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.

Pilot Held Hostage by Rogue Roofing Manufacturer!

A year and a half ago the U.S. Green Building Council initiated a new program to allow for the testing of potential new LEED® credits. Titled “LEED Pilot Credit Library,” this collection of pilot credits allows project teams to test potential new credits and work with the USGBC to develop future LEED credits and categories.

Pilot Credit 2: PBT Source Reduction: Dioxins and Halogenated Organic Compounds has been greatly misunderstood and misrepresented by some roofing manufacturers. Some of them have used this credit as a negative promotional tool by misrepresenting the purpose and content of the credit. To receive a point for this credit, the submitter must do the necessary research and provide the results and documentation to USGBC. The research could either support or reject the intent of the credit.

In this credit, it is required that for each alternative product, the submitter must “…conduct and submit a multi-parameter alternative product analysis that includes at a minimum one (1) other product that serves the same function.” The study must also “…include at least 4 parameters (in addition to absence of halogenated materials) associated with the products manufacture or service life . . . used to assess suitability of the product selected.” So the research done must be very extensive and supported with empirical data.

Recent information shows that of the fifty or more submissions for this credit, all have been rejected. The main reason is that no supporting documentation or studies were done to suggest awarding a point either for or against the use of halogenated products (PVC being one). If a credit were to be awarded, it would be through the Innovation category of LEED, not for “non-use” of PVC. If it is determined that there is enough interest and data to consider adding a new credit category, then it would still be necessary to go through the typical public review process prior to being established.

The LEED process for approving new credits is extensive and (hopefully) transparent. By being armed with the facts and understanding how the process works, no one should be able to storm the flight deck and take over the plane.

PTOs: New to the Roofing Market?

Be careful what you read! Are PTOs a new competitor in the roofing market? No, it’s an acronym with some misplaced letters from the title of a poorly written magazine article. So much marketing misinformation gets presented as fact that it’s a wonder anyone can make an informed roofing decision. Following is some information that may help in assessing the credibility of statements made about roofing.

PVC roofing is made from two basic components: fossil fuel and salt. Fossil fuel is converted to ethylene and rock salt goes through electrolysis to retrieve chlorine – one of the most abundant elements on earth. These components are combined to produce the vinyl chloride monomer which is used with other components to create PVC membrane.

Europe was early to adopt PVC roofing as a single-ply system of choice. Contrary to some claims, PVC roofing is being sold throughout Europe and in fact enjoys by far the largest market share of any of the thermoplastic single-plies.

ENERGY STAR®, the Cool Roof Rating Council, Green Globes, and the U.S. Green Building Council, among other organizations, have developed programs to help specifiers and consumers make informed roofing decisions. The USGBC developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Rating System several years ago. LEED aids in the design and construction of buildings that minimize negative impacts on occupants and the environment

PVC membranes offer a host of relevant benefits:

  • White PVC membranes are among the most reflective on the market. The Duro-Last Cool Zone® membrane’s Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) of over 110 exceeds LEED requirements for Sustainable Sites Credit 7.2.
  • Recyclability is also a key element of many green design programs, and unlike other roofing materials, there are well-established programs for recycling PVC roofing membrane, including one offered by Duro-Last.
  • Because of its chlorine component, PVC is inherently flame resistant, unlike many other roofing products with higher carbon content. This makes fire ratings easier to achieve, and means that PVC roofing in general is less likely to emit toxic gases than other materials in building fires.
  • PVC membranes are highly flexible and can be custom-prefabricated before reaching the rooftop for installation. This reduces rooftop labor by minimizing jobsite welding by contractors. In addition, seam integrity is more reliable than for stiffer membranes that are made from materials other than PVC.

So, when evaluating systems for your next commercial roofing project, you may want to ask yourself “Why go with the PTO?” Check the facts; don’t be misled by misinformation, and make an informed decision.

Reroof? Recycle!

Today is Earth Day and for building owners who are interested in “green” construction issues, the fact that old PVC roof membranes can be recycled may help improve your sales opportunities.

Unlike TPO, built-up, modified bitumen, and EPDM roofing systems, recycling programs for PVC roofing products have been in place for many years. The other types of roofing systems are much more likely to end up in a landfill once their rooftop service is complete.

Duro-Last established our “Recycle Your Roof” program for old PVC membranes in 2005. Material that we obtain from torn-off roofs is typically sent to Oscoda Plastics, Inc. in Oscoda, Michigan, which produces commercial flooring and expansion joints.

Details of the program, including our “Recycle Your Roof” request form, are available in Duro-Last Technical Bulletin #133, which can be downloaded here.

Here’s what the Tech Bulletin has to say about preparing the old roof for recycling:

Roofs and roofing materials that are broomed on the top and bottom surfaces may be considered for the Duro-Last Roof Recycling Program.

  1. The top and bottom surface of the Duro-Last material must be free of stones, debris, fasteners, asphalt, coal tar pitch, and any foreign substances that may be attached or adhered to the material.
  2. After brooming, cut the material free from the roof deck along both sides of the fastening tabs and all penetrations. Discard any heavily soiled or contaminated material. All returning material must be cut into 5 ft. x 5 ft. sections (or smaller), neatly stacked on a pallet and banded for shipping. Fastening tabs and fasteners must not be included in the recycle material.
  3. The completed “Recycle Your Roof” form must be faxed or mailed to Duro-Last one week prior to the material being shipped.

Tip: Use a hook blade with a long handle to cut along fastening tabs.

The contractor pays for shipping to the closest Duro-Last manufacturing plant.

Flooded With Sunlight: Reducing Urban Heat Islands with Cool Roofing

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu is a big proponent of cool roofing. In his July 2010 announcement, Chu made it clear that he was going to push for the installation of cool roofing systems on all federal buildings to help reduce energy usage. Secretary Chu is well-informed about cool roofing because he was formerly the head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL), the entity that pioneered the study of Urban Heat Islands (UHIs).

Not only will cool roofing reduce building energy usage, it will also help mitigate the UHI effect. The UHI effect is the tendency for urban areas to be hotter than surrounding areas. LBNL found that the average temperature on a hot summer day will be seven degrees warmer in North American urban areas than surrounding rural areas. During an extended heat wave the difference can be even more pronounced. Studies have shown that there are three primary factors that cause the majority of the UHI effect.


The first factor is that urban areas have less vegetation than rural areas. Not only do trees and shrubs provide shade, but thriving vegetation keeps itself cool through a process called evapotranspiration. Similar to how the human body sweats to keep itself cool, vegetation releases moisture to stay cool. About 56%, or almost four degrees, of the seven degree difference is due to less vegetation in urban areas than rural.

Dark Pavement

Many might think that dark pavement would account for much of the UHI effect. While walking down a city street, one can feel the heat radiating up. But dark pavement accounts for only 6%, or less than one-half degree, of the seven degree difference.

Dark Roofing

Roofing takes up a lot of surface area in urban areas, but roofing is not often considered a source of urban heat because it is “out of sight, out of mind.” Yet dark roofing accounts for 38%, or almost three degrees, of the seven degree difference associated with UHIs.

Many cities have attempted to increase green space and vegetation through civic programs and building codes, but for every tree planted or park developed there is much more green space that succumbs to urban sprawl. Green space initiatives are at best a long term means of mitigating UHIs and can entail significant expense.

Paving products made from lighter colored materials are available, but implementing these measures is capital intensive and can take years to accomplish. And considering the relatively minor role that paving plays in UHIs, there are options that provide more bang for the buck.

Installation of cool roofing during initial construction or when re-roofing offers immediate benefits, not only toward mitigation of UHIs but to the building owner in the form of energy savings. A good roofing system is essential for protecting any building from the elements. Selecting and installing a cool roofing system is easy to accomplish, inexpensive relative to other UHI mitigation efforts, and provides benefits immediately.

Even in northern geographic areas where net energy savings may be minimal, cool roofing systems offer significant benefits that may be less tangible but are essential to the long term performance and durability of the roof, insulation and HVAC equipment.

No Energy Savings From My Cool Roof – What Gives?

Okay, so you installed a cool roofing system, but since the building already had so much insulation you haven’t noticed any energy savings. What’s the point?

True. High reflectivity is a key characteristic that helps keep buildings cooler and can reduce energy usage. As much as 40% less cooling energy may be needed for buildings that have highly-reflective roofs. But even if a building is very well insulated, here are some other valuable benefits from cool roofing:

Insulation can be 25%-50% more effective

Studies have shown that extremely high temperatures reduce the effective R-value of the most widely used types of insulation (Leonard & Leonard, 2005). Cooler surfaces help preserve and keep rooftop insulation materials cooler.

HVAC equipment can operate more efficiently

Inlet air temperatures can be 5-15 degrees cooler 30 inches above a cool roofing surface compared to a black surface. Most rooftop HVAC units are designed with efficiency ratings evaluated at 95°F (York International, 2005); rooftop temperatures on a black surface can reach 160°F or higher, meaning that HVAC units will not operate at peak efficiency.

Substrate deterioration may be slowed by as much as 75%

Ultraviolet and infrared radiation and moisture penetration accelerate substrate deterioration. A cool roofing system will reflect this radiation and help protect the substrate (Kirn et. Al., 1994).

Ambient interior temperatures can be up to 20°F cooler than outside

Studies of worker performance with machine operation and high physical activity reveal that productivity drops 10% at 84°F and 38% at 95°F (Schweisheimer, W., 1962). So even if a building is not air conditioned occupants will still notice improved comfort on hot days.

Duro-Last Exhibits at Solar Power International Expo

Duro-Last exhibited at the Solar Power International Expo held October 12-14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We participated in this show because rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations are growing exponentially, and these systems require a roofing membrane that is “Solar-Ready™.” Although the rooftop solar market is still in its infancy, Duro-Last’s custom-prefabricated roof system has been able to accommodate the roof penetrations typical to PV installation for more than 30 years.

The Duro-Last message was well received by the many solar integrators and installers who attended the Expo and who recognize that the watertight integrity of the roof system beneath the PV equipment plays a vital role in the success of solar installations. Duro-Last was represented by President Tom Hollingsworth, Western VP Tim Hart, California Regional Manager Curt Jaffe, and yours truly, along with California independent sales representatives Scott Franklin, Matt Stephens, and Chris Hemphill. In addition to working the booth, we were able to walk the show and interact with many of the 1,100 plus vendors and the estimated 27,000 attendees.

This show enabled us to get familiar with the rooftop mounting systems that PV systems use. It’s the largest B2B Expo for the solar power industry, and provided a wonderful opportunity to interact with manufacturers of these systems. In general there are two types of mounting systems: those that attach to the roof’s structural supports and those that sit atop the roof system and utilize ballast blocks to stay put when the wind blows. Both types of systems have pluses and minuses which will be the topic of future posts on this blog. One thing is certain: the demand is so great that many rack and roll-formed steel manufacturers are jumping on the solar bandwagon and introducing mounting systems in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Many roofing contractors around the county are also getting involved by forming solar divisions within their companies. One such Duro-Last contractor is Competitive Commercial Roofing, of Hood River, Oregon, owned and operated by Steve Leslie. Steve’s solar company Competitive Solar provides solar-related services in addition to a roofing product that is ideally suited for use with solar. Steve, April Chen, and Chase Drum of Competitive Solar attended the Expo and provided valuable insights regarding the integration of the Duro-Last roof systems and PV to visitors of the booth. Many thanks to Competitive Solar for the valuable assistance!

Duro-Last staffers Scott Franklin, Tim Hart, Matt Stephens, and Curt Jaffe chatting it up with a couple of booth visitors.
A rack system that will mount to a roof's structural supports.
A rack system that will sit on a rooftop and be held down with ballast blocks.

Green Globes® Is Now An ANSI Standard

In April, the Green Building Initiative received word that its Green Globes® green design guideline was approved as an American National Standard. The new standard is not yet part of Green Globes’ online system, but it will be in the future. It is set up as a tool to assess the designer’s plans rather than to instruct in green design. There are four achievement levels: Level 1 is 35%-54% of the total points, Level 2 is 55%-69%, Level 3 is 70%-84% and level 4 is 85-100%. Achievement levels are based on percentage rather than number of points to allow for a difference in the points total in the event there are “non-applicable” circumstances; e.g. there are no oil fired burners on site, or local codes override certain criterion.

As compared to LEED®, the credit categories are weighted based on importance as determined by the review committee and industry input. A certain percentage of points are required in each category in order to reduce/avoid “point chasing.” There are five categories where Duro-Last can directly influence points and several other areas where Duro-Last or one of our sister companies can have a somewhat indirect influence.

Section 7.2.2 Heat Island Effect

Points can be obtained for having vegetative roofing or a reflective surface with SRI of 78 or greater on various proportions of the roof deck.

Section 8 Energy

Points can be obtained using either a Performance Design path or a Prescriptive Design Path. Duro-Last can help with section 8.2.3 Power Demand Reduction. Above deck insulation can help with section 8.4.1 Thermal Resistance and Transmittance.

Section 10.1.2 Materials Content Assemblies

Points can be obtained when pre or post-consumer recycled content of an assembly accounts for 1% or more of building materials. Number of points achieved goes up with higher percentages.

Section 10.1.4 Transportation of Processed or Manufactured Materials

Points can be obtained when 1% or more of materials and products used in the building were processed or manufactured within 500 miles or if shipped by rail or water within 1500 miles. The number of points allowed goes up with greater percentages.

Section10.7.1.1 Roofing Membrane Assemblies and Systems (and) Section Flashings

Points can be obtained by installing according to manufacturer’s recommendations and inspecting according to:

  1. ARMA/NRCA Manual for Roof Inspection
  2. SPRI/NRCA Manual for Roof Inspection
  3. SMACNA’s Architectural Sheet Metal Manual

In most instances, by installing a white Duro-Last roof according to our standards and performing the approved inspections, we can help directly with obtaining as many as 16 points and indirectly with several more. When there are as many as 1000 total points, that doesn’t sound like a lot. But there are so many categories and options that no one action or product can have an overwhelming influence.

All in all, the standard was well done, is easy to use and in general is a much better product than LEED which is not a recognized green design standard. When GBI gets the standard consolidated with its online Green Globes it should be even more user-friendly.

Cause and Effect (or Robbing Peter to Pay Paul)

Energy savings analysis has been around for years. There are any number of Internet-based calculators, formulas and procedures for estimating the savings associated with products or actions undertaken to reduce or avoid energy usage. Energy savings is but one component of a much more comprehensive analytical process referred to as life cycle analysis or LCA. But LCA is not nearly so well-defined. Unlike energy savings analysis, which considers a limited number of variables that can be reasonably well defined and quantified, there is no uniform procedure for LCA.

There are some Internet-based calculators for LCA, but they range from being over-simplified to exceedingly complex; from being biased toward individual products or special interests to being overly generic and meaningless. Some approaches to LCA only consider short term direct financial burdens while others consider more indirect or subjective costs both upstream and downstream in the life of a product.

A mainly financial LCA approach for comparing roof systems might consider the following:

  • Installation – product cost, installation costs, tear-off costs, disposal costs, business disruption costs.
  • Long Term Durability – routine maintenance costs, roof replacement costs.
  • Repairs – roof repair costs, interior damage repair costs.
  • Energy Savings – estimated savings, rebates and incentives.
  • Warranty – cost premiums.

On the other hand, a highly comprehensive environmental-based approach might entail the evaluation of all material and energy inputs and outputs at every stage, from the creation of natural resources through extraction, manufacture, use, and demolition, and disposal of a product. Consider the complexity of the following extreme LCA flow example:

BANG ? Earth Appears ? Life Begins ? Dinosaurs/Other Creatures Appear ? Creatures Die/Turn Into Fossil Fuels ? Human Race Appears/Evolves ? Resources Extracted (fossil fuels, salt, etc.) ? Resources Transported to be Processed/Refined ? Process/Refine Raw Materials ? Process Components (film, scrim) ? Produce Product Components (membrane, rigid parts, etc.) ? Transport for Fabrication ? Fabricate and Assemble The Duro-Last® Cool Zone® Roofing System ? Deliver to Jobsite ? Installation ? Roof In Action (energy savings/heat island mitigation/global warming or cooling or both) ? End of Useful Life ? Removal/Disposal ? Recycle and/or Transport to Landfill ? 100,000 to 1 Million Years of Decay and Revert to Fossil Fuels, Salt, etc. ? Another BANG!? Or Re-Extraction?

Although this second example seems extreme or absurd, it makes the point that there can be limitless considerations in a comprehensive LCA. The difficulty comes in deciding how far to go and making fair and objective assumptions of all criteria at each stage in the life of the product or system. One of the best things LCA helps accomplish is identification of opportunities for improvement. The important thing to remember in addressing this continuous improvement process is to remember that every action has a reaction, so don’t rob Peter to pay Pa

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.