HC) that would award points for avoiding all halogenated materials, including PVC. To date, LEED-HC has undergone two public comment periods, ending February 19, 2008 with many organizations and member companies questioning a rating system that ignores the conclusion of their own five-year study on PVC building materials. What’s curious about the LEED-HC proposal is that it was issued just a few months after its own Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) issued its final report to the USGBC’s LEED Steering Committee (LSC) on the technical and scientific basis for PVC-related credits within the LEED Green Building Rating System. Like so many other exhaustive LCA studies, the five-year TSAC study is the best environmental option.

Q: Where can I go for more information about the safety, sustainability, use and performance of PVC roofing systems, or PVC in general?

A: There are plenty of places to get solid, scientifically-proven information about PVC products and roofing materials:

The Vinyl Institute

Vinyl Roofing Division of CFFA

The Vinyl Environmental Council (Japan)

Vinyl In Design

Phthalate Information Center

ASTM International

The Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC)

Duro-Last Roofing, Inc.


ENERGY STAR Roof Products energy savings calculator

Green Globes, Environmental Assessments for Buildings

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Single Ply Roofing Industry Association (SPRI)

U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Program

A Few Observations from the Recently-Concluded International Roofing Expo

It seemed like overall show traffic was down, and that exhibitors had made smaller investments in their booths than in previous years. However, traffic to the Duro-Last booth was steady, primarily because of our hands-on welding contest for visitors and the comprehensive array of accessories displayed by Duro-Last’s division EXCEPTIONAL® Metals.

About 100 people competed in the welding contest, and anyone who could weld a roof stack in less than 90 seconds was awarded a Duro-Last t-shirt. This was intended to demonstrate how Duro-Last’s pre-fabrication approach to producing roofing systems results in labor-savings for contractors.

Duro-Last Contractor Advisory Board President Ken Kelly presented: Tools to Manage your Business: Let the Business Run Itself. Ken discussed practical tips and tools to help track and control business functions to better manage for success. His session was relevant for companies of all sizes.

Perhaps the most prevalent technology on display during the show was rooftop solar equipment. Several solar manufacturers and providers demonstrated their wares either on their own or in conjunction with roofing system manufacturers. At Duro-Last, we promoted a “solar-ready” approach, in that our system can accommodate virtually any rooftop solar application on the market. Clearly, solar systems will be part of roof construction and retrofit discussions for the foreseeable future.

The 2011 International Roofing Expo will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, February 16-18.

Would you like to share your IRE experience? Send us a comment and we may post it on the blog!

Why Cool Roofs Are Way Cool

By Cool Roof Rating Council

A cool roof reflects and emits the sun’s energy as light back to the sky instead of allowing it to enter the building below as heat. In many climate zones, a cool roof can substantially reduce the cooling load of the building, providing several direct benefits to the building owner and occupants:

  • Increased occupant comfort, especially during hot summer months
  • Reduced air conditioning use, resulting in energy savings typically – 10-30%1, and
  • Decreased roof maintenance costs due to longer roof life.

Cool roofs benefit the environment and public health in additional ways. As recognition of these benefits has become more widespread, cool roof requirements are appearing in building energy codes and green building programs across the nation.

Climate Change Mitigation

Cool roofs reduce greenhouse gas emissions by conserving electricity for air conditioning; less CO2 is emitted from power plants. Cool roofs also help cool the world, simply by reflecting the sun’s energy back to the atmosphere, thereby mitigating global warming. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study found that world-wide reflective roofing will produce a global cooling effect equivalent to offsetting 24 gigatons of CO2 over the lifetime of the roofs. This equates to $600 billion in savings from CO2 emissions reduction.2

Urban Heat Island Mitigation

Cities can be 2° to 8°F warmer than surrounding areas due to dark materials, including roofs, which absorb the sun’s light energy as heat during the day and release it at night as heat.3 This phenomenon prevents air from cooling down at night and results in higher temperatures being maintained longer. By immediately reflecting solar radiation back into the atmosphere and reemitting some portion of it as infrared light, cool roofs result in cooler air temperatures for urban environments during hot summer months.

Urban Heat Island Profile

Reduced Smog

Cool roofs, through mitigation of the urban heat island effect and reduction of ambient air temperatures, in turn improve air quality. Smog is created by photochemical reactions of air pollutants and these reactions increase at higher temperatures. Therefore, by reducing the air temperature, cool roofs decrease the rate of smog formation.

Public Health Benefits

Lower ambient air temperatures and the subsequent improved air quality also result in a reduction in heat-related and smog-related health issues, including heat stroke and asthma.

Peak Energy Savings and Grid Stability

Because cool roofs reduce air-conditioning use during the day’s hottest periods, the associated energy savings occur when the demand for electricity is at its peak. Therefore, cool roofs reduce stress on the energy grid during hot summer months and helps avoid shortages that can cause blackouts or brownouts. In addition, for building owners that pay for energy based on the time of use, they save energy – and more money – when it is at its most expensive.

Secondary Energy Benefits

Cool roofs directly reduce air conditioning use for buildings by reducing heat gain in the building below, but they also indirectly reduce air conditioning use in urban areas by helping lower ambient air temperatures. Cooler daytime temperatures mean that buildings and vehicles use less air conditioning and save additional energy. In turn, this results in a reduction in the CO2 emissions from electricity generating power plants.

The Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) is a non-profit membership organization. Formed in 1998, the CRRC maintains a credible, third-party rating system to measure and label the radiative properties of roofing materials. Please visit the CRRC at www.coolroofs.org.


2 Akbar, H. (2008). Global Cooling: Increasing Solar Reflectance of Urban Areas to Offset CO2. In press, Climate Change.

3 Energystar.gov

The World’s Best Roof® is ready to Rise Above the Crowd at IRE

We are all packed and ready to go to the International Roofing Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 22 – 24, 2010. Duro-Last® Roofing, Inc. will be at booth #2051 exhibiting our entire product line which includes the Cool Zone®, Duro-Shield® , Rock-Ply™ and Shingle-Ply™. Steve Ruth, Tom Hollingsworth, Al Janni, Keith Gere, Drew Ballensky, Doug Clark, Jason Tunney, and Shawn Sny will all be there to answer any roofing questions you have.

Visitors will learn how Duro-Last’s prefabrication approach makes our roofing system extremely durable, and easy to install, without disruption to daily building operations. The Duro-Last roofing system is also leak-proof, resistant to high winds, and virtually maintenance-free.

Drew Ballensky will be on hand to address issues questions regarding cool roofing systems and discuss how a Duro-Last Cool Zone roof can help with LEED ratings. The Cool Zone system is both highly reflective and highly emissive, transferring less heat into the building compared to a dark colored “non-cool roof.”

Steve Kowaleski will also be at the booth ready to showcase a variety of EXCEPTIONAL® Metals products. EXCEPTIONAL Metals, a division of Duro-Last Roofing, manufactures high-quality metal components products designed to finish any roofing project.

Are you attending IRE? Send us your comments about the show and we many post them!

Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 6

Q: Haven’t California and most of Europe banned phthalates – and important PVC additive – from use in children’s toys and other articles? Isn’t this a sure sign that PVC isn’t safe?

A: The European and California bans on phthalates in children’s toys and related products are the unfortunate result of a sustained, 10-year scare campaign by activist groups dedicated to the elimination of all plastics and industrial chemicals. The basis of their argument lately is a small number of very recent studies that not only clash with more than 40 years of respected global academic and governmental science, but have offered no tangible proof that phthalates pose a danger to people of any age from any application. Phthalates have established a very strong safety profile over the 50 years in which they have been in general use. There is no reliable evidence that any phthalate, when used as intended, has ever caused a health problem for a human. Environmental research conducted by industry and others has led to scientific consensus on three key points. First, phthalates are not persistent; they are quickly biodegraded in water and soil. Second, bioaccumulation and biomagnifications are also not concerns; living organisms do not build up levels of phthalates over time, but break them down and eliminate them quickly. Third, the typical varieties of phthalates used in flexible single-ply roofing membranes (high molecular weight phthalates) are generally not soluble in water, and thus have a difficult time being bio-assimilated, as solubility is normally required for biological assimilation.

The safety of medical devices and toys made of flexible vinyl was affirmed in 1999 by a blue-ribbon panel convened by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and headed by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Said Dr. Koop at the time:

“Consumers can be confident that vinyl toys and medical devices are safe. The panel’s findings confirm what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have been saying about these products all along. There is no scientific evidence that they are harmful to children or adults.”

According to Dr. Patrick Moore of Greenspirit Strategies:

“The anti-phthalate activists are running a campaign of fear to implement their political agenda. This fear campaign merely distracts the public from real environmental threats … and the cost of taking “the path of least resistance” is replacing DINP (a phthalate) with chemicals that have not been as thoroughly tested and found as safe.”

Among the many other organizations that have studied and confirmed the human safety and minimal environmental impact of phthalates are:

Basics of Insulation and Cool Roofing

There are two main purposes for insulation. Insulation helps keep heat in during the winter and helps keep heat out during the summer. Whenever there is a temperature difference between the inside and outside of a building, heat tends to flow from the warmer to the cooler space. Insulation reduces or slows the heat transfer through the building envelope.

By understanding how heat moves, it is easier to understand how insulation works. There are three modes of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation.

CONDUCTION is direct heat flow through matter. It is caused by fast moving molecules on the hot side colliding with and transferring energy to slower moving molecules on the cold side. It results from actual physical contact of one part of the same body with another part, or of one body with another. An example of conduction through contact is a cooking pot on the solid surface of a hot stove.

COVECTION is the transport of heat within air or liquid, caused by the actual flow of the material itself. Warm air rises and cold air falls to create a convection loop. The moving air either enters or exits a building during this process. Up to 45% of heat loss in winter happens through convection through the roof.

RADIATION is the transmission of electromagnetic rays through space. The radiant heat rays of the sun do not become heat until they strike an object such as the roof of a building. As the roof surface heats up, the heat energy is transferred by conduction throughout the rest of the roof mass. Infrared radiation from the sun is the source of 93% of the summer heat gain through a roof.

Thermal insulation does not stop the transfer of heat into or out of a building; it only slows down the transfer. R values are a means of showing the thermal value of an insulating material. R value is a measure of resistance to heat transfer by conduction and does not apply to other methods of heat transfer. Insulative materials act to hinder the flow of energy by using a gas and randomness of material to reduce direct contact (conduction) and air flow (convection).

R value has no utility to measure the reflective capability of a material. Highly reflective materials act to keep a surface cool by reducing the amount of the sun’s energy that is absorbed (radiation). The energy that is not reflected is either absorbed or emitted by the surface. The amount of radiation that is emitted is a function of the emissivity factor of the material. The most effective cool roofing materials then, are those with both high reflectivity (sun’s energy bounces off) and high emittance (easily sheds energy that is absorbed). A good cool roofing system combines reflective membrane with an optimum amount of insulation to reduce heat loss from convection in winter.

Duro-Last Celebrates Partnership with Contractors at National Sales Seminar in Tucson

Our theme for Duro-Last’s 2010 National Sales Seminar, Partners for a Strong Tomorrow, was, by many accounts, the perfect fit for this year’s event. At Duro-Last, we are extremely proud that the relationships we have with our customers are unlike any in the roofing industry.

Many of our contractor customers have been partnering with us since the beginning of Duro-Last more than 30 years ago. At our Tucson event, we were thrilled to recognize those companies who have won a decade’s-worth – two decades’-worth – or even more – of Duro-Last sales awards. With respect to business strength, all we had to do was look around the hotel ballroom to see the history of excellence represented there.

In 2009, 20 Duro-Last contractors had sales of $1 million or more – a remarkable achievement considering the state of the economy. Parsons Commercial Roofing from Waco, Texas, was our Contractor of the Year for the fourth consecutive year and topped the $7 million dollar level in Duro-Last sales for the third straight year. With this accomplishment, Parsons now has the most total sales of any Duro-Last contractor in history.

Duro-Last 2009 Contractor of the Year, Parsons Commercial Roofing

In the early years of Duro-Last, there were many days when we weren’t sure what tomorrow would bring. Then – just as now – we depended on the commitment and loyalty of our customers and independent sales representatives. And we have enjoyed tremendous sales growth throughout our history as a result.

A proverb says that a cord with three strands is not easily broken. When we consider our three strands – authorized contractors, independent sales representatives, and the Duro-Last corporation – the future looks like it will be filled with terrific tomorrows for all of us.

The Duro-Last 2011 National Sales Seminar will be back in Orlando – this time at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We’re already in the planning stages to make next year’s event the best ever for our business partners: the world’s best roofing contractors!

Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 5

Q: Isn’t PVC a major cause of dangerous toxic gases during accidental building fires?

A: Every organic substance that burns during accidental building fires is a source of toxic gases. In fact, the mix of gases produced from PVC combustion – carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen chloride (HCI) and water – is very similar to those of all other organic materials. More importantly, vinyl’s inherent flame resistance properties actually play a beneficial role in mitigating the spread and strength of accidental building fires. Most rigid and flexible PVC will not burn alone without the application of heat from another source. Studies in Europe and the U.S. have shown that dioxin is present in all large-scale accidental fires, whether vinyl is present or not. PVC roofing membranes are a very small component of the mass of any building, and the smoke produced in a roof fire typically is external to the building.

Q: Isn’t PVC made from chlorine, one of the most dangerous substances on earth?

A: In its common elemental form (CI2 or dichlorine), chlorine is a poisonous, pale green gas about 2.5 times as dense as air. This is why the safe production, transportation, and handling of dichlorine is tightly regulated by government and vigilantly administered by industry through training and programs like Responsible Care. However, chlorine is also a naturally occurring element found throughout the oceans and rocks of the world, and it is an essential nutrient for plants, animals and humans. The chlorine used to make vinyl is derived from salt – both sea-water and land-based. Once chlorine is processed into vinyl, it is chemically locked into the product more tightly than it is in salt. Chlorine gas is never produced when PVC burns. When vinyl is recycled, landfilled or disposed of in a modern incinerator, no chlorine gas is released into the atmosphere. PVC roofing products are made from a very stable chlorine compound, and no chlorine is ever emitted from the finished product.