Painting Within the (Green) Lines

“Green,” “environmentally friendly,” “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” are all buzz words that have become an integral part of the design community. Another used sometimes is “greenwashing.” Greenwashing is when almost any action or product, regardless of its impacts on living beings or the environment, is portrayed as green.

The American Institute of Architects is concerned with Greenwashing, so since January 1, 2009, new or on-going continuing education programs registered with the AIA that have “green,” “sustainable,” or similar words in the title must be pre-approved to be sure the program truly does cover green issues. To qualify for Sustainable Design (SD) credit, at least 75 percent of the program must cover SD issues. Duro-Last® has six programs registered for SD credit.

In response to the expansion of the green movement and the broad claims of environmental responsibility, the Federal Trade Commission recently updated its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, also known as the FTC Green Guides. Here are some general guidelines to follow based on the revised Guides:

Avoid blanket statements like “green,” environmentally friendly,” and “eco-friendly,” because these are difficult or impossible to substantiate. Deceptive statements like, “This product is environmentally preferable,” or the general reference “eco-friendly” should also be avoided because it is unlikely that a marketer can substantiate these claims.

Be careful to qualify claims such as:

“Recyclable” – The FTC follows a three-tiered analysis to evaluate this claim:

1. Substantial majority of consumers have access to recycling facilities

2. Significant percentage of consumers have access to recycling facilities (the statement should be qualified by, for example, adding the text (appropriate for Duro-Last’s recycling program): “when membrane is returned to Duro-Last following the Recycle Your Roof program guidelines.”)

3. Less than significant percentage of consumers have access to recycling facilities (the statement should be qualified with text such as: “this product is only recyclable in specified regions of the U.S.”)

“Free-of…” or “Contains no…” – These claims are often deceptive and have no bearing on a product’s overall environmental impact. Competitors of Duro-Last frequently make claims such as “PVC-Free” or “Chlorine-Free” in their negative marketing. In fact, there is no substantiation that products without PVC or chlorine are better or worse for humans or the environment generally.

Made with Renewable Energy or Materials – Statements like this should always be qualified if the entire product/system is not made with renewable energy or materials.

Carbon Offsets – Scientific evidence should support any claims regarding carbon offsets or emission.

The “green” approach to building design and construction will continue to spread, and it’s important for consumers to understand which green claims are “within the lines,” and which really should be washed away.

Yet Another Green Design Tool

Many are at least somewhat familiar with green design programs such as LEED® and Green Globes. The ENERGY STAR® Roof Products Program and the Cool Roof Ratings Council have been providing lists of qualified or rated products for years now, however, recently there have been some questions about another design guide and what it has to say about cool roofing.

The Advanced Energy Design Guides were developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The guides are a series of publications designed to provide recommendations for achieving energy savings above and beyond the minimum code requirements of ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-1999. They are intended for contractors and designers of small buildings and provide a simple approach to achieve energy savings without utilizing complex calculations or analysis.

The guides give general recommendations in the Building Envelope sections stating that cool or “solar reflective” roofs help reduce energy usage. They do not offer the specificity of LEED or Green Globes, rather they make general recommendations like “increase roof surface reflectance and emittance.”

They also provide useful charts and climate maps that indicate relative performance of various types of roofing products and areas of the country that may benefit most from cool roofing systems.

The Advanced Energy Design Guides are available as free downloads from Highly reflective white membranes, such as what’s used in the Duro-Last® Cool Zone® roofing system offer a great opportunity for owners of small buildings to achieve real energy savings.

No News Is No News

Good news for home owners! The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 extended the residential energy efficiency tax credits.

The bill allows a tax credit for up to 10% of the amount paid by the taxpayer for qualified nonbusiness energy efficiency improvements to a maximum lifetime limit of $500. If more than $500 of these tax credits were already taken between 2006 and 2010, there can be no further credits taken. This is a reduction from the $1,500 credit allowed in the original bill.

The credit applies to principal residential property placed in service between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.

Among the qualifying improvements are windows and doors, metal and asphalt roofing, insulation, HVAC equipment, water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, and solar energy systems. All must be ENERGY STAR® qualified products. Unfortunately, single-ply membranes, such as the Duro-Last® Cool Zone® roofing system still do not qualify for the residential energy efficiency tax credit. However tax policy and incentive programs are constantly being revised. We’ll stay on top of things and report on changes when they occur.

OSHA Safety

Following the National Safety Month posts, I am amazed to find out how many roofing contractors are not familiar with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fall Protection Guidelines and Hazardous Communication requirements. Not only are they unaware of the guidelines, but they also have no idea of the possible fines that can be levied on them and what those fines could do to their business.

OSHA is responsible for the investigation of workplace safety. Contractors can visit the OSHA website, where they can better understand regulatory requirements. In addition, every contractor should have a copy of the 29 CFR 1926 OSHA Construction Industry Guidelines. All the information needed to be compliant can be found in this useful publication.

Residential construction is not part of Duro-Last®’s daily routine; however it may be for a lot of our readers. On December 22, 2010, OSHA officially cancelled its “interim enforcement policy” on fall protection and issued an “instruction” that eliminates the use of Slide Guards as a fall protection option for most residential roofing projects. The new OSHA instruction was effective December 16, 2010, with an enforcement date of June 16, 2011. The instruction will now require conventional fall protection (safety nets, guardrails or personal fall arrest systems) to be used on roofs with slopes greater than 4-in-12 and where the height from one level to another is greater than six feet. There are some exceptions to this instruction (which should be verified with OSHA first).

As a reminder, we should always be aware of our surroundings when on a roof and be mindful of the possible hazards. Falling from even as low as six feet can cause serious injury. By making sure ladders are tied off, identifying problem openings in the roof surface, etc. we will reduce the likelihood of a fall and provide a safe work environment.