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RoofPoint: A Tool for Managing New and Existing Roof Space for Sustainability

Recently, the Regional Sustainable Business Alliance, a group formed out of the Cedar Rapids, IA,  Area Chamber of Commerce, brought nearly 50 professionals together to learn about a forthcoming environmental rating system for roofs, called RoofPoint.

You might be thinking, “Wait, there are already green rating systems for buildings.” You’re right.

Today, most professionals are familiar with the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the revolutionary Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. What began as a single four-tiered certification over a decade ago now includes criteria for many types of buildings and projects. Certainly, LEED has pioneered a change in the way we design, build, maintain, renovate, and inhabit our built environment. On August 31, 2011, the USGBC announced the 10,000th commercial building to achieve LEED certification.
Given LEED’s track record of success, its scope and global reach, is there even room for other green building certifications in the industry? Or, on the other hand, is it LEED’s broadness in scope that actually opens the door for complimentary criteria to fill in gaps where LEED can’t reach?  After all, if LEED didn’t leave some criteria out by design, their certification would be such an intimidating and hairy mess that few would touch it. The Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR) saw this opportunity to take roof evaluation to a new level, and developed a set of criteria that includes and builds on the USGBC’s.

It seems that few elements of modern construction have as great an impact on long-term sustainability as roofs. In his presentation to the Iowa professionals, Dr. Jim Hoff spoke of the vast existing building stock that has largely been untouched by LEED, and the potential 700 trillion BTUs of potential nonresidential roof energy savings annually that it represents. He pointed to roofs as a strategic resource for improved air quality, reducing the heat island effect, reducing water pollution, reducing construction waste, expanding the building service life, enhancing occupant productivity and safety, and many other issues.

And yet, what framework do the facilities staff who manage the 2.5 billion square feet of existing roofing area use to make good roofing decisions over the lifetimes of their buildings? Enter the CEIR’s RoofPoint program. Structured much like other rating systems, RoofPoint will look familiar. It has sections (Energy Management, Materials Management, Water Management, Durability/Lifecycle Management and Innovation in Roofing) have criteria that earn credits, and lead to certification.

Where RoofPoint deviates is in its more granular level of detail. For example, rather than crediting reflective roofs to reduce cooling load, RoofPoint advocates an approach that takes the local climate into account. In places where more heating than cooling is required annually, reflecting away valuable solar heat would be more wasteful than efficient. To address this, RoofPoint advocates for “best thermal practices” that “reduce thermal discontinuities,” based on local climate.

The RoofPoint pilot was validated in two rounds of industry review, and has evaluated and certified over 50 roof systems since launching the pilot in January. Among the pilot projects so far are roofs in various climates featuring solar arrays, vegetative roofs, water collection systems, recycled and recyclable materials, recreation areas, daylighting, solar thermal hot water systems, high R-value insulation, and much more. The CEIR hopes to take RoofPoint out of pilot phase in 2012, establishing formal roof and professional certification, and evolving into a national standard.

Professionals from the Regional Sustainable Business Alliance who attended the event included roofers, contractors, architects, engineers, attorneys, facilities managers and consultants. Architect Bradley Fritz from OPN Architects in Cedar Rapids said, “It’s great to see certification programs strive for continuous improvement, reaching higher levels of detail. I see RoofPoint as a compliment to other tools that help us achieve a sustainable built environment.”

The Regional Sustainable Business Alliance is a committee of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Created in March 2011, this group facilitates professionals sharing advice, best practices, challenges and other resources for sustainable business practices. The group meets monthly for sustainable business round table discussions, as well as green facility tours and an expert speaker series.

Sheila Samuelson

Sheila Samuelson is a Sustainable Business Strategist at Bright Green Strategy. She has earned an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School, and has sustainability experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Samuelson has helped Greensburg, Kansas work toward a sustainable recovery from the devastating 2007 tornado; worked with the San Francisco Department of the Environment; co-founded a designed a green business certification program for the area surrounding Dubuque, IA; and helped some of the largest global corporations measure and track their sustainability metrics.

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