Climate change has become a hot topic over the last few years – it seems to always be in the news – and we’ve heard a lot about how rising temperatures will affect our world. But we’re just now beginning to understand the specific implications for different industries. The roof construction industry, in particular, has some work to do to accommodate a warming planet. That work falls into two categories: risk mitigation and environmental impact.
Since roofs are, by nature, exposed to the elements, the roof construction industry will have to change both practices and materials in order to minimize the impacts of rising temperatures and increased extreme weather events. Here are just a few examples:
- EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer roofing materials): EPDM is a flexible, rubber roofing material. It’s watertight, which could be very attractive to customers facing increased rainfall. In addition, EPDM roofing is efficient, and it’s resistant to heat, ultraviolet radiation, water, and thermal changes. Those qualities make it perfect for a warming climate and the weather effects associated with that change. There are also EPDM coatings that can be used to repair roof leaks.
- Wetter weather will affect both the roof itself (and any equipment and supports on the roof) as well as the ability of maintenance crews to conduct inspections and make repairs. This could necessitate changes in both building materials and in work processes.
- Increased rainfall could also accelerate roof discoloration caused by algae. Because cleaning is both expensive and harmful to the environment (especially when bleach is used), there may be an increase in the use of photocatalytic coatings that enable roofing surfaces to clean themselves.
- As the impacts of storms and wetter weather spread through the supply chain, there could be shortages in building materials, causing both work stoppages and increased pricing.
- Best practices for roof-wall connections – which have a high propensity for leaks – vary by region due to differences in climate. As the global climate becomes warmer and wetter, commonly used practices may no longer be effective. The roofing and construction industries will have to change their practices to accommodate the changing climate.
- The insurance industry will, by necessity, adjust premiums to cover the costs of increased extreme weather events. Most will also offer discounts to clients who make use of damage mitigation technology. Roofing companies should expect clients to begin demanding these new technologies in an attempt to reduce the cost of insurance.
Currently, residential and commercial buildings are responsible for 30-40% of U.S. carbon emissions. As climate change progresses, the roof construction industry will face increasing pressure to minimize its environmental impact and offer sustainable roofing alternatives. Implications may include:
- Increased demand for green roofs.
- Increased demand for roofing materials with enhanced insulation properties.
- Increased demand for roofing systems that qualify for environmentally-friendly tax credits.
- Another big sustainable roofing initiative to come will be increased demand for locally sourced raw materials to reduce the environmental impact of transporting the materials to a job site.
- New regulations for the mining and manufacture of roofing equipment (currently responsible for the biggest environmental impact within the industry).
- Pressure to adopt more energy-efficient construction techniques.
- Pressure to develop roofing systems that are not only energy-efficient but energy-producing.
- Increased demand for rooftop equipment that produces and supports wind and solar energy.
It’s widely accepted that climate change is here to stay, and industries all across the spectrum are starting to make plans and to adapt. The roof construction industry is no exception. Going forward, the most successful roofing companies will be those that work with both clients and regulatory agencies to design and install roofs that offer the most energy-saving potential as well as the least environmental impact with sustainable roofing materials. What are you doing to prepare your business for the impacts of climate change?