FM Issue Supplement: All That Glitters Is Green

In the U.S., buildings are responsible for almost two-thirds of national electricity consumption and more than one-third of total primary energy use.
In the U.S., buildings are responsible for almost two-thirds of national electricity consumption and more than one-third of total primary energy use.

FM Issue Supplement: All That Glitters Is Green

FM Issue Supplement: All That Glitters Is Green

By Scott Kriner
Published in the August 2006 issue of
Today’s Facility Manager

In the U.S., buildings are responsible for almost two-thirds of national electricity consumption and more than one-third of total primary energy use. As a result, the current energy crunch has made conservation measures within these structures more important than ever.

Heating and cooling costs are generally the major expenses associated with building operations. Therefore, any reduction in these costs through the use of energy efficient building envelope components makes sense.

Unfortunately, the roof can be the least energy efficient component of a building envelope. Is it any wonder, then, that cool roofing has become such a hot topic?

Cool roofing is gaining in popularity due to its ability to reduce cooling and heating energy usage. Utility companies are also interested in cool roofing because it can help reduce the peak demand in electricity during the afternoon hours of summer months, preventing power disruptions. And from an environmental point of view, cool roofing can also help to mitigate a phenomenon known as the heat island effect.

Coming To Terms With Cool Roofing

Cool roofing is based on the premise of minimizing heat gain through the roof surface. To understand how this happens, facility professionals must look at the solar energy spectrum.

Ultraviolet (UV) energy in lower wavelengths amounts to only 3% of the total energy striking the earth’s surface. Visible light energy is 40%, and infrared (IR) energy in the longer wavelengths accounts for the largest percentage of the spectrum. When IR energy strikes the earth’s surface, it is felt as heat.

Cool roofing is described by two main terms: solar reflectance and thermal emittance. Total solar reflectance (TSR) is the percentage of all solar radiation that is immediately reflected from a surface. Any energy that is not reflected from a surface is absorbed by the material.

Some of this is transferred to heat which can be removed by convective transfer from air flow over the surface. Some of the heat can be conducted through the surface. More importantly, a portion of the heat can be re-emitted to the night sky in the form of infrared wavelength energy.

The latter phenomenon is known as thermal emittance (TE). The combination of TSR and TE properties of a material determine the surface temperature of a roof and its ability to act cool.

Metal roofing has a wide range of TSR and TE values. In unpainted condition, a metallic surface has a very low TE but a relatively high TSR. When a paint system is applied to the surface, the TE is very high regardless of the color. However, the TSR can vary depending on the color and/or pigmentation used.

Voluntary And Mandatory Programs

In addition to the obvious energy saving benefits of cool roofing, its use is also influenced by codes, standards, rebate/incentives, or marketing programs. And, in this regard, the landscape is broadening with an ever increasing list of cool roofing programs and initiatives. These policies can be national and local programs, each with their own criteria and definitions of cool roofing.

Most programs are voluntary, but some have mandatory criteria. They often pertain both to low and steep slope roofing.

The EPA estimates that an Energy Star labeled roof can decrease a roof temperature by as much as 100 degrees F. The lower surface temperature translates into less heat flow into the attic space below the roof and reduces the load on the air cooling system. To date, more than 60% of the products listed on the Energy Star labeled directory are metal roofing products or coatings used specifically in the metal roofing industry.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes tax incentives for commercial construction. Eligible commercial contractors can receive a tax deduction equivalent to $1.80 for every square foot of the building, if the building is designed to conserve energy.

The use of energy efficient building envelope components is required, and a cool metal roof can be used to lower the cooling energy use in the building.

California Ahead Of The Pack

In 1998, the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) was established as a non-profit organization that would set out to develop a methodology for evaluating and labeling all types of roofing products. This organization is comprised of roofing manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, trade associations, contractors, consultants, government agencies, educational institutions, code bodies, energy suppliers, and independent laboratories.

After launching its program in 2002, the CRRC has since become recognized by the California Energy Code (CEC) as the sole entity responsible for labeling roofing products that are allowed in CEC Title 24. It is important to note the CRRC does not establish criteria or definitions for cool roofing.

California is leading the way with an energy code as part of its overall building code. The latest version of its state building and energy code, Title 24, became effective in October 2005. With passage of Title 24, an energy code contained language specific to cool roofing requirements for the first time.

Compliance in Title 24 is based on a product meeting the following prescriptive requirements: 0.70 TSR, 0.75 TE, and CRRC listed. Compliance can also be achieved using a method of building component tradeoffs and energy budgets.

The current code pertains only to non-residential conditioned buildings with a low slope roof. The impact on metal roofing is that unpainted metal (like Galvalume® sheet) does not meet the criteria. However, compliance using the tradeoff calculations is possible, but costly.

Metal Roofing And LEED

Another international program gaining in popularity in the construction industry is the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) program started in 2000. This is a whole building design program that encourages an integrated design and construction process whereby points are awarded for the use of sustainable products or building practices.

The flagship for LEED has been its New Construction (NC) program. Other programs include Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors, Core and Shell Projects, Neighborhood Development, and Homes and Schools. Four levels of LEED certification are possible based on a graduated system of points awarded. An increasing number of LEED certification requirements for federal, state, and local public building construction projects are being mandated.

Metal roofing can contribute to the LEED-NC certification point system in several categories. Its high recycled content can be used to raise the overall building’s average recycled content in order to receive up to two points.

Supplying a metal panel from a location within 500 miles of a job site can contribute to one point for regional manufacture. The fact that metal is 100% recyclable helps with the waste management section of LEED. One credit can be awarded for metal in the heat island roof section where cool roofing is defined.

Metal Is Cool

As the cool roof movement continues to grow in the wake of rising oil, gas, and electricity costs, metal roofing has many advantages. With its wide range of TSR/TE properties, metal roofing can be engineered to optimize the energy efficiency of a roof system depending on the climate and application. (For non-metal roofing options, see “Green Extremes.”)

For cooler climates where heating dominates, a lower TE may be desirable; this can be met with an unpainted metal roof. But in warmer climates where cooling loads dominate, high TSR and TE are desirable—which can be met with a prepainted metal surface using lighter colors and/or IR reflective pigmentation. This design flexibility—combined with the sustainability, strength, durability, and low life cycle cost—makes metal roofing a cool choice.

Kriner is a technical consultant to The Metal Initiative, an industry-wide program designed to educate building owners, architects, and contractors about the use and selection of metal roofs and walls in commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. For information, visit

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