Tile Talk: Discussing Energy Efficiency

California is Considering Raising Roof Energy Performance Requirements

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance









(Editor’s Note: Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance. The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems. Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)


There is a new proposed California Assembly Bill AB660 submitted by house member Marc Levine that will impact the future of new and reroof designs on low-rise buildings on both residential and commercial applications. The draft language will require greater energy considerations via higher-aged solar reflective rating requirements, the current benchmark for all product ratings. The bill is currently in committee for discussion and action, but will work forward to the full legislature at some point in the future.

Existing law authorizes the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to prescribe, by regulation, energy efficiency standards, including appliance efficiency standards. Under this authorization, the commission has adopted requirements for thermal emittance, three-year-aged reflectance, and solar reflectance index of roofing materials used in new construction and reroofing projects. This bill would require the commission to increase the minimum aged solar reflectance requirements for steep roofs and for low-slope roofs on high-rise residential buildings, to take effect on January 1, 2030, to unspecified amounts. The bill would authorize the commission to exempt buildings in certain climate zones from these requirements if it determines that the increase in the minimum aged solar reflectance requirements would not be cost effective in those particular climate zones. During each of the next four triennial code adoption cycles after January 1, 2020, the commission will consider amendments to the roof replacement building standards for alterations to existing low-rise residential buildings to achieve the goals of increasing the value of minimum aged solar reflectance to 0.40 from 0.20 and expanding the range of climate zones in which the minimum aged solar reflectance values are prescribed for those alterations. In determining if such changes shall be made, the commission shall assess whether there is an adequate supply of available compliant product statewide and whether the change will be cost effective over the life of the roof replacement.

The bill will require the commission to consider over the next four code cycles, or 12 years, the ability to move the aged solar reflectance from the current 0.20 to a 0.40 level. The aged solar reflective ratings are the formal rating after the product has been weathered on a licensed testing weather farm for three years. Currently the Cool Roof Rating Council® lists the formal ratings that products achieve. The proposed 0.40 change would shift the market to significantly lighter or even white-colored roofing materials under the current product designs available today. Most of the traditional roofing materials that consumers demand will not be able to meet the proposed requirement, if it were imposed today.

Roofing industry associations are all monitoring the activities of this draft legislation and working to have a voice at the table as these discussions move forward. The commission will be required to assess the adequate supply of available complaint materials and to determine the cost impact over the life of the roof replacement. These will be important discussions and roofing professionals should help in the identification of market demands and cost impacts during this process. We know the consumer is not in favor of white roofing, especially for steep-slope applications and you have an important voice in your future ability to perform work.

The roofing envelope has changed over the years as insulation, radiant barriers, condition attics, and solar alternatives are now part of the overall energy-efficiency calculations. As solar requirements increase, they are competing for the same exposed roof areas where the sun will have the greatest impact, making roof reflectivity a smaller component of the overall projected energy benefit. This competition for exposed roof space will potentially reduce the overall cost savings that might be achieved from the lighter colored roof claddings.

The development of new steep-slope products using alternative materials may be on the horizon over the next decade, but the costs for such materials will impact the overall life cycle cost of energy savings. The ability to have a cost-competitive or consumer-affordable mainstream product may not be easily achieved for all products the building owners require. We are all in support of greater energy efficiencies that will help reduce future energy demands. The discussions for how we achieve that goal are important and the process for having all the stakeholders at the table should be in play. As a roofing professional, you need to be informed of this bill and consider how it might impact your business.

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