ERA | EPDM Roofing Association

ERA Leadership Visits the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

ERA Leadership Visits the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

April 04, 2016 21:19

One of ERA’s overriding goals is to ensure that our members’ EPDM products are used in the most energy-efficient manner. We want our customers to know that EPDM is one of the most sustainable roofing products used today by the construction industry, with long-term performance up to or exceeding 40 years.  We also want our customers to be aware of recent developments that can help inform their roofing decisions: research shows, for instance, that fully adhered systems can deliver up to eight-percent energy savings when compared to a mechanically attached roof.  And we want our customers to know that EPDM can be used in a variety of systems to achieve energy efficiency. For instance, the EPA recently included ballasted EPDM roofing systems on its Energy Star website, stating that ballasted EPDM roofing systems “are a very effective means of significantly lowering the roof top surface temperature similar to reflective roofing products.”

Given the challenges of staying current in this energy-focused and constantly updating environment, ERA stays current on the emerging research in roofing systems.  Recently, we visited Oak Ridge National Laboratory to witness first-hand their state-of-the-art research facilities that put roofing systems to the test in a broad range of simulated climatic conditions. And this past month, ERA leadership and member representatives travelled to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado to see first-hand their “creative answers to today’s energy challenges.”  NREL’s 327-acre campus is a living laboratory, committed to sustainable operations, with the main campus boasting multiple on-site renewable energy installations.

Our visit focused on the NREL Research Support Facility, designed to be a model for new office building construction, which makes widespread use of recycled and repurposed materials. The building incorporates energy-efficient components such as daylighting and natural ventilation, and despite the blizzard that Colorado had experienced the day before our visit, its interior was bright and comfortable. The rooftop photovoltaic system, installed on a system with a white EPDM membrane, was of special interest to the ERA group, and could prompt research into the efficacy of black and white reflective EPDM membrane and solar systems in a range of climates. Weinberg Commons, an Apartment Building project in Washington DC, uses photovoltaic systems on its roof with black EPDM membrane as part of its successful efforts to pursue Passive House (PH) certification, the most stringent energy standard for buildings in the world.

The jury is still out on whether black or white reflective roofing is the best choice under PV systems. And, as with other decisions regarding membrane color, that will most likely depend on the climate zone where the roof is located. But we are certain that any roofing membrane supporting solar panels must be durable and long-lasting, regardless of color. EPDM’s record of standing up to tears, impacts, punctures and normal roof traffic, as well as its life expectancy of up to forty years, make it the right choice, regardless of color.

EPDM and PV systems – a new approach to energy-savings: ERA will be following this emerging trend and delivering specifics about its benefits to the roofing industry.

 Ellen Thorp

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