Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu made headlines with his suggestion that Americans could save energy and combat climate change by installing white roofs on homes and buildings.
In response, I sent Dr. Chu a letter pointing out that, although white roofs certainly can be part of the solution, he shouldn’t discount America’s ability to innovate. In the metal roofing industry, numerous companies are advancing coatings for metal roofs that not only reflect heat and help keep buildings cool, but maintain the ability to choose from an appealing array of colors.
I don’t know if Dr. Chu ever read my letter, but it was picked up in several publications and I’m pleased to say the response I received from customers, green-building advocates and others has been overwhelmingly positive.
That’s a good sign. No matter where you stand politically, there’s no question that as Americans, we all have a responsibility to use energy more effectively and efficiently. The costs are too high. The resources are too finite. And those two problems only figure to get worse if we pass them on to the next generation.
Fortunately, people in our industry aren’t shying away from the challenge. In fact, they’re leading the way. Through organizations like the Oakland, Calif.-based Cool Roof Rating Council, the Pittsburgh-based Cool Metal Roofing Coalition and the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star, we are establishing stringent, measurable criteria for the performance of cool metal roofs.
These criteria not only demonstrate and promote the financial and environmental benefits of cool metal roofing, they also encourage the development of new products and technologies. This ability to foster innovation will serve us well, particularly as green-building principles and practices become a permanent part of the legislative and regulatory landscape.
When it comes to green building, the advantages of cool metal roofs are myriad. The products are durable and provide a wide variety of color and aesthetic options. They also maintain their solar reflectance longer than competing materials due to their ability to shed dirt and restrict the growth of surface mold and mildew.
Cool roofs also are highly compatible with emerging green-building technologies such as roof-mounted building-integrated photovoltaics and certified rainwater catchment systems. Add to that the fact that metal roofs are fully recyclable and less expensive and energy-intensive to transport, and you have an impressive combination of environmental attributes.
Despite these traits, plenty of work remains. As an industry, our primary task is self-evident. We must continue to improve cool metal roofing technology so our products become the selection of choice among architects, building owners and homeowners. In a competitive building market, people always will opt for more choice and better performance. We have to deliver it.
A second urgent task is to get our message out. Dr. Chu’s statement received a lot of coverage, not just in the green-building community but in the mainstream media as well. It’s our collective responsibility to serve as a thoughtful, measured counterweight to the sincere but misguided notion that white roofs are the only contribution our industry can make to more energy-efficient buildings.
I urge all of you to respond as I did. When you see an article or news report touting white roofs, whether it’s on your local TV station or in the New York Times, pick up the phone or send the reporter a letter or an e-mail. It works. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people outside our industry are willing to listen. Our job is to give them something different to hear.