Sustainability Begets Resiliency…In Practice

Posted on August 4, 2015 by Brad Johnson

McMahaon Centennial Complex, Cameron University

Sustainability is the buzzword started by USGBC that is pushing us to design and build environmentally friendly buildings.  And that’s a good thing.  However, from a practical—and roofing—standpoint, what we can most readily do with roofs is design them to be resilient.  Roof system resiliency is the tangible aspect of sustainability that the “regular” population can get their heads around.  Resiliency—the ability to bounce back—is understandable.

Loosely speaking, a resilient building can withstand an extreme weather event and remain habitable and useful.  It follows that a resilient roof system is one that can withstand an extreme weather event and continue to perform and provide shelter.

What makes a metal roof system resilient?  It needs to be tough and durable, wind and impact resistant, highly insulated and appropriately reflective, and perhaps be a location for energy production.

An extreme weather event typically means high winds.  A resilient metal roof system needs to withstand above-code wind events.  Remember, codes are minimum design requirements; there is nothing stopping us from designing metal panel roofs above code requirements!  If a building is located in a 120 mph wind zone, increase the design/increase the attachment as if it were in a 140 mph wind zone.  And, very importantly, increasing the wind resistance of the edge details is critical to the wind resistance of a roof system.

Toughness is important.  Increasing the thickness of a metal panel roof system increases resistance to impacts and very likely increases service life (of the metal panel, at least).  Tough and durable seams are important, too.  A double-lock standing seam is one of the best seam types for metal roofs.  A little bit of extra effort at the seam can go a long way for durability, weatherproofing, and longevity.

Highly insulated and appropriately reflective are also traits of resiliency.  High R-value means less thermal transfer across the roof assembly.  Two layers, staggered or crisscrossed, provide a thermally efficient insulation layer.  Using thermal breaks between the metal panels and the metal substructure adds to the thermal efficiency.  Reflective roofs help reduce heat transfer through the roof assembly.  The effectiveness of a roof’s color and reflectivity to save energy depends on many items, such as location, stories, and building type.

Enhanced wind resistance, improved impact resistance and toughness, high R-value, and reflectivity and color are passive design elements that increase the resiliency of a building’s rooftop.  And let’s not forget that rooftop energy production can provide electricity to critical components of a building, such as a freezer section of a grocery store.  Hurricane Sandy put resiliency on the public radar; resilient buildings are here to stay.

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