FM Issue: The Right Overhead - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Americans spent $1.03 trillion on energy in 2005, more than $200 billion (or 24%) more than they did in 2004.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Americans spent $1.03 trillion on energy in 2005, more than $200 billion (or 24%) more than they did in 2004.

FM Issue: The Right Overhead

FM Issue: The Right Overhead - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

Firestone Building Products (Credit: Firestone Building Products, iStock Photos.)

By Rob Eiseman
Published in the August 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Accordingto the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Americans spent $1.03 trillionon energy in 2005, more than $200 billion (or 24%) more than they didin 2004. The country’s inventory of commercial and industrial buildingsare aging and becoming less energy efficient, and the price of heatingand cooling office and retail space is increasing (up to 70% for some).

Oneimportant way for facility professionals to realize energy savings isthrough improvements in the building envelope—the combination of roofs,walls, foundations, windows, and their related components. The relativevalue of each part of the envelope depends on the building itself andits end use, but in most cases, roof systems not only contributesignificantly to energy conservation but can add to an environmentalbalance as well.

Roofing Benchmarks

For several decades, various factions in the U.S have been working toupgrade performance standards for energy efficient buildings. One ofthose organizations, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating andAir Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) developed an energy standard,ASHRAE 90.1. That standard includes energy efficiency requirements forroofs that can be met using roof insulation, reflectivity, or acombination of both.

Morerecently, several additional benchmarks have strengthened the argumentfor building envelope improvements—particularly in the area of roofsystems.

In 2003, the Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress(an organization comprised of industry manufacturers, distributors, andcontractors) funded a study by Ducker Worldwide to learn more aboutopinions and expectations of energy efficient roof systems. Keyfindings of the study included the following:

  • The average life expectancy of a low slope roof system is 17 years.
  • The three most important criteria in making a roof buying decision areinitial cost, quality of installation, and life cycle cost.
  • Almost 75% of building owners consider energy efficiency to be extremely important in roof replacement.
  • Ninety percent of facility managers use more roof insulation when replacing or recovering an existing roof system.
EnergyWise Roof Calculator The NRCA’s EnergyWise Roof Calculator is available online for free at It can help facility professionals plan reroofing projects like the one pictured here. (Credit: Firestone Building Products.)

Tax Breaks On Roofing

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the study confirmed thatrevisions to Section 168 of the Internal Revenue Code—which reduced thedepreciation period for nonresidential roof systems from 39 years to 20years—would lead to greater energy efficiency through investments inroof improvements.

Furthermore,the federal government has enacted the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the“Act”) in an effort to encourage resource conservation. One aspect ofthe Act is to provide owners and leaseholders of commercial buildingswith a deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings.

Thisprovision was codified in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 179Dand clarified by the IRS in Notice 2006-52. The commercial buildingdeduction under Section 179D allows taxpayers to deduct the cost ofenergy efficient property installed in commercial buildings.

Themaximum deduction allowed is up to $1.80 per square foot for a buildingthat achieves a 50% energy savings target. Even if the building doesnot meet the 50% savings, the taxpayer may qualify for a deduction upto 60¢ per square foot if it meets certain energy saving targets.

Section179D specifically relates to commercial buildings placed into serviceafter December 31, 2005 and before January 1, 2008. Eligible buildingsinclude commercial buildings such as: offices, retail spaces, mixed usefacilities, warehouses, rental housing of four stories or more, andpublicly owned buildings. Renovations on existing buildings are alsoeligible for a portion for the allowable deduction.


Calculating Decisions

With so many financial incentives in place, facilities managers shoulddo whatever it takes to make intelligent, informed roofing decisionsbased on the most current technology. And that technology has beenchanging rapidly.

Frankly,there is no simple, single solution for finding an energy efficientsystem. Instead, a number of variables must be taken into account forevery project. [To find out more about selecting the right roofingsystem, see the accompanying bonus article, “Your Building Will Tell You…”.]

Forsome buildings, good maintenance and roofing retrofits are the mostimportant step in creating energy efficient systems. Fortunately,reroofing projects are now easier than ever to coordinate and execute.[To find out more about roofing maintenance strategies, read the TFMarticle, “Lessons In Roof Maintenance” by Angie Basyouni, November2006.]

Otherbuildings may be better served by additional insulation and/orreflective surfaces. In Chicago, for instance, a one story, 10,000square foot conditioned commercial building with a minimum R-15 roofinsulation could save as much as $12,400 when compared to itsuninsulated counterpart.

These membranes and roof coatings notonly contribute to energy and financial savings, but they can also helpreduce ambient air temperature by affecting a building’s heat gain andloss. This can impact several factors, including smog, humidity, andoverall air quality in the surrounding neighborhood.

Additionally,emerging environmental trends support the importance of alternativeenergy generation options like photovoltaic systems and rooftop mountedwind generation. Clearly, the right roofing approach can have multiplebenefits in terms of energy conservation and generation.

New Roofing Programs

Based on all these developments, the National Roofing ContractorsAssociation (NRCA) has joined with other roofing industry associationsto create the SpecRight Program, an initiative aimed at assistingfacility professionals to make informed decisions about energyefficient roof systems. Based on ASHRAE 90.1, the initiative wasdeveloped to ensure compliance with most state mandated energy codes.

TheSpecRight Program includes three components—education, models, andoutreach—to help contractors educate facility managers and designersabout the benefits of quality roof systems. Through a broad awarenesscampaign, the program also will help change attitudes about roofing.More specifically, the program’s message is one of conserving energyand protecting the environment through quality roof system design,installation, materials, and maintenance.

Another NRCAprogram, the EnergyWise Roof Calculator, is a software application thatallows building professionals to construct virtual roof assemblies toevaluate thermal efficiency and estimate energy costs. It containsminimum thermal insulation requirements established by ASHRAE Standard90.1-1999.

As utility costs rise, it’s no surprise thatenergy efficiency is a priority for facilities managers. With thepotential for a quick return on investment, an effective roof systemcould be a significant contribution to any serious energy conservationinitiative.

Eiseman is president of Chicago, IL-based Eiseman Associates, a publicrelations firm. He has worked with the NRCA, the American Iron &Steel Institute (AISI) Commercial and Residential Roofing Task Force,and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA).

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