Story at a glance:

  • The solar panel market size is expected to reach $902.55 billion by 2028.
  • Using the right roofing products can protect buildings from harsh weather.
  • Materials like terra-cotta and steel are easy to recycle and install.

Green building materials come in all shapes and sizes and can range from recycled metal to high-efficiency toilets and more. The global green building materials market size was valued at $256.51 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $653.41 billion by 2028. This increased demand means more sustainable products will come to the market, but how do you determine what’s best for a particular project?

When it comes to finding sustainable roofing products, professionals have several options to consider. Products that help create an eco-friendlier roof also have benefits like energy savings, reducing heat island effect, and increased durability.

Here are a few sustainable roofing products that may improve your next project.

1. Terra-Cotta Tile

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Photo courtesy of Ludowici

Terra-cotta is known for being weather resilient, durable, and recyclable—all of which prove its sustainable quality. Terra-cotta roofing tile has been used for centuries but can still offer a clean and modern look as manufacturers like Ludowici have shown.

“One question we often get is if terra-cotta products only come in Spanish and Mission styles. Our answer is always definitely not! Today we offer a wide range of architectural terra-cotta products available for roofing, wall cladding, solar shades, and quarry floor tile applications,” said Rob Wehr, vice president of business development and national accounts at Ludowici, in a previous gb&d article. “Many of these products are flat tiles with clean crisp lines that can be used in numerous types of architectural designs. There are also profiles that replicate slate and shake textures and are an excellent alternative to wood shake and natural slate products with the longevity of 75 years.”

Terra-cotta’s benefits continue with its low-maintenance upkeep, fire resistance, and thermal insulation. Terra-cotta allows builders and homeowners alike to take advantage of its benefits without sacrificing style or performance.

“Through superior raw materials, profile engineering, and the manufacturing process, Ludowici tiles are made to withstand more stress than any other clay tile product on the market. The production process allows tiles to form into a dense, vitrified material with the highest strengths available—essential for peak performance,” Wehr previously wrote for gb&d.

2. Polyurethane Coatings

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Photo courtesy of Covestro

When using protective coatings on a roofing system, there is a lot to consider. The type of coating can be crucial to a roof’s durability and energy efficiency. Materials and methods like silicon, asphalt, acrylic, and polyurethane produce vastly different results. Roof coating experts at Covestro recommend polyurethane coatings for a variety of reasons.

“Liquid-applied polyurethane reflective roof coatings not only ensure lasting durability and easy maintenance; they also have the all-important quality of reflecting sunlight rather than absorbing it—initially as well as years after application,” says Steven Reinstadtler, infrastructure coatings market manager at Covestro. “Dark roofs typically absorb 90% of the sun’s rays, which can drive roof temperatures as high as 150°F on sunny days. Much of this excess heat is absorbed by the building, meaning air conditioning and other cooling systems work harder and consume excess energy. Light-colored roofing, on the other hand, has a higher albedo and reflects anywhere from 55% to 90% of sunlight.”

Versatility is another benefit of polyurethane coatings. This type of coating can be installed over virtually any type of surface, from thermoplastic single-ply membranes such as PVC or thermoplastic polyolefin to thermoset single-ply membranes such as ethylene propylene diene terpolymer or chlorosulfonated polyethylene. Polyurethane coatings can also be installed over metal, concrete, built-up roof, modified bitumen, or spray polyurethane foam.

3. Metal Roof Systems

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Photo courtesy of Englert

Metal roof systems are sustainable because of their ability to be reused as well as their strength. Steel typically contains a significant amount of recycled content, and all steel is 100% recyclable at the end of its life. That makes metal an ideal alternative to asphalt roofing, which has a negative environmental impact.

“Metal roofing systems outshine competing materials in just about every metric,” Jeff Barnard, technical representative at Englert, previously told gb&d. “But finding a trusted supplier who is familiar with local regulations and testing requirements is the key to success for any roofing project.”

Unlike shingles or slate, metal roofing systems reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere instead of absorbing that heat. This can save on energy costs and the amount of electricity a building uses during warmer months.

In regions that experience extreme weather like hurricanes and snowstorms, a metal roofing system’s durability can be beneficial. “When you consider that storms have been getting stronger, it’s become more of a challenge for building code officials to anticipate the necessary requirements ahead of the next big storm,” Barnard says. “We only have about 100 years of climate data to go off of, so every time a new record is broken, local regulators need to adjust their standards. This happens in Florida quite a bit. That’s why Englert is constantly aggressively performing wind uplift and other testing methods, in order to keep pace with the escalating building code requirements.”

4. Solar Panel Systems

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Photo courtesy of GAF

Solar technology has been around since the 1950s, but with the need for clean energy came an increased demand for solar panels. ​​The solar panel market size reached $182.02 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $902.55 billion by 2028.

To get the most out of solar panels you need proper planning, design, and installation. The property needs to be inspected to determine the sun’s path and potential shade structures. The roof needs to be properly configured for optimal energy collection. If the PV system is being installed on an existing structure, inspectors must determine if the roof is strong enough to handle the weight of the panels.

Roofing innovators like GAF offer a range of roofing solutions that continue to advance solar technology. One example can be seen with DecoTech, the low-profile solar system that visually and physically integrates into the roof itself. Using solar as a form sustainable energy will only get easier with continued advances in solar technology,

5. Waterproof Liquid Coatings

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Cold-applied liquid waterproofing can save time and perform better in the long run. Photo courtesy of GCP

Waterproofing new and renovated construction may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sustainable roof design, but it’s a crucial step to take. Many areas of a building will require waterproofing, particularly green roofs, balconies, terraces, covered podiums, and plaza decks. But there is a question of when should you consider cold vs hot-applied liquid waterproofing.

Companies like GCP can help professionals in the industry find the right answer with their variety of waterproofing solutions.

“There are some scenarios in which either cold vs hot-applied liquid waterproofing products work well and even a few in which hot-applied, specifically hot rubberized asphalt (HRA), may be the preferred option,” Lynn Connors, marketing director at GCP, previously wrote for gb&d. “However, for most construction site waterproofing scenarios—particularly the performance-critical and time-sensitive ones—cold-applied liquid waterproofing like GCP’s SILCOR liquid waterproofing line has been proven to be the better option.”

Connors highlights the many scenarios in which cold-applied liquid waterproof coatings can be more effective. Cold-applied coatings are typically a safer option, effective for larger projects, work well with green roofs, and cure much faster.

“The time that it takes for the hot-applied installation to cure or harden and for the surface to be ready for return to service could be 24 hours. The cold-applied installation can withstand foot traffic as well as resist rain in two hours, making it up to 12 times faster than hot-applied to cure, enabling a faster return to service,” Connors says.