Sustainable Options in Roofing

October 11, 2021 | By: Owen Kavanagh

A good roof can keep out the rain, snow, and wind, all while enabling a comfortable office environment for tenants. Roofing options have improved in recent years, and these options can be a great way to improve your ENERGY STAR® Score.       

Green, Gray, and White 

Green roofs with live vegetation are a sight to behold. They function as both beautiful collaboration spaces atop office buildings, and as an environmentally friendly option for local plants and pollinators. Green roofs have a steep initial cost, but the benefits, from the aesthetic to the physical, are far reaching.  

Gray water reclamation is another excellent sustainable roofing option. These systems collect rainwater and store it in large containers for use in the building. Excess typically makes its way into the storm water runoff system, but the remainder can be used to lower water costs in the building. This system can be used in tandem with a green roof to lower upkeep costs and keep it looking great, such as the LEED Platinum certified 1180 Peachtree in Atlanta, Georgia, which uses reclaimed rainwater to help support its rooftop garden irrigation. 

An exceedingly accessible option comes in the form of color reflective roofs. These roofs are typically painted white or made of lightly colored material and serve to reflect some of the Ultraviolet rays from the sun. This simple solution can have immense benefits in the long term; the reflected energy lowers energy costs in the building, and they help lower the urban heat island effect that runs rampant in cities and office parks. Color reflective roofs are a great way to improve your ENERGY STAR® Score without breaking the bank. 

Evolving Field 

Many of these systems have evolved and changed over the past 20 years.  

“There have been great strides in leak detection over the past year,” said Drew Higgins, Business Development at Empire Roofing. “Green roofing systems have struggled tremendously with leak investigation. In the past we used to have to remove a large area of the green roof to investigate, but leak detection technology has improved to better pinpoint problem areas.”  

Outside of technological advancement, there has been a shift in roofing towards light color and long-lasting material. The longer life of materials helps alleviate landfill and trash, these roofs went from a 10–15-year cycle to averaging 20+ years of service, with some lasting over 30 years. The lighter hues on many of these long-lasting materials aid at reflecting UV rays as color reflective roofs. Even with all these impactful innovations, the largest contributor to roofing remains constant.  

Roofing is Roofing 

The most important aspect of roofing continues to be the roofing technicians and professionals getting the job done. The advice, expertise and experience of roofing professionals is paramount to the success of your roof. From tax benefits like 179D to collaboration space, a roofing professional can help address your building’s roofing needs; however, installation is not the end. 

Continued maintenance and repairs on a roof are of the utmost importance to keeping issues at bay. Without proper maintenance, a green roof can fail within 5 – 7 years should plants die and soil erode, forcing you to start from square one when building the vegetation back. An unaddressed roof leak can similarly spiral into myriad problems, such as water damage and mold. Proper repair and maintenance from an expert roofing technician or team can keep these issues far away.   

A good roof can keep the rain out, but the best roofs do far more. Green roofs, gray water collection, and color reflections are all sustainable options, and expert roofing technicians can enhance and maintain these systems while keeping you up to date on roofing innovations. 

See the entire library of ENERGY STAR® videos and articles in our 2021 ENERGY STAR® Content Guide.


To stay up to date on news and resources such as this and other topics of importance to the real estate industry, subscribe to the free CRE Insight Journal Newsletter using this link.
  • Josh Hipsher, General Manager, Empire Roofing
  • Drew Higgins, Business Development, Empire Roofing