Metal roofing is making the “green” grade at educational facilities across the United States. Key influencers—including school boards, administrators and facility managers—recognize that metal roofing is an environmentally responsible choice that contributes to their participation in green building certifications and paves the way to energy code compliance.

Steel is the most recycled material on Earth, and recycled steel is essential to many metal roofing systems. Metal roofing systems, when used in a tested assembly, can achieve a thermal efficiency rating of up to R-40, helping schools reach their sustainability goals and meet LEED and ENERGY STAR Cool Roof standards.

Energy-saving innovations continue to develop in metal roofing systems, including “cool” finishes and daylighting technologies, which are being implemented at educational facilities nationwide.

The “Cool” Factor of Metal Roofing
One of the most recent advancements in metal roofing is “cool,” highly reflective paint finishes, which help lower roof temperatures and, in turn, reduce the amount of energy required to cool the building. For schools in warmer climates and in urban areas, “cool” roofing also can mitigate the heat island effect which produces high relative temperatures that contribute to smog formation. School administrators, boards and facility managers should look for paint finishes with a high Solar Reflectance Index that have been approved by the Cool Roof Rating Council, an independent, nonprofit organization that maintains a third-party rating system for the radiative properties of roof-surfacing materials. 

Bringing Light to Educational Facilities
Daylighting offered in conjunction with metal roofing systems continues to gain momentum at educational facilities. In expansive spaces at schools, such as gymnasiums and auditoriums, daylighting is an effective way to extend the day and add visual comfort for students and staff alike. The sustainable design technique harnesses the benefits of natural daylight, ranging from delivering energy savings to increasing student comfort.

This energy-efficient technology provides for the transmission of natural daylight, rendering electrical lights virtually unnecessary. When integrated with a lighting control systems design, daylighting solutions can reduce electrical lighting consumption and costs by up to 70 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. With the operational savings gained from installation, a return on investment is provided to the educational facilities in as quickly as three to five years.

Creating a pleasant learning environment for students and staff is another added benefit of daylighting. At times, sunlight can be excruciatingly bright in large spaces, with shading controls difficult to effectively operate in shared environments, such as classrooms. Integrating daylighting technologies with metal roofing systems ensures even distribution of light to provide superior illumination for classrooms and other spaces. Adding natural daylight to a facility’s interior not only increases occupant comfort but also can further academic success, according to recent research completed by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. 

Many daylighting solutions are designed to maintain the structural integrity of metal roofing systems at educational facilities. And the highest quality technologies can be incorporated without using obtrusive roof curb systems. With simple and easy installation, schools can save on labor costs and realize the benefits of daylighting immediately. Daylighting technology can be integrated into new school construction or roof retrofits, providing design flexibility and versatility to school decision-makers. 

Innovative metal roofing systems manufacturers often offer Web-based calculators that demonstrate the savings potential available through daylighting. The tool can track the return on investment provided by daylighting technologies, showing decision-makers the energy savings gained in real time.

Life Cycle Cost Savings Justify Initial Capital Investment
Often the biggest obstacle to implementing metal roofing at educational facilities is cost. For many cash-strapped public and private schools, it can be a challenge to justify the added expense of metal roofing. However, performing a life-cycle cost-savings analysis reveals that metal roofing pays off in the long run.

The concept of a life-cycle cost advantage is typically introduced when a product carries a higher initial investment than a comparable product. But metal roofing systems are a virtual trifecta—outperforming conventional roofing systems in both environmental and energy-saving categories, as well as providing greater durability at a significantly lower price point. A leading manufacturer of metal roof systems recently compared a standing-seam metal roof system to a rubber, single-ply conventional roof system on a 50,000-square-foot roof area, based on a life cycle cost analysis of 30 years. This analysis revealed a significant six-figure, life-cycle cost benefit of metal over rubber, single-ply roofing systems. 

Metal roofs need to be replaced less frequently than single-ply and built-up roofing systems, making the total cost of the roof, as measured over its expected life, much lower. In fact, the expected life-cycle cost per square foot for a metal roof is 30 cents, compared with 57 cents for single-ply roofs, according to Ducker Worldwide. On average, metal roofing has a 25- to 30-year life, far outlasting the life span of single-ply and built-up roofs. In total, educational facilities can save 35 to 50 percent on upkeep and maintenance costs through the implementation of metal roofing systems, when compared with conventional roofing systems that require yearly maintenance.

Collaborating With Metal Roofing Champions
Joining forces with a qualified third-party metal roofing consultant and architects versed in metal roofing systems can be beneficial. These designers can ensure quality control and look out for schools’ best interests. 

Neither general contractors nor architects are responsible for the installation or maintenance of metal roofing systems. For this reason, educational facilities should consider collaborating with companies that specialize in metal roofing to offer their expertise and provide individualized support.
Working in tandem with metal roofing champions is the best way for schools to learn the ABCs of metal roofing systems and unlock their energy-efficient benefits.