What is Green Roofing?

At Crown Roofing in Raleigh, North Carolina, we believe the future of roofing is in processes and materials that are ecologically friendly, whether it is because they were manufactured with eco-friendly materials, they contain natural materials within them or, if man-made, they are recyclable.  All of these we are calling “green roofs” for ease of discussion. This blog post will serve to educate anyone interested on the different ways in which we might use our roofs as places we can begin to be more cognizant of our carbon footprints and our broader impact on our natural environments. Home to North Carolina State University, the Raleigh area has access to some of the latest and greatest agricultural and materials research and innovations in the world. Many of those innovations these days are in the realm of ecologically friendly construction materials.

There are three general categories of green roofs we will discuss in this blog post.

First, we have living roofs, or roofs which literally incorporate living plants into the design and function of the roof barrier itself.  You may have seen these living roofs on the tops of office buildings, oftentimes in larger urban areas. These beautiful and functional roofs are beginning to “crop” up all over the world with more frequency and represent an exciting resurgence of an ancient roof type that has been used by native cultures from around the globe for centuries. In a future blog post I will explain in more detail how living roofs work and how they are constructed, but for now we will just say that a living roof is covered, in whole or in part, by a waterproof membrane that is covered with living plant material planted in a growing medium such as soil. Typically you will see a couple of additional layers dedicated to drainage and irrigation between the vegetation and the membrane. These living roofs, on a micro level, insulate the structure, are typically more attractive than a traditional roof, provide wildlife habitat and absorb rainwater. On a macro level, living roofs help to counter the heat island effect in urban areas and provide a serene, pastoral place for us to see or perhaps experience first-hand. Contrary to some rumors out there, living roofs can absolutely be installed on new or older residential homes as well as on commercial buildings. Some green roofs are more complex than others, with the more complex types hosting a variety of plant and animal life and requiring more intensive maintenance, while the less complex types have fewer species of plants and animals and minimal maintenance requirements.  Occasionally you will see solar panels worked into a living roof design as well.

The second general category of green roofs are roofs which are made from non-living yet still naturally occurring materials that form the protective barrier on the structure. Here we are talking about cedar, slate, clay tile, grass and other natural materials. Some of the most beautiful roofs in the world throughout history fall within this category of green roofs. These roofs bring to mind a beautiful log cabin with cedar shakes on the roof or a lovely Tudor home in England from the Middle Ages boasting a beautiful, thick thatched straw roof.  Many Spanish structures have enjoyed the function and beauty of clay tile roofs and many traditional brick buildings carry gorgeous slate tile roofs that can last for hundreds of years. Depending on the material, these roofs vary in their longevity and the amount of maintenance they require, but their beauty is arguably unparalleled among roofing materials.  Due to innovations in technology we now have roofing materials which may be hybrid materials (part natural, part man-made) that have the aesthetic appeal of an all-natural roof, but have durability closer to that of man-made roofing materials.  Best of both worlds, you might say.

Lastly, we are including within the definition of “green roofs” the various roofing materials which are recyclable or which collect energy that can be used by the property owner in place of energy for which they would have to pay. This category includes certain asphalt shingle materials, certain types of metal roofing materials and solar cell roofing materials. The “green” component with these roofs is the recycling of the material or the passive collection of energy. Recycling reduces the demand for more new man-made materials, thus reducing the carbon footprint of such installations and lowering overall energy and fossil fuel demands.  Solar power collection, of course, can give us energy to provide power which otherwise would have to come from the urban power grid and thus reduce overall consumption of man-generated power.  Some of the newer solar cell shingles are touted as producing so much power that there would be an excess of power available which could be returned to the power grid itself for other needs.

In the weeks to come we will explore in more detail the nature of various types of green roofs and hopefully provide encouragement and inspiration for you to consider such eco-friendly roofing in your own construction or renovation projects.

If you are in the market for a new roof in the central or eastern North Carolina area (or a roof repair!), please keep Crown Roofing in mind and know that we are always striving to lower our impact on the planet and are happy to discuss any of the various methods above in which you may have interest!  Just call (919) 427-7360 and ask for Bruce or email him at crownroofingnc@gmail.com. You can visit Crown’s website at http://www.crownroofingnc.net for more information.

Bruce Dunevant, a North Carolina native and President of Crown Roofing, a division of Walden Construction, LLC, has over 30 years of experience in the construction industry. Bruce grew up on a farm near Roxboro, North Carolina, started working in construction while in college at East Carolina University and after graduation went to work for Ryan Homes, at the time the nation’s largest homebuilder.  After several years of working his way up the ranks at Ryan and other companies, supervising the construction of many homes in the Triangle area, Bruce started his own home construction company before later branching out into construction of commercial projects such as office buildings and apartment complexes. 

These days Bruce is enjoying sharpening his focus to one facet of the construction business and is incorporating his passion for environmentally friendly construction techniques in the process. A GAF Certified ‘Green’ Roofer, Bruce is on the cutting edge of new technologies that work towards reducing our carbon footprint wherever possible and focusing on natural materials, natural solutions for roofing concerns and recycling of man-made materials such as asphalt shingles and metal roofs. Bruce’s goal is to have an eco-friendly, or ‘green’ component to every roofing project Crown Roofing tackles.  

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