Earth Day is an excellent reminder to check in with yourself and your surroundings and ask: Am I doing everything I can to protect the environment and reduce my footprint?
If you're a building owner, facility manager, or roofing contractor, you know that every year and every project brings new environmental challenges. Every challenge also opens up new opportunities for you to improve operational sustainability, increase energy efficiency, and reduce harmful waste. At GenFlex, we turn these opportunities into easy, eco-friendly roofing systems and accessories for you.
What Are the Qualities of an Eco-Friendly Roof?
Modern roofs impact the environment in different ways. Sustainable roofing products aim to reduce the overall impact or make the impact positive. Every type of roof system can have at least some eco-friendly qualities.
The best eco-friendly roofs:
- Conserve energy: A well-insulated roof helps maintain a building's temperature, and building owners can spend less on heating and cooling. By curbing energy use in buildings, eco-friendly roofs can also help reduce power plant emissions and peak electricity demand. A light-colored roof reflects light and heat to keep the interior of a building cooler.
- Reduce waste: Roofs have a long lifespan. Such a long lifespan means the membrane gets decades of usage and reduces its environmental impact pre- and post-lifecycle. In addition, roofs can be recycled once torn off to keep materials out of local landfills. In fact, GenFlex offers a recycling program to assist contractors in their efforts to be more eco-friendly. Eligible materials typically include insulation, EPDM, TPO, or PVC membranes that are mechanically attached or ballasted. Also, eco-friendly roofing materials are versatile in their use. For example, any piece of a GenFlex EPDM membrane including our Seam2Seam EPDM SA can be cut down and used for small, detailed applications. Very little has to be thrown away.
- Are safe for people and the environment: Eco-friendly roofing products have low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or no VOCs. VOCs can have long- and short-term adverse health effects and contribute to ozone and smog in the atmosphere. A product with no VOCs is odorless and safer for roofing contractors, building occupants, and the environment.
Note that we're not necessarily talking about green roofs here, although green roofs are eco-friendly. While all green roofs are eco-friendly, not all eco-friendly roofs are green. A green roof is also called a vegetative roof consisting of a waterproofing membrane, growing medium (soil) and vegetation (plants) overlying a traditional roof,” explains the U.S. General Services Administration.
Eco-Friendly Roofing Options from GenFlex
At GenFlex, we make it quick and easy to build a sustainable roofing system with high-quality materials, simple-to-install systems, and proven results.
EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) has the least environmental impact of low slope roofing systems in terms of Global Warming Potential or GWP (a relative measure of how much a product is estimated to contribute towards global warming).
Global Warming Potential “may be one of the most meaningful measures for comparing the relative environmental impact of low slope roofing systems,” according to Life Cycle Inventory and Assessment of Selected Low Slope Roofing Systems in North America. EPDM has the lowest GWP rating.
EPDM membranes can be formulated in a dark or light color for energy efficiency in either heating or cooling-dominated climates. EPDM requires little to no maintenance even after years of exposure, further extending its service life and reducing the average environmental impact.
EPDM membranes are highly durable, waterproof, long-lasting, dimensionally stable, and offer unmatched resistance to ozone, UV radiation, and cold-cracking — thus providing a sustainable roofing solution. These qualities are especially important with the increase of extreme weather events around the world. The more resilient a roof can be, the better the structure can stand up to the likes of tornadoes and hailstorms, and the better it can serve occupants and the community in times of need.
“I would argue that the roof must be the most resilient portion of the building envelope,” explains Andre Desjarlais, Program Manager for the Building Envelope Systems Research Program in Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “My definition of resilient is the ability of the building or building component to withstand disasters and to be returned into service rapidly after such an event occurred. If a roof system is lost during a disaster, the entire contents of the building will likely be ruined and therefore the time required to put the building back into service is very long.”
Some of GenFlex's most popular eco-friendly EPDM solutions include:
- GenFlex Seam2Seam™ EPDM SA Membrane: No VOC, no smell, no seam tape! Because the membrane is designed with SecureBond™ adhesive from edge to edge, there's little to no waste during installation. Every piece can be utilized for patches or detail work. Plus, since the adhesive is already applied, there's no adhesive bucket to carry around or throw away in a landfill!
- GenFlex Quick Jet: LVOC bonding adhesive that's conveniently packaged in a portable, pressurized, and resealable canister.
- GenFlex EPDM LVOC Bonding Adhesive: Has a near-zero VOC content and is odor-free.
TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) membranes are fully recyclable at the end of their lifespan — which is incredibly long. GenFlex TPO membranes can be warrantied for up to 30 years! Such a long lifespan means the membrane gets decades of usage and reduces its environmental impact pre- and post-lifecycle. TPO membranes don't have to go in a landfill when their time is up. All of the base polymers and raw materials are non-hazardous, as Roofing Contractor notes, and there are no harmful fumes during installation.
Also, a standard bonding adhesive emits 600 – 700 grams of VOC per liter, and a low-VOC bonding adhesive emits 200 – 250 grams per liter, but GenFlex EZ TPO Peel & Stick membrane emits near 0 grams. This makes the product safer for installation and less harmful to the environment.
Other popular GenFlex eco-friendly TPO solutions include:
- GenFlex EZ TPO Clear Cut Edge Sealant: LVOC Polymer-based sealant for use on the cut edges of a TPO membrane after they've been heat welded. Low VOC means it's better for your crew and the environment!
Polyiso (Polyisocyanurate) thermal insulation boards boast the highest R-value per inch in colder temperatures. R-value is a way to measure how well insulation prevents heat from flowing into and out of a building. The high R-value of GenFlex ISO translates to up to 40% better thermal performance in cold temperatures than the competition*. The greater the R-value, the better the insulation and the more you could potentially save in HVAC costs. GenFlex ISO could save you thousands of dollars** and prevent more greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.
General characteristics of polyiso insulation that contribute to its environmental-friendliness include the manufacturing method (polyiso requires 85% less embodied energy to manufacture, notes Roofing Magazine), and it can be recycled and reused. GenFlex ISO, in particular, is engineered in an environmentally responsible manner from a patented formulation.
Complementary eco-friendly polyiso products from GenFlex include:
- GenFlex Quick Dual Spray Canister: Easy-to-apply LVOC foam adhesive designed for use with most insulation materials and GenFlex-approved substrates. Has an extremely high coverage rate of up to 3,500 square feet per kit and does not require a power source or extra equipment. The metal canister can be recycled after use.
- GenFlex One-Step Insulation Adhesive: Call it one and done! This insulation adhesive is highly elastic and LVOC, and comes with a mess-free, one-step applicator for faster, more efficient application.
Actively planning for and tackling roof maintenance can significantly expand the service life of a roofing system, and “the environmental impacts of the roofing materials and installation labor are spread over a much longer period,” notes TEGNOS Research in Life Cycle Inventory and Assessment of Selected Low Slope Roofing Systems in North America.
What does proper commercial roofing maintenance look like, though? Invest in regular inspections of the roof's interior and exterior. Look for signs of water damage, leaks, discoloration, corrosion, holes, pieces pulling away from the ceiling or roof, and other anomalies. Quickly repairing minor issues can prevent the need for a rip-off, thereby reducing the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill. Reducing waste is almost always the more environmentally-friendly route!
Eco-Friendly Is Easy with GenFlex
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*The thermal performance of GenFlex’s polyiso insulation is up to 40% better than major competitors when tested by an independent third party in cold temperature 40°F (4°C) applications according to ASTM C1289 standards. The increased R-value per inch means better thermal performance from the same roofing systems using the same amount of insulation compared to leading competitive products on the market today.
**Energy savings estimated were calculated using a custom simulation tool developed by Oakridge National Labs in collaboration with Dow and Firestone Building Products in support of Dow’s Official Carbon Partnership with the IOC. Potential savings are only estimates; actual performance attributes vary based on many factor, including specific building features like skylights, wall insulation, and HVAC performance. Consult with a competent building science engineering for a more tailored savings estimate.