Green Roof Trends: From LEED® To RoofPoint
By Dr. Jim Hoff
Published in the August 2012 issue of Today's Facility Manager
When the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building program in 2001, one of its primary objectives was to “transform the built environment.” [Source: “Foundations of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Environmental Rating System: A Tool for Market Transformation.” U.S. Green Building Council LEED Policy Manual, August 2006.] Now, more than 10 years since the introduction of LEED, the evidence supporting this transformation has become obvious. More than 10,000 LEED buildings have been certified, over 100,000 LEED AP professionals have participated in the LEED program, and almost every supplier of building materials offers at least some type of LEED checklist for its products. As a result, it is rare to find a professional facility manager (fm) who hasn’t been involved with a LEED project or with LEED-influenced construction practices to some degree.
Today, a similar transformation is occurring in the roofing industry. At the beginning of 2011, the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (the “Center”) launched a sustainable guideline for roofing systems that seeks to transform roofing—both in practice and in public perception. This new guideline, called RoofPoint™, is similar in function and structure to green building rating systems such as LEED, but it embraces important differences that offer special value to building owners, fms, and other members of the green building community. [The chart below provides a full description of the features of this new guideline.]
Similar to green building rating systems, RoofPoint functions as a criterion-based assessment system for sustainable roofs. The system features broad categories of environmental impact with specific strategies to reduce that environmental impact within each different category.
These credits are assessed against measurable goals, and the summation of this assessment is expressed as a total point score. Roofing projects meeting a minimum score overall (as well as in each major category) are then recognized to embody the key principles of sustainable roofing.
In an effort to increase public awareness of RoofPoint and streamline the assessment process, the Center introduced this new guideline and rating system in a pilot program at the beginning of 2011. Since the first evaluation in the spring of last year, RoofPoint projects have been certified in a portion of North America that includes more than 35 U.S. states as well as Canada and Mexico.
As a measure of public interest, the RoofPoint web site has received over 25,000 unique visits; more than 5,000 users have downloaded the RoofPoint guideline. In addition, educational sessions about RoofPoint have been presented at several national facility management (FM) events.
Focus On Sustainable Roofs
Although the basic structure of RoofPoint is similar to existing whole building green rating systems, there are several important differences. The most important distinction is that RoofPoint provides an in-depth assessment of sustainable roofing systems separate from other building elements.
As an example, the current LEED program specifically references roofing in regard to only two characteristics: cool roof surfaces and vegetative roofs. In contrast, RoofPoint addresses over 24 critical sustainable roof characteristics.
Although many roofing related characteristics are embedded within LEED credits, they may be difficult to winnow out and apply to an individual roofing project. As an example, LEED contains exhaustive criteria regarding overall energy efficiency, but because these criteria depend on complicated and expensive whole building energy modeling, the criteria may be difficult and costly to apply to a typical roofing project.
RoofPoint addresses this challenge by providing a series of prescriptive energy standards, including recommended minimum R-values, elimination of thermal discontinuities, and installation of roof air barriers that allow roofing practitioners to meet the intent of whole building approaches effectively without requiring energy modeling.
Focus On Durability
A second and perhaps more important difference in the RoofPoint program is its emphasis on roof system performance through the inclusion of categories for durability and life cycle management. In addition to reducing environmental impacts, truly sustainable buildings and roofs need to provide superior service life so the full benefit of reduced environmental impact is achieved. Perhaps nothing could be worse than a sustainably designed building with a leaky roof that shortens the working life of the entire building and compromises key environmental goals.
Mercedes Converts To A Green Roof
Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (MBUSA) recently faced the need to replace a ground level roof for an underground building section located at its Montvale, NJ headquarters. The MBUSA Green Team, a corporate wide sustainability initiative, was considering a green roof (also referred to as a vegetated roof).
“We saw it as an opportunity for us to do something to support the green effort,” explained David Lee, MBUSA facilities maintenance supervisor. “The roof was ideal. Beyond its sustainable and functional benefits, it was at ground level near an entrance where a lot of employees and visitors would see the green roof every day.”
A representative from MBUSA’s long time contractor, UGL Services, paved the way to the green roof by introducing Lee to options available through one of UGL’s partners, Tecta America. As a result, a new green roof was installed that meets MBUSA building and sustainability standards.
The new roof consists of a Thermal Poly Olefin (TPO) membrane with insulation, a drainage mat that absorbs water, and a vermiculate topsoil mix below a carpet type sedum tile. It also includes a concrete paver walkway that gives access for window cleaning and repairs on the adjacent building.
Lee is happy with the performance and with the roof’s support of MBUSA’s green and financial goals. He says, “We believe the roof is going to reduce our cost somewhat for energy because of its additional insulation value over the old roof. It also adds to the look of our campus in the way that it presents our building to our employees and visitors when they approach it.”
Examples of durability concepts within RoofPoint include protecting the roof from traffic, assuring positive drainage, adding critical detail enhancements, and installing a vapor retarder when needed. In addition, RoofPoint credits focus on key construction processes including on-site moisture protection, project quality assurance, and long-term roof maintenance.
As the RoofPoint pilot program has progressed this past year, the Center has heard from a wide variety of key roofing stakeholders about the value this program can bring to their businesses. For building owners, the most important feature is that RoofPoint targets an important construction segment effectively ignored by whole building green rating systems—the more than 2.5 billion square feet of annual nonresidential reroofing activity. [Source: “Nonresidential Roofing and National Energy Transformation.” Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, Washington, DC, 2010.] Not only are these systems difficult to apply to reroofing instances, but the costs are far too expensive to apply to the average reroofing project.
Focus On Validating Best Practice
Behind this interest in RoofPoint for reroofing projects lies another important feature. Almost every fm contacted by the Center confirms that before any reroofing contract is awarded, the fm typically is asked by upper management, “Are we doing the right thing?” in regard to sustainable construction. That’s why fms are constantly asking roofing professionals across North America, “Is this a sustainable roof?”
With the RoofPoint program, fms can now answer this question with tangible evidence that the roofing system meets well defined sustainability criteria. Best of all, the program documents this achievement in much the same way LEED and other programs address similar issues for entire buildings.
In addition to targeting reroofing and validating sustainable roofing practice, RoofPoint delivers several other benefits to building owners and fms. Because RoofPoint embraces every major type of nonresidential roofing option in a non-proprietary manner, the program supports fm demand for competition and choice in selecting roofing systems.
And compared to whole building rating systems such as LEED, RoofPoint can be easily integrated into almost any roofing project with minimal expense. Finally, many fms from larger organizations that have embraced Total Quality Management systems (such as ISO 9000) will appreciate RoofPoint’s process-based approach to roof system sustainability.
In terms of paperwork, the RoofPoint evaluation form is straightforward and simple to complete. And the registration fees associated with RoofPoint are much lower than the costs for any other available green building rating system.
Because RoofPoint emphasizes teamwork and process management, the fm becomes an increasingly valuable team member who can lend a special brand of experience to sustainable construction decisions. RoofPoint is not merely a check-box guideline: it requires extensive professional roofing experience and judgment to apply. Because of this, the RoofPoint program can help to illustrate the value professional fms can bring to impact the sustainability goals of their organizations.
Hoff is research director for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing and president of TEGNOS Research, Inc., a research organization dedicated to advancing understanding of the building envelope. For more information on RoofPoint visit the website or contact the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing.
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