Will Climategate Freeze Up Cool Roofing Sales?

In case you haven’t seen it in the news recently, another conspiracy and cover-up has been discovered and is being referred to as “Climategate.” It seems there has been some manipulation of the database of historical temperature data that has been used to support the concept of global warming. A string of emails between scientists has been uncovered that indicates there has been some manipulation and/or deletion of data that did not support global warming theories, bringing into question the validity of graphs and studies that suggest the earth is warming because of human activities.

So what does this have to do with cool roofing? Can cool roofing really influence global climate? Energy Secretary Steven Chu thinks so. Some studies have shown that cool roofing can indeed help reduce urban heat islands. This may be true, but given the recent buzz noted above, is the data in those studies also suspect?

There may be some influence on urban heat islands from cool roofs, but the real and practical proven influence cool roofing has is on energy usage. Science isn’t even necessary to prove to building owners that cool roofing reduces air conditioning needs. All that a building owner needs to do is open his or her July utility bill.

Savings in summer electricity use for air conditioning is real, and even if there is some heating penalty (the idea that white roofs will prevent a building from warming up in winter), that penalty is almost always less than the benefits from reduced cooling loads.

Made to Move: Single ply roofing systems provide strong defense against leaks

By Dana Howell

Damschroder Roofing LLC

This article is reprinted with permission from Properties Magazine.

Does your building have a flat roof that has been a constant problem? Do you find yourself making what seems to be never ending repairs to your flat roof? Are you convinced that there is no flat roof out there that doesn’t leak? Do you find yourself asking the question why would anyone construct a building with a flat roof? All these questions/concerns are legitimate flat roof questions.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why would you build a structure with a flat roof? There are actually many reasons, but the main reason is space. A flat roof supported by columns gives you a much larger floor plan, typically seen in banquet halls, strip malls and warehouses.

Now we understand one reason these structures are built, but what causes them to be a constant problem keeping them from leaking? Again, there are many factors, but at this time I would like to focus on just one: movement. Any time you have temperatures that fluctuate as they do in the Midwest, you will experience movement. With this being said, if your flat roof is not able to withstand movement you experience failure. This is why splitting and cracking can often be seen.

A great solution to this problem was the invention of single ply roofing. Single ply roofs are roofs that protect a building through one layer of roofing membrane as opposed to the old multi-layers of tar felt and gravel. Two popular types of single ply roofing in our region include rubber (EPDM) and roofing materials containing plastic compounds such as PVC’s (Poly Vinyl Chloride). These membranes are able to move more freely to take on the expansion and contraction often seen in large buildings.

The trend in flat roofing is clearly moving toward the single ply roofing systems over the multiple ply. Single ply roofing has been on the increase for many years while multiple ply roofs have been seeing a significant decrease in the market shard of flat roofing.

Rubber was the dominant single ply during the 1960s through the mid 1980s. Rubber is installed several different ways. Some are installed by overlapping the sheets of rubber and covering them with river rock called ballast. Others are glued or screwed to the deck. The seams are then glued together with the hope of providing a long lasting water proofing solution. The major problem associated with rubber roofs is de-lamination. De-lamination is the breaking down of the glue or adhesive that holds the sheets of rubber together.

Heat welded roofs are made of plastic compounds such as PVC. Heat welded roofing systems are the fastest growing portion of the single ply roofing industry. The welding together of PVC sheets at the seams provides a permanent and stronger bond than glues or tapes. The Duro-last Corporation in Saginaw, Michigan actually pre-welds sheets of membrane up to 2,500 square feet in their factory, thus most of the seams of a deck sheet are welded under ideal conditions.

For more information, call Damschroder Roofing LLC at 888-307-2785 or visit www.damschroderroofing.com.

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.

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

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:

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.

Think Plastic Is Under Attack? Think Again!

If PVC and all of its products and components disappeared tomorrow would extremist organizations like Greenpeace be satisfied? Definitely not. The activists are not just anti-PVC – they are anti-plastic and anti-chemical. That affects a lot more than just PVC. Take a look at the pyramid below, originally posted on the Greenpeace web site, that shows their ranking of the “safety” of plastics, from least (top) to most (bottom).

For an objective view of PVC roofing material safety, download the Q&A document, PVC Roofing Systems: Benefits & Issues from the Duro-Last web site. We also regularly post articles on this blog regarding PVC issues.

Greenpeace’s plans are to start at the top and work down. If the activists can’t attack plastics directly they change their tactics and attack the components that go into final plastic products. Some components they like to draw attention to are chlorine, plasticizers, stabilizers, fire retardants and UV inhibitors.

If they attack any of these components they attack every single plastic in existence – plus thousands of other lifesaving products and processes. Here’s just a sampling of what would cease to exist in their present form if “just” chlorine were eliminated:

Milk jugs Chlorine bleach Decaf coffee DVD disks
Skin cream Fire extinguishers Paint Windows
Penicillin Sewer pipe Jello Beer brewing
Automobile hoses Bike tires Nylon rope Satellites
Helmets & hardhats Solar panels Deodorant Fishing line
Heart valves Silicon memory chips Boat hulls Wind turbines
Roller blades Luggage rollers Water purification Ibuprofen
Toothpaste PDAs IV tubing & bags Computers
Flooring Valium Runway de-icer MP3 players
Polyurethane insulation

There are thousands of other products and processes that have expanded and improved human existence that are threatened. So, if anyone thinks they have a competitive advantage by fueling the fires of junk science activists against their competitors, think again. Today’s competitive advantage could become tomorrow’s dead pharaoh buried under the pyramid.

Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems: Part 4

Q: Who says PVC materials are safe and/or environmentally benign?

A: The following are among the many organizations that have conducted scientific studies and life cycle assessments on PVC that have arrived at neutral or positive conclusions regarding the comparative health, safety and/or environmental sustainability of PVC production, installation, use and disposal:

Q: What about concerns that PVC production results in deadly emissions of dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, causing health problems among PVC workers and nearby communities?

A: According to the EPA, since adoption of a closed-loop manufacturing process in the mid-1970s vinyl chloride emissions in vinyl plants have been reduced by 99 percent and dioxin emissions from all sources have been reduced by 92 percent. During the same time frame, PVC production in the U.S. more than tripled. In 1997, CDC reported that the PVC industry had “almost completely eliminated worker exposures to vinyl chloride” as well as the incidence of cancer and other illnesses caused by exposure. More recent studies by ATSDR and others have shown that dioxin levels and the incidence of cancer in communities near PVC production facilities are no higher than the national average.

PVC Roofing

Noted roofing authority, Richard L. Fricklas, discusses PVC roofing in Buildings Magazine’s December 2009 Newsletter.

For the last year, attention seems to be more on cool roofing, LEED, and vegetated roofs rather than what the roofing system is made of or what it can do. Maybe because current roofing systems are all well established, so they’re no longer newsworthy? Several claims are being made as to which manufacturer has lowest carbon footprint and which products are truly recyclable.

To read the full article click on the link below.

PVC Roofing

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Frequently Asked Questions about PVC Roofing Systems. Part 3

Q: What makes PVC systems more cost-effective in the long run?

A: Life Cycle Cost analyses have proven that PVC roofing systems are among the least costly over time for two major reasons: long service life and energy efficiency. The longer a roof lasts without major problems, the less costly it is on an annual basis. Energy savings of up to 40 percent every year due to the reflective properties of white PVC roofs can add up to tens of thousands of dollars during a 20- or 30-year life-span. Custom prefabricated PVC roofing systems also contribute to cost-effectiveness because they generate less waste, require less time and labor to install, and reduce the potential for rooftop human error, because up to 85 percent of membrane seaming can be completed in a controlled factory environment.

Q: Environmental groups seem to think that PVC is one of the most hazardous products ever created – dangerous to human health and the environment. How do you answer that?

A: During the last 35 years, there have been literally dozens of scientific studies and more than 26 full-scale LCAs relating to the safety and environmental impact of vinyl production, use and disposal. Study after study by a wide range of scientific, governmental, academic, and industry groups has confirmed that vinyl production in the United States today is very safe, and that finished vinyl products, including PVC roofing membranes, are inert, posing no risk to human health and with very little impact on the environment. In fact, many PVC products – including reflective PVC roofing systems – often make a decidedly positive contribution toward sustainability. According to Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace in 1971 and current chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies:

“It’s completely unacceptable for activists to call PVC ‘toxic’ when PVC’s effects on health and the environment have been investigated at every stage from manufacture through use and on to final disposal – in all cases vinyl has been shown to be safe and environmentally sound.”