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Choosing a Roof Color Isn’t as Black or White as it May Seem

by Greg Douglas, Vice President of Construction Innovation

I attended a roofing seminar a few weeks ago titled, “Black or White Membranes – What is the Sustainable and Energy Efficient Choice?” After years of hearing white roof membranes were the only choice, I thought I would listen to another perspective. What I have come to realize is either of these roofing membrane colors can be the right choice, in addition to grey and even “green.”

Roofing color choices can impact building efficiency, heat island effect, and even storm water management. These choices can be driven by so many factors including building orientation, configuration, occupancy, mechanical systems, and environmental conditions. As a general rule, if a building has much more heating demand than cooling demand (like most buildings in our northern climate), a darker roof (grey or black) is probably the best choice. If a building has much more cooling than heating demand (like most buildings in southern climates, cold storage facilities, etc.), then a lighter colored roof may be a better choice. When in doubt, take the time to understand your client’s operational and sustainable goals.

Energy modeling is also a cost-effective way to determine the most appropriate roof color for an occupancy, climate, and building type. The bottom line is that you do not have to limit your roof color options to black or white. Grey roofs and green living roofs are viable choices for many clients. Each client’s needs are different, and roofing system choices need to respond to those unique differences and requirements.

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