Thought about the externalities of your roofing material lately?

April 4th, 2013

I’m sure the color of your roof doesn’t occupy a large amount of your daily mental activity!

Today’s post is from Steven Schwerin an account manager at SafeSourcing

The word ‘externality’ probably occupies even less.  An externality is an effect of a purchase or use decision by one set of parties on others who did not have a choice and whose interests were not taken into account, or so says  A more general definition of an externality is merely an unintended consequence. 

Like it or not, what you chose to purchase affects those around you even your choice of roofing material.  For those who don’t like shades of grey in their decision making, reading the rest of this post is going to feel good.  You basically get two color choices when installing commercial roofing; there isn’t much in between.  I’m going out on a limb and assuming that, like me, a large percentage of the general population does not know that commercial roofing material is regularly installed in the color white.  When I think roof, I think tar, gravel and really, really hot.  Largely, this is an unintended consequence of the black, tar roof absorbing solar radiation.  It is easy to assume that large, flat commercial roofs will be covered in tar and gravel, but a white TPO or EPMD roof, on the other hand, is quite common and reflects large quantities of solar radiation back from whence it came.  This difference affects not only you, but others who use your building and even the environment around your building.  

I witnessed this externality first hand in one of my favorite apartments.   I lived for two years on the second story of an old commercial building in a small, Midwestern town.  As great as the building was, the place was a little difficult to live in for one reason, the temperature.  It was scorching hot during the summer and biting cold during the winter.  Leaving Jack Frost aside for the sake of this post, the summer might have been a different story if the owner had chosen white EPMD or TPO over the traditional black variety when she replaced the roof a year or two before I moved in.

I have been up on that roof multiple times to witness the heat-sink effect of black roofing material in the summer sun.  Interestingly, it could have been different.  The excess heat was a consequence of the decision made by someone else, and hence are an externality, affecting everyone who rents that apartment who didn’t make the decision.  The extra heat added close to ground level in the city during the summer months also affects people who did not make the decision.  Finally, the extra energy it takes to cool the building during summer consumes more of the world’s finite resources which affects us all.  So, how much of a difference does a white roof make?  These claims differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but white rooftops are often 70 degrees cooler than normal roofs during the summer months.  Not only does this heat not get transmitted into your building, but it also keeps the air around it cooler letting your rooftop HVAC units run off cooler air netting you energy savings there as well.  The timing could not be better for your pocketbook either.  These energy savings come during the middle of the day when energy prices are at their peak. 

Your procurement professional is in a position to help you minimize externalities and save you money in the process. Please contact a SafeSourcing customer services account manager if you’d like help with your sourcing needs.

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