Sustainable Low-Slope Roofing - A Design Process

April 29, 2011
Publication: Building Enclosure Sustainability Symposium 2011, Integrating Design & Building Practices: Proceedings of the 2nd Symposium p 188-197
Author(s): Eric Olson

Abstract: Current trends of sustainability regarding the design and construction of low-slope roofs emphasize use of materials with recycled product, reduction of construction material waste, energy conservation through reduction of building energy use, and use of the rooftop for vegetation or alternative energy generation. While these are important goals and benefits of a sustainable roofing system, by themselves, they do not necessarily provide a sustainable roof. Other conditions, namely system longevity (through durability, suitability for intended use, protection, and maintainability), must be considered in combination with the aforementioned factors in the development of a sustainable low-slope roofing system. Roof-system longevity is proportional to overall sustainability because it extends system life, which reduces environmental impact due to reduction of resource consumption, energy use, and waste associated with manufacturing new roofing components.|Sustainable low-slope-roofing design should use an approach that balances system longevity, minimization of environmental life cycle impacts, and achievement of sustainable in-service benefits provided by the roof. It also should consider the consequences of roofing failure in terms of disposal, replacement of roofing and unrelated impacted materials, and the corresponding environmental burden caused by roofing failure. This paper provides a design approach that begins by first identifying candidate roofing systems that fulfill the service and longevity requirements with respect to building location, roof uses, local environment conditions, and service-life requirements with due consideration to the importance of roof system durability and risks of failure. The approach then seeks to optimize features of the candidate roof systems to minimize environmental impact and to maximize sustainable in-service aspects of the roof assembly.