What environmentally friendly roofing options are there?

Your guide to eco-friendly roofing options

A roof completes a building and allows it to become a functional shelter, protecting everything inside. Renovating a roof or even refurbishing a roof can be a costly endeavour, so of course you’d want an affordable and durable material. Environmental friendliness may not be the main concern.

However, if you’re already making efforts to cut down on waste and make your home more energy efficient, your roof can contribute more than you might think. For this reason, your roof’s thermal performance should actually be a priority – and there are many eco-friendly materials that can help.

What is an environmentally friendly roof?

How environmentally friendly a roof is will depend on the raw materials it’s sourced from, the manufacturing process, its energy efficiency, and its longevity and disposal methods. Not all reusable materials are sustainably sourced, but they can still be eco-friendly because of their recyclability.

You might immediately think of wood as a sustainable material, but wood shingles or wood shake roofs degrade faster. Wooden roofs tend to have a shorter lifespan than other roofing types by at least 15-25 years. It may be biodegradable, but wood is also flammable and more prone to rot.

Luckily, there are many other eco-friendly roof options, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a long-lasting roof that suits your budget and personal preferences. Whether you’re passionate about fighting climate change or just want to save some money, why not consider the following roofs?

Clay roof tiles

Traditionally used for buildings and roofs for centuries, clay is one of the most popular materials for a tiled roof. As a plentiful natural resource, clay tiles are recyclable and extremely durable. They’re a truly sustainable option, capable of lasting up to 100 years. They’re easy to replace if they do break.

The earthy tones of clay or terracotta roof tiles offer a unique aesthetic often seen in warmer climates, particularly on Spanish-style houses. They insulate against heat and cold by allowing air to circulate underneath, making your property more energy efficient in both summer and winter.

The downside of clay tiles is that they can be expensive. Though they’re easy to find, they’re also quite heavy, so the roof may require additional structural support to prevent it from collapsing. However, once installed, waterproof and fire-resistant clay roofing is relatively low maintenance.

Slate roof tiles

Like clay, slate is also a common option for tiled roofing, and has been for hundreds of years. A professionally installed slate roof is also durable enough to last for a century or more. Resistant to water and fire, slate has natural colour variations that will give your roof a unique and classy look.

Also similarly to clay, slate tiles are heavy, making installation more expensive. Despite the longevity of a slate roof, individual tiles can be fragile, and chip or break under impacts. The main problem with slate is that the practice of slate mining is not sustainable, expending significant resources.

That said, it’s becoming common for slate tiles to be salvaged and reclaimed. Installing recycled slate roofing is more eco-friendly than ordering brand new slate tiles. It’s also possible to get synthetic slate shingles, which are made with reusable rubber and plastic, or even from recycled tyres.

Single ply roofing

Rather than installing an entirely new roof, you could refurbish your current roof with single ply roofing. This is a flexible membrane overlay made from recyclable materials like thermoplastics or rubber. Strong, simple to install, and easy to maintain, single ply roofs tend to last for 20-30 years.

This isn’t especially long, but it’s a good way of prolonging the lifespan of an older roof that needs some TLC. People tend to shy away from plastic and polymers derived from oil, but a reusable thermoplastic membrane is more environmentally friendly than a new slate roof, for example.

The most common types of lightweight single ply roofing are TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer), and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Not only are they affordable, but single ply roof membranes are highly resistant to chemicals, UV rays, fire, and the elements.

Corrugated metal roofing

Metal is an incredibly tough material that can withstand everything from rain, wind, and sun to chemical corrosion. Metal cladding can also be laid on top of an existing roof to protect it. A metal roof can last for 50-70 years, providing a smart and modern appearance with an industrial aesthetic.

It’s not truly sustainable, because metals are mined from the earth like slate, but most metals and alloys are highly reusable. Steel, aluminium, zinc, and copper are recyclable, and metal roofing can also be made from recycled metals. This includes things like cans, cars, and pieces of appliances.

Copper and zinc can be expensive for roofs, but aluminium and steel are more affordable options. While metal roofs can be noisy during storms, you can paint them any colour and insulate them to improve their energy efficiency. Metal roofs can reflect heat in summer and trap heat in winter.

Green living roof

You can refer to any eco-friendly roof as ‘green’, but a true green roof is a bit different. Also known as living roofs, sod roofs, plant roofs, horticultural roofs, or vegetative roof systems, they basically turn your roof into a garden. The plants draw moisture and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

These unconventional roofs include a synthetic membrane as a waterproof seal, with layers of soil on top to grow vegetation from. This type of roof requires a low slope, and it’s best to plant native species, but the only real limits to what you can plant on a living roof are your budget and location.

Unfortunately, green roofs are quite expensive, as they need structural support work and constant maintenance. If you can make this ongoing investment, though, your plant roof will boost both the thermal performance and appearance of your building, with a vibrant aesthetic and cleaner air.

Cool roof or warm roof

Did you know that the colour of your roof can affect its energy efficiency? You may have heard people refer to ‘cool’ or ‘warm’ roofs before without knowing why. Simply put, lighter colours reflect sunlight to keep a building cool, while darker shades absorb the sun’s heat and keep it warm.

The issue is that the effectiveness of the roof depends on the particular climate. Cool white roofs are only helpful in hot and sunny parts of the world, where they can reduce air conditioning. Dark roofs are beneficial in colder areas, where buildings need to retain warmth to keep heating costs down.

Cool roofs and warm roofs don’t have to be made of any particular material, but if you’re aiming to reduce your carbon footprint then you should opt for one of the recyclable roofing materials in this article. Clay, slate, and metal come in a range of colours, and you can even add reflective coatings.

Roof solar panels

The first thing you probably think of when we say ‘environmentally friendly roof’ is a roof with solar panels installed. It’s one of the most sustainable options, because harnessing the energy of the sun helps you to depend less on non-renewable energy sources – or even become totally independent.

Solar panels are still fairly expensive, but they’re cheaper to add on top than installing solar roof tiles. Also known as photovoltaic shingles these feature solar cells built into the actual tiles, replacing conventional roof tiles. It’s a big investment, but generating your own renewable energy is worth it.

Solar panels or cells can help to offset your carbon emissions in other areas, as they produce renewable electricity and don’t emit any harmful waste or air pollution. The technology doesn’t need much maintenance, and solar panels are becoming cheaper and more accessible all the time.

Contact professional roofing contractors today

At the Roofing Consultants Group, we’re proud to provide professional workmanship using high-quality and durable roofing materials. We understand the importance of reducing carbon emissions and waste, and improving sustainability, across all areas of life. Your roof should be no different.

We will always do our best to supply energy-efficient roofing in accordance with your budget and design ideas. If you’re interested in a roof refurbishment or roof replacement, why not book a roof survey? You can get in touch with our team of roofing experts for help with any enquiries you have.