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Study explores sustainable roofs in cold climates

April 10, 2015 - Sustainable rooftop technologies—including green roofs, white roofs, and solar photovoltaic panels—can provide great environmental benefits, but it all depends on the climate, found a new study.


April 10, 2015
By Renée Francoeur

A Journal of Industrial Ecology study that compares the technologies in the cold Canadian climate shows that photovoltaic panels “demonstrate the highest environmental performance” in all impact categories considered and is the preferred option from an environmental perspective.

Green roofs result in fewer beneficial environmental impacts, it reported, but are the only rooftop technology that reduces both heating and cooling energy use. And although white roofs—which are made of light coloured roofing materials—are an outstanding option in warmer climates, the report illustrates how they have a net negative environmental impact in cold climates due to their high solar reflectance that reduces the amount of heat absorbed.

“Environmental performance of building technologies is very dependent on climate conditions. Therefore, conclusions from technology assessments elsewhere were not necessarily valid in cold climates such as Canada,” said Dr. Joule Bergerson, senior author of the study. “Our study builds on the existing knowledge of rooftop technologies and provides recommendations directly relevant for our context.”

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