Lets face it, we are in a climate of “green building”, “environmentally friendly”, and “sustainable building practices”, or whatever other buzz word you want to throw at it. The fact of the matter is that from consumers to municipalities, there is a strong consensus that extreme care should be taken to make sure our construction activities are manufactured and installed to protect the environment, save energy and keep materials out of land fills. The challenge our manufacturers face when designing products is that not every climate is the same. Roofing systems and products that are perfect for Texas might not necessarily perform as well in Washington and vice versa. Texas is hot with blistering sun, hurricanes, tornados and enormous hail stones while Washington has an incredible amount of precipitation and rain 9 months out of the year with much cooler temperatures. Just by describing the inclement weather systems, we can see right off the bat that these different regions have very different needs. That thought sets the platform for very recent topic and trend change concerning gray vs. white single ply roofing membranes in Washington State. I would like to share a few problems that have recently been discovered concerning single ply roofing systems, and how local experts feel the issues can be addressed.
Scientists have become a huge factor and force behind the construction industry. They are contributing testing, data and ideas that are helping to create longer lasting products that carry better warranties and perform better in adverse climates. In recent decades the roofing industry has utilized the scientific principles of solar reflectivity to design what is known as “cool roofing” products. In essence these materials have lighter colors such as white, light blue, light tan or similar color variations that reflect light rather than absorbing it. The result is that a higher amount of the suns rays are reflected which keeps the building temperature cooler, both reducing the cost to cool buildings, and preventing premature decay to the structure due to excessive heat and moisture. The cool products have been very successful and are available now with low slope roofing products such as TPO, PVC and EPDM, granulated Torchdown, roof coatings and even asphalt shingles with reflective colored granules. Most of these products are Energy Star rated and qualify for a Federal Tax Credit. In most cases these systems are effective in practice, however recent discoveries in Washington State show that “cool colors” may not be so cool for our region.