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Cool Roofs: Supplier Perspectives

Dave Karrels, Associate Editor

Cool roofs are receiving greater attention, and rightfully so. Who wouldn’t want lower heating and cooling costs and a new roof that will last for 10-20 years, or to add energy savings and 10-15 years of life to a current roof by adding a new coating?

Aside from making sense, cool roofing is starting to become a mandate. More building codes, especially in the Southern United States, require cool roofs or offer enticements to facilities that use cool roof products.

Finding a fit

All major roofing companies offer thermoplastic-polyolefin (TPO) roofing, and what used to be considered a high-end product has decreased in price so it is now more in line with other roofing options.

“The benefit for the manager is that TPO roofing fits in the single ply market between two products, but doesn’t have the Achilles heel of either,” says Tom Gallivan, marketing manager for Stevens Roofing Systems. “The black rubber weathers well, but has always been limited by its seams. PVC welds very easy, but has a problem with plasticizer migration. With TPO, managers get the benefit of seam strength without any plasticizers.”

Now, some TPO system manufacturers make wider sheets.

“The wider sheets make TPO systems easier, quicker and less expensive to install,” says Ron Head, sales and marketing manager for Carlisle Syntec’s thermoplastics group.

While TPO systems appeal to managers looking to replace a current roof, coatings also provide savings for newer roofs. Adding a coating is cheaper than a new roof, and coatings that are cool roof capable are becoming environmentally friendlier.

“There are coating systems available with solvents and with waterborne technology,” says Mike DeSouto, research and development director for Topcoat Inc., a subsidiary of GAF Materials Corp. “Waterborne technology is a little more color stable, but it’s more based on the quality of the formulation. You can have very reflective solvent-based and water-based coatings. The big difference is the environmental impact.”

While the benefits of cool roofing is documented, managers also look first at cost. Managers are willing to go green, Gallivan says, as long as it’s not too expensive.

“It is easy to demonstrate to the owner the cost of the roof on the installation,” Gallivan says. “Now when you show a life-cycle analysis, you can add into it the energy savings in terms of saved energy and reduced air conditioning costs to get a true picture of what the roof costs.”

Looking ahead

Significant advances in cool roof coatings are on the way.

“The race is on to come up with more reflective coatings and better reflectivity retention,” says Chris Salazar vice president of sales and marketing for Karnak Corp. “As far as coatings go, there are a variety of them available, since there are different needs, different chemicals and climates.”

Says DeSouto, “There are more performance related coatings. The industry is improving the products, compared to the old, not so environmentally friendly versions. Coatings are also now more usable on existing stock of roofing systems, such as EPDM and modified bitumen type roofs.”

Roofing system manufacturers are devoting more effort to products designed to benefit the environment.

“The next big thing is not just cool, but also sustainable roofs that never have to be removed or disposed of,” Head says. “The industry continues to move toward products that are totally green with no negative impact on the environment.”

Managers, however, are still a little shy when it comes to new programs, Gallivan says.

“Owners don’t want new products because they believe it is an untried product,” he says. “People are looking for next generation systems all the time, but it takes a long time for testing.

Dave Karrels, Associate Editor


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