PVC and The Anti-PVC Movement

By: Scott Bieber, Independent Sales Representative for Duro-Last® Roofing, Inc.

There is an anti-plastics movement which comes and goes in intensity, and has an agenda seemingly focused on finding products to demonize. PVC is often the target.

Earlier this year, the Duro-Last® roofing system was installed on a large project in the Pacific Northwest. However, the owners of the facility requested that we not promote our involvement with this project, apparently concerned that being associated with a PVC roofing membrane will lessen their environmental standing in the public’s eye.

Which opens the door to an educational opportunity.

With respect to roofing systems, the question we have is: “If not PVC, then what?” That’s where the anti-PVC arguments start to break down.

Believe it or not, many activists think we should go back to thatched roofs. Natural, of course, but safe? We would have an explosion in mold, bacteria, insects, rodents, etc. To prevent or get rid of these problems, we’d have to use poisons or other chemicals and there would be another outcry. Let’s not even talk about fire safety.

Other natural products, those made from clay for example, actually are more environmentally damaging when you look at their impact during the mining process and the amount of energy (fossil fuels) required to bring such heavy products to market.

PVC is among the most recyclable materials in the marketplace – just one of the attributes that make it a “green” product. Duro-Last recycles virtually all of its own manufacturing waste. On job sites, it is safer for contractors to handle than other roofing materials that require VOC adhesives, hot tar (which has a very high carbon content, by the way), etc. Unlike other systems, PVC roofs can be recycled at the end of their service lives and Duro-Last has a program in place to do just that.

Eliminating PVC products in hospitals would require other materials that are more prone to bacteria growth. That’s why PVC has been so widely used in blood bags and hospital mattresses – it’s easiest to keep clean.

A recent report issued by the US Green Building Council’s Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) found (after a five year study) that PVC is as benign as other construction products, and in some cases is the best environmental option. A fair evaluation looks at the whole, long-term picture to determine whether the net result of using the product is positive or negative.

The building owners for the roofing project noted above made the right choice with respect to providing long-term watertight protection for their facility. We are confident they made the right environmental choice as well.

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 www.ashrae.org/aedg. 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 www.osha.gov, 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.

PVC Is To Asphalt Like Oil Is To Water

When considering reroofing options for commercial facilities, it’s important to keep in mind that not all “new” roofing materials are compatible with “old” materials. Case in point: PVC membrane roofing products are not compatible with asphalt-based products. Like oil and water, like Superman and Kryptonite, like a tuxedo and brown loafers, it’s best to keep these two materials away from each other.

If you’ve made the decision to replace or re-cover your old asphalt roof with a new PVC membrane, here are some common issues that can affect the quality of your new roofing installation:

  • Tear-offs of asphalt roofs often create dust that contaminates new membrane. To avoid this problem, consider the wind direction and take steps to ensure that dust blows away from PVC materials. Use a tarp on PVC materials that are placed near the tear-off so that asphalt dust does not get on the new membrane. Develop a work plan to make sure that asphalt-contaminated shoes or boots do not get on the membrane. And complete the entire asphalt tear-off before beginning the PVC installation.
  • Make sure that proper, compatible sealants are used on the new membrane. Many caulks, sealants, and pitch pocket fillers contain asphalt, and should never be used on PVC.
  • If your project involves re-covering the built-up roof rather than tearing it off, a suitable separator must be installed between the old asphalt and new PVC roofing systems. Insulation materials such as EPS or EXPS rigid foam (whether fanfold or board – as long as it has an approved facer) and polyiso foam board work well. At a minimum, Duro-Last® requires the use of one of our polyethylene separator sheets, either the Duro-Weave™ or Duro-Blue™ product.
  • If asphalt does come into contact with the new PVC membrane, clean it immediately, because it will “bleed” into the membrane and become impossible to remove. Never use a solvent to clean asphalt off the membrane. Solvents melt the asphalt and soften the membrane, making the problem worse. Instead, use cleaners like DeWitt’s Remove-It Citrus Spray Cleaner, Simple Green®, or a non-solvent based whitewall tire cleaner.

Follow these few simple steps on your PVC roofing project to get a secure, watertight installation that even Superman would have problems pulling apart.

National Safety Month – Office Safety

This is the final post in which discuss office safety. This topic is often overlooked as office employees are not aware of all of the safety hazards that exist in their work space. There are the obvious hazards such as a slippery floor or open file drawer, but there are also not so obvious hazards such as poor lighting or poorly designed office furniture.

Below is a list of common office hazards.


One of the most common causes of office falls is tripping over an open desk or file drawer. Be sure to close drawers completely after every use, especially those located in a common work area such as a file room.

Pick up objects you or co-workers may have left on the floor and wear stable shoes with non-slip soles.

Strains and Overexertion

You may not think about strains or overexertion when working in an office, but there may be times when you need a box of computer paper. If possible use a hand cart or ask for help from another employee.

Struck By or Striking Objects

Make sure you are always looking forward when walking to avoid bumping into other people, doors, desks, file cabinets, and open drawers. Use mirrors in corners to see if anyone else is coming before turning that corner. Most importantly, pay attention to where you are walking at all times.

Caught In or Between Objects

Office workers can become injured when fingers or articles of clothing get caught in or between objects such as drawers, doors, or windows. Keep hair, articles of clothing, and jewelry away from office machines such as paper shedders.

Workstation Ergonomics

Ergonomics means fitting the workstation to the worker by modifying or redesigning the job, workstation, tool, or environment. If a desk is too low it should be raised to encourage good posture and reduce back strain. Another common oversight involves the use of computer monitors. Make sure that your monitor is away from sources of glare or direct light and position the monitor directly in front of you. Also make sure to take adequate breaks to rest your eyes and muscles. This break doesn’t necessarily mean a break from working, but it should be a break from doing that particular task.

National Safety Week – Slips, Trips, and Falls

Employee exposure to wet floors or spills and clutter can lead to slips, trips, falls, and other possible injuries. Slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They are the number one cause of nonfatal injury, cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.

Ways you can keep your employees safe out in the field:

  • Require the use of personal fall arrest equipment.
  • Install and maintain perimeter protection.
  • Cover and secure floor openings and label floor opening covers.
  • Use ladders and scaffolds safely.

o Extend the ladder at least 3 feet above point of support

o Inspect regularly and remove defective ladders from use.

o Never use ladders in horizontal position as scaffolds or work platforms.

o Never use metal ladders near electrical equipment.

o Do not adjust or move the scaffold while in use.

o Protect workers from overhead hazards.

o If a scaffold is higher than 10 feet, use guardrails, midrails and toeboards.

There are several ways you can avoid surface hazards related to floors, walls, holes, stairways, platforms and ladders or scaffolding. Here are a few to consider:

  • Keep floors clean and dry, free of debris, spills, spent materials, and stored materials; always use good housekeeping practices.
  • Provide warning signs for wet floor areas and mark permanent aisles and passageways and keep clear of obstructions.
  • Maintain drainage and provide false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry standing places where practicable, or provide appropriate waterproof footgear.
  • Keep all places clean, orderly, and in a sanitary condition.
  • Provide floor plugs for equipment, so power cords need not run across pathways.
  • Access to exits must remain clear of obstructions at all times.

For additional information visit www.osha.gov.

In the final post about safety we will discuss office safety.

National Safety Month – Driving

Driving is a privilege. A driver’s license gives you a certain level of freedom, but it also gives you an enormous amount of responsibility. Driving is the fourth leading cause of nonfatal injury and number one cause of unintentional workplace deaths in the United States.

Roofers spend a lot of time driving to and from jobsites. Often these jobsites are in unfamiliar areas giving the driver distractions. Below is a list of unsafe acts that are often performed behind the wheel. They may seem basic and obvious, but are things you should consider every time you step foot in a vehicle.

Unsafe acts behind the wheel:

  • Failing to stop or yield
  • Tailgating
  • Excessive speed
  • Not paying attention to road conditions
  • Being distracted while driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Road rage

Unsafe Conditions:

  • Poor visibility
  • Icy and slippery road conditions
  • Improper vehicle maintenance
  • Wildlife, such as deer crossing the road

It may appear that sometimes other drivers are not using their heads or considering the results of their actions. Ensure that your equipment is secured. Whether it is ladders or something else, make sure that you do not pose a hazard to others on the road. Proper vehicle maintenance is essential when providing employees with company trucks – remember that your company vehicle represents your company – safe or otherwise!

What you can do:

  • Obey speed limits.
  • Stop at stoplights and stop signs
  • Yield to right-of-way appropriately
  • Use turn signals
  • Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • When driving on a road that is new to you scan the road from left to right
  • Follow other drivers at a safe distance (2-4 seconds ahead of you)
  • Know your vehicle’s safety features.

For additional information visit www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety.

In the next post we will discuss Slips, Trips, and Falls.

2012 National Sales Seminar Scheduled For Clearwater Beach

The 2012 Duro-Last National Sales Seminar will be held January 29-31, 2012 at the Hilton Clearwater Beach (Florida) Resort. Our theme will be “Beyond Boundaries,” and we are excited about hosting the world’s best roofing contractors for three days of learning, sharing, and celebrating.

An information and registration package is being prepared for mailing to all authorized Duro-Last contractors, and we will soon have more details available on the Duro-Last web site. Stay tuned!