Over the last several years, buildings and their key components are being scrutinized in terms of their long-term impact on the environment and their contribution to a sustainable society. Roofing systems, in particular, have received much of the attention.

Over the last several years, buildings and their key components are being scrutinized in terms of their long-term impact on the environment and their contribution to a sustainable society. Roofing systems, in particular, have received much of the attention.

Besides their traditional waterproofing function, roofing systems are now tasked with saving energy, managing water supplies, reducing material impacts and achieving expanded life-cycle performance.

Because of the rapid growth of the green movement and cool roofing technologies, many of today’s standards for roofing have become outdated and may not adequately reflect the internal and external changes affecting the building industry.

Along with these new demands come new standards - promulgated by code bodies and other organizations which may be unfamiliar with traditional roofing technologies and good roofing practice.

“Increasingly, outside influencers are creating and mandating standards that conflict with current roof design knowledge and best practices,” says James Hoff, an RCIF Board member, and chairman of The 2009 Roofing Research Summit: Balancing the Future. “The test methodologies for some ASTM standards governing roofing material performance are not in line with real world performance criteria.”

Moreover, roofing is becoming an afterthought when standards-writing bodies and policy makers like ASRAE and ASTM introduce new building design standards.

Although interest in sustainable roof systems is increasing dramatically, there are currently no standards governing sustainability beyond singular characteristics, such as roof reflectivity.

This leads to de-selection of some high-performance roofing solutions and the specification of roofing systems that may actually be less sustainable over the long term.

“The addition of new energy and environmental practices into roofing may also have unexpected and adverse affects on the traditional role of roofs as one of the primary waterproofing systems for buildings,” according to Hoff, who is also president of TEGNOS Research Inc., Carmel IN. “In addition, this creates confusion in the design, research and roof consultant communities.”

Unless today’s younger generation of roofing experts get more involved in ASTM, ASHRAE and other organizations, we will continue to see “deemers” writing our roofing standards for us. While these influencers generally mean well, they often push the newer green and PV systems to the forefront while ignoring good roofing practice.

New standards are being approved at an alarming rate without reality checks from acknowledged roofing experts. Standards writers are in some cases ignoring much of the practical system knowledge that has taken the roofing industry decades to learn.

The result will almost certainly be more system failures, particularly with the newer, environmentally friendly roofing systems.