As an active advocate for Green Building, it infuriates me every time I read an article about a LEED certified home that has all the proper components incorporated into the design and then gets topped off with an asphalt shingle roof. By any measure, the last roofing material that should be considered for a LEED certified home, or any other Green design, is asphalt shingles.
It seems that nearly everyone with environmental awareness recognizes the need to move away from the products of fossil fuels but I am totally perplexed by the blind eye that allows asphalt shingles to continue to exist. The scientific community sees asphalt shingles as the base material for system comparisons since no other roofing material performs as poorly when it comes to energy efficiency, sustainability or resistance to severe weather. Worn out asphalt shingles contribute over eleven tons of nasty debris to our US landfills every year and efforts to recycle this material have been woefully inadequate and inefficient.
In recent years, roofers have seen the cost of asphalt shingles climb 6 to 10 percent per year with no end in sight due to, according to the shingle manufacturers, a reduced supply of the asphalt grade needed to produce shingles (Letter from Bob Tafaro on GAF Oil Asphalt Costs 11.08) It got to the point here in Southern California that asphalt shingles cost more than standard concrete roofing tiles that represent a far superior value in terms of cost, durability and overall sustainability.
And yet, most consumers in America are led to believe that shingles are their only affordable option – particularly in those regions east of the Mississippi River. Over the years I have had countless visitors from other countries who are amazed that the richest country on Earth, routinely uses the most useless roofing material on the majority of our homes. I think that it’s time for a change and I believe that change has to happen from within the roofing community. It should be the responsibility of the roofers to find the best value for their customers and stop doing what they’ve always done just because it is easy for themselves.