The Metal Roofing Alliance estimates that 20 billion pounds of asphalt shingles are dumped in US landfills every year. On top of that, asphalt shingles are estimated to take between 300-400 years to fully decompose.
The roof is the single largest structural component on a building, so the materials you use have a significant impact on the environment and the building’s carbon footprint. Not only are metal roofs fantastic from a return-on-investment perspective, but roofing metal is widely regarded as the most environmentally responsible choice.
In this post, we’re breaking down the immense benefits metal roofs provide to the environment and making the case for why you should consider switching to metal for your next roofing project.
The raw material used to fabricate metal roofing comes from a variety of consumer, government, and industrial sources, making it the most eco-friendly roofing solution. For example, a building’s metal roof could be made from up to 95% recycled metal sourced from products such as discarded car parts, soda cans, or manufacturing plant waste. This means virtually no non-renewable resources are used to make roofing metal, and that’s a win for the environment.
In addition, once a metal roof reaches the end of its functional life, it won’t wind up in the landfill like traditional asphalt shingles do. The old roof will be diverted to an approved recycling facility where it will be sorted, graded, and sent out to be re-manufactured into new products such as playground structures, metal beams, or perhaps even more metal roofing.
Overflowing landfills are an increasing concern in our country, and asphalt roofs only add to the issue. On average, a corrugated metal roof can last between 40-70 years which is more than double the lifespan of asphalt shingles.
The two main reasons metal roofs last longer than asphalt shingles are:
- Durability: Numerous metals are available with their own unique applications and characteristics. Metals like steel, copper, and aluminum are very common and reliable in providing a long lifespan. Each of these are malleable and can be pressed and shaped without suffering any break or crack and are have strong enough qualities to withstand the elements, especially when they feature a protective coating.
- Low Maintenance: Metal requires minimal maintenance during its lifetime. For example, copper and aluminum are naturally rust resistant because they are nonferrous metals. Throughout fabrication and installation, it’s recommended to protect the surface to avoid exposure to and adherence of impurities. But once installed, metal roofs require little to no repairs.
The longevity of metal roofs, paired with their recyclability, produce little to no waste, reducing the buildup of landfills.
Evolving climate conditions mean that many areas are experiencing extended periods of long, dry weather, and that leads to an increased risk of forest fires. The roof is the most vulnerable part of a building during a fire, and roofs made from shakes or shingles can be serious hazards to both the building they’re installed on and any buildings downwind.
Resilience and resistance are key features of metal roofs, and they hold true when it comes to heat and fire. Most metals have high temperature oxidation resistance, which means they effectively keep its strength, even when exposed to extreme temperature.
When choosing a roofing material, look at the fire rating. A metal roof has a stand-alone Class A rating, which is the highest fire rating a roofing material can receive. Roofing materials that don’t achieve a class A by assembly (like asphalt shingles or wood shakes) need fire-retardant coating added in order to achieve its fire-resistantance. If the fire-resistant material is damaged or when wears away over time, the maximum fire protection benefits of the roof decrease.
Although no roof is completely fireproof, a metal roof won’t lose its resistance or spark and easily combust like those other materials will. This can help reduce the chances that a building will wind up being fuel for an environmentally devastating fire.
One of the lesser-known benefits of metal roofing is that it is exceptionally energy-efficient in comparison to other roofing materials. Metal provides excellent insulation during the cold season and is particularly good at reflecting solar rays which goes a long way towards keeping a building cool and comfortable during the summer months. Unlike asphalt shingles that trap and retain heat, metal doesn’t hold heat in the same way, and that can lead to lower energy consumption.
Metal roofing can also be pre-painted or coated by the manufacturer to increase the reflective properties, helping the building achieve even greater energy savings. You can also opt for a light-colored roof to maximize the solar reflective benefits.
When evaluating a roofing material’s energy efficiency, there are three terms to familiarize yourself with:
- Emissivity:The roof’s ability to radiate away the sun’s heat.
- Reflectivity:The roof’s ability to reflect heat back from where it came.
- Thermal Resistance: A difference in measure of temperature by which an object resists a flow of heat.
With these terms in mind, you can choose the best roofing material for your building and enjoy savings of hundreds of dollars per month in energy bills.
Compatible with Solar Systems
Solar panels are becoming a popular way to help cut non-renewable energy use and make a building more energy efficient. But it’s important to know that solar systems can’t be installed on some types of roofs.
For example, solar panel performance is rated (and often warrantied) for about 25 years which creates a major issue with asphalt roofs. A solar system will most likely last longer than an asphalt roof as these roofs require replacement as frequently as every 12 years. When a roof needs replacing, that means the full solar system does as well. This is both frustrating, costly and don’t forget time-consuming. In addition, asphalt roofs are usually pretty heavy in weight. Solar panel systems are also very heavy, which means you might need extra construction in order to provide enough support for their combined weight.
Metal roofs, however, are highly compatible with solar systems because they are durable, long-lasting, and can easily support the weight of the solar system. So not only are metal roofs more energy efficient by themselves, but they provide the opportunity for contractors to take sustainability one step further with solar panels that help combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our collective dependence on fossil fuel.
Metal Roofs are quickly becoming the preferred option for new builds and replacement roofs due to their high-quality, reliable features that also compliment the style of the building. It’s true that metal roofs do cost more to install than some other types of roofs. However, the higher initial cost is quickly offset by the savings stemming from the durable, energy-efficient, and long-lasting features of the metal roof.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of a metal roof, CMI can help. Get in touch today and see how CMI’s experience and innovation will bring sustainable practices to your next roofing project.