Sustainable Modern Roofing Options

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The roofing industry is evolving in the face of a number of sustainability issues. One issue is the nature of roofing materials themselves, the most common of which is asphalt, a product that relies on fossil fuels. Another issue is the idea that roofing can be a great source to cut down on an energy bill, simply by improving the insulation capacity of a home as a whole.

Yet another aspect of this of course is integrating a roof with technological innovations that allow a homeowner to incorporate solar energy technology, and to more naturally regulate interior temperatures using exterior materials. Roofing expert Herbert Norton expands on these ideas here in his guest post.



Today, more than three-quarters of the roofs in America are made with asphaltshingles because of their low cost and easy installation. However, the manufacturing process of asphalt shingles involves the use of heavy amounts of petroleum. This causes the release of pollutants into our atmosphere, harming humans, animals, plants, and other living species. Furthermore, asphalt is not recyclable.

Having a reliable roof is one of the most important parts of your home. Your roof not only protects against rain and wind, but also provides shelter for your family. Fortunately, nowadays there are many environmentally friendly options beyond asphalt available on the market, incorporating the latest technologies (and some old technologies too) that also help to lower your energy bills.

Solar Shingles

In addition to the traditional roofing material mentioned above, another option to consider is also making your roof an energy source through solar shingles. Solar roofs are becoming increasingly popular because in addition to protecting your house from the elements, your roof also becomes an energy source. Most solar roofing system will last 20 years and come with 5-year warranties.

In the United States, there are also state, federal, and local tax incentives for switching to a solar roofing system. However, solar roofs are not suitable for everyone. When taking into consideration the possibility of switching to solar shingles, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much sun do you get each year?
  • How much electricity do you use on a daily basis?
  • What direction does your roof face? Are there trees or buildings around you
    that would block sunlight?
  • If your answers to these questions are in favor of a solar roofing system, be sure to work with a licensed and qualified solar roofing contractor. The best way to do this is to talk to other people who have installed solar roofing systems and find a reliable solar PV contractor. Other ways include looking in your phone book or searching the Internet.

    “Cool” Roofs

    Cool roof technology involves implementing the use of color and other factors to reduce your roof’s heat intake. Lighter colored shingles will allow more sunlight and heat to be reflected back into the atmosphere compared to a darker colored roof. Furthermore, temperature causes roofing materials to expand and contract and preventing this will allow your roof to have a longer life.

    diagram: Cool Roof Rating Council (

    Cool roof technology involves the use of different coatings with strong reflective properties. Relatively 50% of sunlight is near-infrared light and many coatings are very good at reflecting this type of light.

    This significantly cools down your home or building and can result in air conditioning bills being reduced as much as fifteen percent. This type of technology can reduce roof temperatures up to 100 degrees. Cool roofs are now becoming more and more popular on the market, and the state of California is even requiring state buildings to include this technology.

    Green Roofs

    A green roof is a roofing system that is partially or fully covered with vegetation and a growing medium, such as soil. This vegetation is fixed in a soil replacement layer. Green roofs help absorb rainwater, provide insulation, and create a habitat for wildlife. This system is especially environmentally friendly because it significantly decreases the amount of runoff. While normal roofs have heavy amounts of runoff that pollute our water systems, the layers in green roofs absorb the rain.

    diagram: Intercon Green (

    Furthermore, green roofing systems filter pollutants and carbon dioxide out of the air, which help lower disease rates such as asthma. Green roofs are becoming increasingly popular because they result in significant savings for air conditioning and heating bills. The green roof significantly changes the temperature of the roof to that of the air around it, while a normal roof may reach up 180 degrees in the summertime. Furthermore, green roofs lengthen the life span of your roof and increase the value of your real estate.


    Thanks Herbert!

    Herbert Norton is a roofing contractor that started a website on roofing in the winter months to help educate his clients. has extensive information on many different types of roofing shingles, such as slate, tile, solar and metal shingles, to help consumers make an educated decision. Recently Herbert has been researching the “greening” of asphalt shingles, which are not normally considered to be eco-friendly.



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    Cate Morgan-Harlow

    Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.