Although cool roof technology has generated a lot of attention in recent years, many contractors still struggle to convey the advantages to customers. That challenge is becoming less difficult with each passing year, however, as the evidence of cool roof technologies' energy-saving and cost-saving capabilities continues to mount.

Schools utilizing Cool Roof technology have shown significant energy savings. California State University recently chose Custom-Bilt Metals' 24-gauge steel panels with an Ultra Cool finish for their Humboldt campus facility.

Although cool roof technology has generated a lot of attention in recent years, many contractors still struggle to convey the advantages to customers. That challenge is becoming less difficult with each passing year, however, as the evidence of cool roof technologies' energy-saving and cost-saving capabilities continues to mount.

"The challenge of communicating the benefits of cool roof technology is naturally more difficult in the residential market than in the commercial market, where building owners are more accustomed to considering total life-cycle costs," noted Tony Chiovare, president of Custom-Bilt Metals Inc., which was one of the first manufacturers to incorporate cool roof technology in its metal shingles, metal shakes and standing seam metal roofing products.

"Both the residential and commercial markets are changing rapidly," Chiovare said. "New field test results are giving contractors the information they need to make a clear and convincing case for the advantages of metal roofing in general, and cool roofing in particular."

Chiovare cited recent demonstrations and field tests that make it possible to pinpoint the energy savings that cool roof technology provides. He said such tests will be essential in moving the metal roofing industry to the next level.

"In both residential and commercial markets, contractors benefit greatly from having credible numbers they can point to," said Chiovare. "We believe the future of metal roofing will be greatly impacted by our industry's ability to quantify the potential energy savings, and then translate those into real dollars and cents."

Tested in the Field

As an example, he cited recent field tests by U.S. government laboratories that showed certain new "cool roof" finishes could provide homeowners with significant energy savings, producing up to a 20 percent reduction on their summer cooling bills. The tests were conducted at a demonstration site in Fair Oaks, Calif., where researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory monitored the energy savings in two pairs of identical homes.

One home in each pair was roofed with conventional painted metal shakes and the other was roofed with metal shakes that used Custom-Bilt Metals' ULTRA-Cool™ coating, a new highly reflective finish that was developed by BASF Corporation's Industrial Coatings Division.

The study found that, in one typical September, the amount of heat penetrating into the attic of the home with the ULTRA-Cool roof was 36 percent less than the home with the conventional coating, providing an estimated 20 percent saving in cooling costs.

Recent by U.S. government laboratories showed certain "cool roof" finishes could help homeowners reduce cooling bills by as much as 20 percent.
"Measurable, quantifiable results such as this are essential to contractors' success with metal roofing," said Chiovare. "That's true in both the residential and commercial markets."

Another recent case study involved two virtually identical 90,000-square-foot school buildings in neighboring school districts. One school was roofed with a conventional green standing-seam metal roof with solar reflectance of 12 percent. The other had the same color metal roof but with a cool roof that provided solar reflectance of 29 percent. The local electric utility measured and confirmed the comparative energy usage, and found that the cool-roofed school realized energy savings of about $8,800 in the first year of operation alone.

"When citing savings such as these, it's also important to remember that energy savings are only part of the story," Chiovare added. "There are added savings in maintenance costs and extended roof life that can also be traced to these new cool roof technologies."

Consider, for example, the issue of long-term durability - a metal roof advantage that becomes even more pronounced when cool roof technology is applied. Chiovare noted that his company has subjected its ULTRA-Cool finishes to over 10,000 hours of accelerated exposure, which has proven these roofs are significantly more fade resistant than conventional roof coatings.

Moreover, since a metal roof coated with a cool roof finish can be as much as 55 degrees cooler on a sunny day, the amount of heat expansion and contraction is also reduced, which will further add to the roof's durability and longevity.

"The bottom line is greatly reduced total life-cycle cost," said Chiovare.

In addition to the interest generated by test results, cool roof technology got another major boost several months ago when changes to Title 24, Part 6 of the California Code of Regulations went into effect. With the October 2005 update, Title 24 has now begun regulating energy efficiency for roofs in California for the first time.

The most immediate impact was on low-sloped (less than 2:12 pitch) nonresidential roofs, where cool roofs are either a required feature or a recommended option for meeting the total permitted energy "budget." But many are keeping an eye out for possible regulations for the residential market, in California and elsewhere, since California is watched closely by other jurisdictions.

Another recent regulatory development involves the revised Chicago Energy Conservation Code, which also encourages the use of cool roof systems. In this climate, much of the interest in cool roofs is due to their ability to reduce the "urban heat island" effect, which contributes to urban smog and causes increased demands on power plants.

Cool roof technology is also drawing the interest of other utilities, as well as trade associations, industry groups and government agencies at all levels, and the most powerful interest group of all: consumers. High profile initiatives such as Energy Star and the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system are producing more energy-conscious homeowners. Not only are today's consumers more likely to be interested in cool roof technologies, they also are better informed about the benefits.

Industry leaders caution, however, that all the attention to cool roof technology should not distract contractors from the other advantages metal roofing has to offer, including aesthetic appeal. In addition to the contemporary look of standing seam designs, today's metal roofing can also faithfully replicate the appearance of virtually any traditional roofing material, from wooden shakes and shingles to slate and terra cotta tile. Other attractive benefits include corrosion and fade resistance, as well as minimal maintenance and exceptional resistance to wind, thanks to innovative new designs that interlock adjacent panels for added strength.

Of all the metal roofing industry's innovations, the new cool roof high reflective finishes are getting the most attention these days, according to Chiovare.

"The savings in cooling costs are definitely appealing, and the regulatory environment is encouraging as more and more residential and commercial owners look at metal roofing," he said.

But as critical as cool roof technology is to the industry's future, the smart contractor will also continue to emphasize traditional benefits such as fire and wind resistance, weight, aesthetic appeal and, above all, long-term total life-cycle value.

"In each of these areas, metal roofing contractors have a strong story to tell."

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