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Building owners, managers choose green roofing to reduce energy costs

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More and more these days, we see newspaper and magazine article about green building and going green.

What once was regarded as a hippie ideal is now a mandate to save our environment and our planet, not to mention our pocket books.

Green roofing has many meanings. Green may mean an environmentally responsible type of roofing material that has been produced efficiently and that will perform in an environmentally responsible way.

The benefits of these types of roofs include cutting down on emissions, reducing heat island effects and, more importantly, being recyclable when it finally lives out its usefulness.

The "heat island" effect occurs when large sections of urban areas combine to create hot zones that raise carbon dioxide emissions by thousands of pounds per year, and sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by thousands of grams per year.

These areas are dark colored and retain heat, such as building walls, parking lots and, of course, roofs.

Green roofing is a means to reduce this "heat island" effect by employing green principals to redistribute heat.

Another type of green roofing includes the green garden-style roof system that has actual plants growing on the roof. This type of roofing has many benefits.

It can reduce storm water run off, keep a building cooler without the use of energy, act as a heat island reducer and qualify as the percentage of building area that has to be dedicated to landscaping by the building department.

Another type of "green roofing" is photovoltaic roofing, which actually generates electricity from solar cells mounted on top of the roofing.

In the very near future, photovoltaic roofing will actually be a part of the roof membrane itself.

This is an exciting new technology that will reduce the amount of heat in a building, requiring less energy to cool it. These roofs employ "thin film photovoltaics" that produce electricity embedded in the membrane of the room and this electricity can be used to offset the electrical needs of the building from the power grid.

All of this has a cost. But as we install more green roofs, and the more government agencies and utilities commit to rebates and tax incentive, we see the time it takes to recoup investment costs becoming shorter and shorter, down to less than five years in some current cases.

As building owners and managers we have a mandate to be socially responsible.

Given the amount of square footage that we manage, we have the ability to be the agents of change in this regard.

There are benefits for taking the initiative -- the green in our dollars that can be saved over time with installation of these new technologies.


Susi is president of RSI Roofing.

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