As green building strategies evolve to keep up with increasingly stringent building energy codes and standards, so do cool roofs. A roof, as any other building component, can be selected to best serve a particular purpose, such as weather resistance or thermal regulation. Cool roofs are optimally designed to minimize the transfer of heat from the sun to the interior of a building.
Thanks to advances in materials technology, white roofs are no longer the only type of cool roof available. Cool color pigments have been developed to efficiently reflect solar energy (light) in the Near Infrared (NIR) spectrum, whereas standard colors tend to absorb NIR energy. The NIR spectrum is invisible to the human eye, so two seemingly identical colors in the visible spectrum can perform differently in the NIR spectrum. With vast color and material choices, selecting an aesthetically pleasing roof design while maintaining cool roof performance is now possible.
Beyond Energy BillsIn addition to reduced building energy consumption from diminished air conditioning requirements, cool roofs have numerous indirect benefits, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions, alleviating the urban heat island effect, reducing smog, as well as various public health benefits.
Cool roofs reduce greenhouse gas emissions by conserving electricity and reducing power plant production demand incurred from air conditioning use. Creating electricity not only wastes a great deal of energy in the conversion process, but also produces CO2, particulate matter and other air pollutants.
Lower ambient air temperatures resulting from cool roof applications also reduce the production of smog, a process accelerated by warmer temperatures. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and smog production benefit public health by reducing the prevalence of asthma and other respiratory health conditions aggravated by air pollution.
Codes and ProgramsAs building technologies improve, building codes and programs have evolved to enforce strategic green building design and construction practices. The following section provides an overview of some cool roofing codes, green building programs, rebate programs and tax credits. For more information, please visitwww.coolroofs.org.
Two primary organizations, the International Code Council (ICC) and the American Society of Heating and Air- Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), have developed National Model Energy Codes. These codes are not mandatory or enforceable until a jurisdiction adopts the documents as part of regulation or law. In the United States, many states and jurisdictions have adopted these codes, while others like California have developed their own.
Green Building Programs: In 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council updated their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED 2009 includes several structural changes to the rating program as well as changes to individual credits. LEED 2009 includes new point allocations for the various credits. There are now a total of 100 possible points for a given project (as opposed to the 69 points possible in previous versions). The cool roofing credit is still worth a single point and is available for every LEED program offered, including LEED for Schools, LEED for Existing Buildings, LEED for Core and Shell, and LEED for Homes.
Rebate Programs: As the green building movement sweeps the country, more utilities across the United States are providing incentives for cool roofs. States with current utility rebate programs include Arizona, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, New Jersey, New York and Texas. Please check with your local utility company if they have a cool roof rebate program in your area.
The CRRC does not set minimum requirements for solar reflectance and thermal emittance. It is up to the code bodies, green building programs, and utilities to set and define cool roof minimum radiative property requirements. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR hosts a Reflective Roof Program that provides an ENERGY STAR label recognized by consumers as an indication of energy-efficiency.
Manufacturers can choose to rate their products with ENERGY STAR as long as they meet ENERGY STAR’s minimum specifications. (See Figure 3.)
Tax Credits: Through Dec. 31, 2010 the IRS will provide a tax credit for ENERGY STAR metal and asphalt roofing products. The tax credit is for 30 percent of the cost of the roof, up to $1,500. Please visit the ENERGY STAR Web site (www.energystar.gov) for details on how to receive a rebate.
CRRC as a Resource
Nationally recognized, CRRC ratings are often either required or recommended to meet cool roofing standards for building codes and programs.
California’s Title 24 requires CRRC ratings, while other jurisdictions including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and the state of Florida have cool roof building codes with minimum radiative properties that reference the CRRC. Both draft ASHRAE Standard 189.1 and LEED 2009 now reference the CRRC.
Advances in technology now allow cool roofs to come in a variety of colors and materials, no longer limiting aesthetic and architectural design preferences. Suppliers, manufacturers, and architects using the CRRC directory and educational resources now have access to a wealth of product information that can make cool roofs a viable option for achieving a green building vision. Therefore, when looking for an effective energy saving building strategy, consider a cool roof.