Start at the Top to Reduce Your Carbon Foot Print

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Architecting Insights

Light colored (reflective) roof tops, solar panel installations, and roof top gardens, are three viable green energy-saving solutions for businesses and homeowners to consider, that help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Too much greenhouse gas traps heat in the atmosphere which causes gradual global warming.

Where there is a high concentration of dark surfaces, such as rooftops, the air temperature in these areas rise as these surfaces trap heat. These higher temperatures, coupled with pollutants from vehicle exhaust, power and industrial plants and many consumer products; react with heat and sunlight, and resulting in greenhouse gas that increases smog and depletes the ozone – each posing its own health risks.

Cooling dark, heat-absorbing surfaces, such as rooftops, with a coating of light-colored, reflective material, counteracts the overabundance of greenhouse gases, thus improving the quality of air we breathe. The cost of such material is comparable to conventional, dark-colored roofing materials and is an easy and cost effective fix.

Another option is to install solar photovolaitic panels, either on your roof(s) or around your grounds if area is available. They provide a clean, renewable and free energy source. It is a simple system with fairly few “moving parts.” They are easy to maintain and provide a revenue stream based on the size of the system installed. The revenue stream/cost savings are provided by all energy users in the State. In addition to State revenue, the Federal Government provides additional cost savings through grants and tax incentives. The panels, if installed on rooftops, provide shade to the roof which in turn gives it longevity beyond the life cycle of the roof system if the “PV” panels were not installed. Free energy, a longer life cycle for your roof, and tax savings on top of a reduction in your carbon footprint!

Rooftop garden installations are among the fastest growing trends. It forms an insulation barrier which reduces a building’s energy consumption, and its plantings offer shade, reflect heat, and act as air purifiers by using excess carbon dioxide to produce oxygen which, in turn, improves air quality. Gardens capture storm-water which would otherwise collect pollutants and empty into sewers and they may even help extend the useful life of the roof. It is also an excellent opportunity to introduce usable leisure space that appeals to both people and wildlife alike, while adding beauty to the skyline. Its popularity is widespread from hotels, restaurants, to residential buildings and even prisons.

As the trend toward carbon-neutrality continues, building owners are benefiting from tax incentives, as well as increased resale values of properties that offer green technologies, like solar and garden roof systems, as we become a more earth-conscious society. Consult with a licensed architect to get started with implementing these eco-friendly cost-saving measures.

This article will appear in Product Periscope which is the official newsletter of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.