Feature Article

Are Cool Roofs Green? The Answer’s Not Black and White

Roofing choices are complicated by heating tradeoffs, climate effects, and condensation, but proponents say reflective roofs still make sense in most climates.

This white roof tops Crane Technical High School on Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.

Photo: Allie Goldstein, Great American Adaptation Road Trip
Cool roofs—those with reflectance and emissivity that make them good at keeping out the sun’s heat—are recommended widely without much regard for climate or project specifics. They’ve been adopted into multiple energy codes, including ASHRAE 90.1, the International Energy Conservation Code, and California’s Title 24, not to mention LEED. The concept even has its own bill in the U.S. Senate, the Energy-Efficient Cool Roofs Jobs Act (S. 2388). 

But it turns out that, beneath one of the least controversial green building recommendations, a debate is raging, with some roofing companies and architects having doubts about the extent to which cool roofs are truly beneficial.    

Published June 29, 2014 Permalink