Need a Boost in Your LEED Rating? Install a Cool Roof
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification today is a badge of honor for engineers, builders and owners committed to sustainable building practices that promote energy efficiency. As the focus increases on green construction to address climate change, LEED certification is becoming the most widely used green building rating system in the world.
In addition to LEED certification being a way to demonstrate your commitment to sustainable building, it can carry significant financial incentives. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the non-profit organization that created the certification, “LEED buildings have faster lease-up rates and may qualify for tax rebates and zoning allowances, along with higher property values that can attract more commercial construction companies to the field.”
LEED certification is a point-based system in which a company’s rating increases as points are earned. There are four rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. A Certified rating requires 40 to 49 points; Silver, 50 to 59 points; Gold is earned with 60-79 points and Platinum requires more than 79 points. These points are determined by a building’s sustainability, water and energy efficiency, construction materials used, and design innovation.
To become LEED certified, builders must incorporate energy-efficiency strategies into lighting, landscape or HVAC design. In addition, they must use sustainable, energy-efficient materials for roofing, insulation and other building elements.
Earning LEED Credits with Cool Paints
Many builders have found that using energy efficient cool paint on rooftops can significantly boost their LEED rating level. Cool roofs retain less heat and reflect more sunlight than a standard roof. Because of this, they lower energy bills; and reduce the energy used for air conditioning, the heat island effect, and power plant emissions such as carbon and sulfur dioxides.
Cool paints and coatings are designed to reflect the heat of the sun so the roof surface and underlying area stay cooler. According to Berkeley Labs, “on a typical summer afternoon, a cool-colored roof that reflects 35% of sunlight will stay about 12°C (22°F) cooler than a traditional roof of the same color that reflects only 10% of sunlight.”
Traditional roofs, especially those dark in color, absorb sunlight. Cool roof coatings, however, are more reflective, causing harmful UV rays from the sun to bounce off and dispel the heat. These cool paints keep the internal temperature of structures cooler for a fraction of the cost of air conditioning.
While white roofs naturally reflect some of the rays, white cool coatings go further, and some can reduce the HVAC output needed in a commercial building by up to 35 percent. There are even some paints on the market that are available in a broad range of colors, providing builders with choice as well as cooling benefits.
The use of cool paint as a Reflective Roof Coating that earns significant LEED credits is boosting their appeal to eco-conscious – as well as cost-conscious – builders. Following are questions to consider when selecting cool paints:
- How is the coating applied? Look for a cool paint – including black (the most challenging color) – that can be applied in one thin layer and in a single application. Using a thin layer saves on product costs while needing only one coat is not only faster to apply, it also saves significantly on labor costs. Additionally, find out if it can be applied on top of existing paints.
- How does it handle temperature fluctuations? Just as the sun’s UV rays can age skin, UV rays can do the same thing to roofs. They can cause materials to deteriorate or crack faster, and depending on the materials used, can make it necessary to replace the roof more frequently. New cool paint technologies, however, are impervious to dramatic temperature fluctuations, since they repel heat-causing IR radiation.
- What is its Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)? Cool paint vendors should be able to provide this number, and the higher it is, the better. A higher SRI results in lower energy costs.
- Do I have color options? Most companies offer white, while some also offer black options. There are even some available in a range of reflective, custom colors with strong SRI numbers, allowing companies to match the color of their roofs to their corporate logos.
- How long is your warranty? Quality manufacturers should be able to offer a 20-year warranty.
- What are some unexpected costs to consider? Some cool paints require multiple, thick application layers, and the more layers required, the more it costs in time and materials. Interestingly, the thicker the layer of paint is needed to provide coverage, the faster the cool roof is likely to fail and need replacement.
While LEED certification of cool roofs has many advantages when it comes to more efficiently cooling buildings and reducing the effects of heat islands, another major incentive is that it also enables building owners to be eligible for tax credits.
Building owners, construction firms, facilities managers and others are making energy efficiency a requirement in their building and remodeling projects. Ensuring that they rank high in LEED certification using cool roof coatings can go a long way to not only helping facilities managers save money but also to doing their part to promote healthy, sustainable workplaces.
Saleem Miyan is President and Chief Commercialism Officer of Bambu Global, a technology company providing breakthrough color and light solutions for a variety of markets, and parent company of Nygra Coatings.