This year, 2013, the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) celebrates its 10th Anniversary. Since its founding, ERA has been committed to providing the construction industry with accurate, up-to-date information about the appropriate choice of roofing material in climates throughout the United States and internationally. As part of that effort, ERA has conducted extensive research related to the sustainability and environmental impact of EPDM. Since EPDM membrane is available in both black and white, ERA has also stayed current on the latest research specifically related to the use of reflective roofing.
Over the last ten years, new information has emerged about reflective roofing. What the industry knows today is very different from what it knew when white roofing was touted as a “one size fits all” solution to energy challenges.
Many roofing industry experts have begun to question reports prepared by research facilities that were based on computer modeling and did not take into consideration atmospheric feedbacks or other unintended consequences.
Early installations of “cool roofing”, some in place for up to 15 years, are now entering the mature stage of their lifecycles. As with all new roofing products, concerns and issues typically manifest themselves later in a roofing systems life cycle after the roof has been exposed to the elements. After products are introduced to the field and gain popularity they can become susceptible to contractor installation variances, product weathering, or unexpected consequences associated with unique applications. Roofing professionals with years of knowledge regarding the performance of roofing products and manufacturers, who have the responsibility of warranting roofing systems are increasingly weighing in, providing invaluable information about reflective roofing based on real-life experiences in the field. Research now incorporates this feedback from the field, and is being designed to answer emerging questions about the use of reflective roofing, especially in cooler climates. Scientists are looking at the larger picture, such as the critical components beneath a roofing membrane that are vital to the performance of any roofing system. Technical research on the validity of cool roofing (for reducing urban heat islands and delivering energy savings) and its potential unintended consequences, has been undertaken, the results of which have challenged many of the initial theories upon which cool roofing adoption was based.
Architects, engineers, building owners and roof system designers are encouraged to design roof systems appropriate for the building use, climate and contractor base. By focusing on the provision of a high-performance system that can provide overall energy efficiency and withstand extreme weather conditions, the specifier will ensure that the roof system’s overall life cycle is maximized to provide the best overall option. ERA has a long history of serving as a source of unbiased, state-of-the art information about roofing systems. This portion of our website, as part of our continuing commitment to helping EPDM customers make the best use of our products, is now dedicated to providing the industry with up-to-date, research-based information about the appropriate use of reflective material in varying climate conditions.
Scientific studies conducted at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories concluded that roof systems featuring ballast over EPDM were as effective as white-membrane roofs in mitigating peak energy demand. See the final report from the Single Ply Roofing Institute.
This recent study published in Journal of Climate by Stanford University researchers found that reflective roofs do not have the same impact on reducing the urban heat island as others have asserted.