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RSI Enviroofology: The benefits of eco-friendly roofing systems

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Building owners and property managers have one thing in common: a roof over their structure that is either energy efficient or not. Merely using energy was the "norm;" now reducing energy use is the new standard. Last year building owners paid 11 percent more for natural gas and 29 percent more for heating oil than in 2005.

When you improve a building's efficiency, everyone wins: the building's owner, its occupants, the economy and our environment. The goal is to improve the quality and efficiency of tomorrow's structures through the use of alternative building materials. Getting there will not be easy, but one way is to start at the top -- from the roof.

Why eco-friendly roofing? First, it is the right thing to do. Roofing determines if heat and energy are contained or escapes through the roof surface. The opportunity to provide environmental solutions is one of the big themes of business leadership in our generation. The energy industry is on the brink of a revolution. Saving the environment is resonating with people. Your decision to go "green" creates a sense among local people that preservation of their environment is the most important thing for their community's long-term prosperity. More property owners are making their facilities eco-friendly to reduce operating expenses, and finding doors open for them with a high-performance building -- it attracts investors and tenants.

Owners have a more personal and business stake in green buildings than they realize. Currently they are paying for this trend through tax dollars and not taking advantage of the benefits they buy. Government is guiding us by saying, "This is the direction we are going to go." California now requires all commercial new and re-roofs to meet Title-24 energy guidelines. In 2009, this initiative will include condos and apartments.

Your awareness of changes that are occurring creates new opportunities in the form of new, energy-efficient roofing systems.

Two systems that meet California's tough Title-24 requirements are Single-Ply Membranes and Cool-Roof Built-up systems and coatings. Their white solar reflectivity is required for new and replacement low-sloped commercial roofs, minimizing the effects of ultraviolet rays by providing energy savings and sustainable performance.

Metal roofs also are gaining popularity in all building applications. Fire-resistant and available with a cool-roof finish, metal can reduce cooling costs by 20 percent.

Simply adding roof insulation reduces CO2 emissions and its energy saving provides a significant rate of return.

New products

Both functional and integrated, photovoltaic systems (PVs) provide clean, renewable energy by actually producing electrical energy on your rooftop, through the collection of the sun's energy. A variety of new collectors include panels, some that look like roof tiles and "thin film," which lies flat on a flat roof surface.

Solar attic fans run off collected solar power, cooling the attic space, making buildings more efficient.

Green organic garden roofs, which keep rooftops cool with living plants and retain water runoff, are now being dictated by site development requirements. Typically, an architect can get a building owner additional building space by specifying a green roof. Considering the price of real estate in dense urban areas, and the massive costs of civil engineering and site development, green roofing offers big advantages.

Owners are discovering they can convert measures that protect our environment into winning and profitable business strategies. We are entering a new era where consumers expect corporations to become more environmentally responsible -- and are rewarding them for doing so. Those taking steps today will be the leaders in their respective industries and create long-term benefits for our society as a whole, just by going green.

Submitted by David Susi, president of RSI Roofing

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