7 Types of Sustainable Roof Types You May Want To Go With

A wooden house with a green roof and the words "sustainable roof types for your home" overlain.

Sustainable roofs can be a great option if you’re thinking about reducing your building’s energy use and saving money.

Sustainable roofs can lead to an annual saving on energy bills of $0.23 per square foot (0.09 square meter) of the roof’s surface, and they can reduce peak electricity demand.

Metal and concrete are the best sustainable option if you’re on a budget. However, green roofs can be a better option to control heat and take advantage of sunlight and rainwater. A reflective coating or rubber roofing is typically the best option to extend the lifespan of an existing roof.

This article will explore seven popular sustainable roofing options to help you make an informed decision.

So keep reading to learn more about sustainable roofs and how much you can save.

What Is a Sustainable Roof?

A green roof on top of a high rise building in a city.
A green roof can be an enjoyable place to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Technically, sustainable roofs are roofing systems that conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions, and help to lower the overall cost of heating and cooling a building.

They also reduce landfill waste by using reclaimed or recycled material and are widely recycled themselves at the end of their service life.

They can be made from various roofing materials, including metal, discarded asphalt shingles, fiber cement shingles, wood roofing (such as wood shingles), concrete, clay, slate roofing (slate tiles), and plastic.

They can be designed to reflect sunlight and heat away from the building, which helps to keep the interior cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Having good heat reflectivity can lead to significant energy savings and reductions in carbon emissions.

There are many different types of sustainable roofs, so the installation costs will vary depending on the materials and roof size.

However, all sustainable roofs have the potential to save money on energy costs and help reduce a building’s carbon footprint.

Pros and Cons of Having a Sustainable Roof

A green roof on a building by the sea. There is a scales graphic with a cross and a tick on opposite sides to indicate the balance of pros and cons.
There are pros and cons to weigh before deciding whether to install a sustainable roof. Make sure you think things through fully because they can sometimes be expensive, although they should save you money in the long run.

Before installing sustainable roofing, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to see if it’s the right choice for your home or business.

There are many benefits to having one. In addition to saving money on energy costs, they can also:

  • Extend the life of your roof.

  • Reduce noise pollution.

  • Increase the value of your property.

  • Improve indoor air quality.

  • Help you earn green building certifications.

Although sustainable roofs have many benefits, there are also a few drawbacks to consider before making your decision.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The initial cost of installation can be high.

  • Some sustainable roofing materials are not all fire-resistant.

  • Sustainable roofs can be heavier than traditional roofs and may require additional support.

  • Some sustainable roofing materials are not as highly durable as others.

  • Some types of sustainable roofs require more maintenance than others.

Although sustainable roofing has many sustainable features, it can sometimes be prohibitively expensive, and that typically steers people away.

However, one less talked about point is that it can pay for itself in the long run.

With time, the money you save on heating costs and reduced maintenance can add up, and you might eventually break even.

Still, this depends on how much energy you use in the first place, along with a variety of other factors, so it’s important to properly weigh your options before deciding.

Costs of Sustainable Roofing Materials

A pitched roof with cloudy sunset in the background. The right hand side of the image has a hand holding a cost gauge to suggest cost.
Sustainable roofing can be expensive, but just how much will the different types set you back?

The cost of installing sustainable roofs will vary depending on the type of roof you choose and the size of your building.

Here are some estimates for the average cost of installing different kinds of sustainable roofs:

  • Metal roofs: $3 to $25 per square foot

  • Concrete tile roofs: $4 to $7 per square foot

  • Clay tile roofs: $7 to $25 per square foot

  • Solar tile roofs: $16 to $25 per square foot

  • Cool roof: $0.75 to $3 per square foot

  • Green roofs: $10 to $35 per square foot

  • Rubberized roofs: $4 to $8 per square foot

Green roofs are usually the most expensive, while a cool roof is the least expensive. The installation cost will also vary depending on the roof size and the type of building.

The average cost to install sustainable roofing on a 1,500-square-foot (139 square meters) home can be between $1,200 and $52,000. However, the cost can be much higher or lower depending on the type of roof you choose and the complexity of the installation.

It’s important to note that the most sustainable roofs require special installation training and experience. If you plan to install any of the sustainable roofs in this article, it’s best to hire a professional.

7 Types of Sustainable Roofing Material You May Want To Go With

There are different types of sustainable roofs, and it’s crucial to understand each properly before making a choice.

Here are seven popular styles that you may want to consider for your home or business:

1. Metal Roofs

Corrugated metal roofing materials. There is a sheet of black corrugated material below a sheet of orange material of the same cross-sectional profile.
Metal roofing can be highly eco-friendly if it has been reclaimed from another building during demolition and simply repurposed for another project.

With roofing, you have many options, but metal roofing is typically one of the most affordable.

Metal roofing is commonly made from recycled materials, and at the end of its long service life, it can even be completely recycled. In addition, metal roofing is very durable and typically has an effective life of around 50 years.

The main downside of metal roofs is that they can sometimes be susceptible to rust. However, this isn’t always the case, and depending on the type of metal or protective coating used, it’s a very manageable problem.

Still, it’s something to consider if you decide to go this route.

2. Concrete Tile Roofs

A roof made from concrete tiles with metal fixings.
Concrete tile roofing can be extremely durable and, if recycled, is eco-friendly.

The primary benefit of concrete tiles is durability. If you take care of them, they can last for decades because they contain all-natural materials like sand, cement, and water and won’t spring leaks as easily as metal.

Already extremely durable, if the tiles are made with recycled content, such as recycled plastic, their durability can be further improved.

Although not a renewable resource, concrete containing additives from reused materials helps promote a circular economy, which the Environmental Protection Agency is keen to support.

While it’s true that this type of roofing is susceptible to moisture absorption, you can typically avoid any problems by selecting a skilled contractor.

With the proper installation and sealant application, your roof will be incredibly durable and last for years.

3. Clay Tile Roofs

A clay tile roof with metal fasteners.
Thanks to its natural raw materials, a clay tile roof is a good choice. The embodied energy of fired clay tiles is relatively high, but they are very durable and can sometimes be reclaimed and repurposed, making them very sustainable.

Clay roof tiles are an excellent, environmentally friendly, sustainable option, thanks to their raw materials from clay in the ground, which is such a plentiful resource.

Clay tiles are made from natural clay fired in kilns at high temperatures. As a result, they are quite durable and resistant to fire and water damage.

Additionally, clay roof tiles are completely recyclable, making them an excellent option for reducing environmental impact.

They contain no pollutants or allergens and are also resistant to harmful insects.

Consequently, using clay roof tiles lowers your ecological footprint. It improves indoor air quality by keeping harmful toxins out of your home.

Not only are you doing your part to help the environment, but you’re also creating a healthier home for yourself and your family.

4. Cool Roofs

A cool roof installed on an extension to an existing building. The roof is flat and white in color.
A cool roof will reduce the heat entering the building from the sun’s rays and thereby reduce cooling costs. Image courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory

A cool roof is a broad categorization of roofing built to keep the home cool by reducing sunlight absorption and increasing reflection.

This is primarily achieved by painting the roof (usually white) or using a reflective roofing material or additive that reflect heat from the sun’s rays.

This can lead to lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. In addition, a cool roof can extend the life of your roof by protecting it from UV damage and the sun’s heat.

They can be made of various materials, including metal, concrete, clay, and asphalt shingles.

It is a great sustainable option if you live in an area with hot summers or regularly get high temperatures year-round because it will help to cut your cooling costs.

5. Solar Tile Roofs

Rows of different colored solar tiles installed on a roof.
Solar tiles are a great way to reduce your electricity bills and perhaps even make money by selling the electricity you generate yourself.

There is no doubt that solar panels have a lot of benefits. They can slash your energy costs by up to 60%. They produce lower emissions and can keep roofs cooler in hot weather.

When combined with roofing, a solar roof can be one of the best options if you want to save and generate power.

Most solar roofing options resemble traditional asphalt shingles but compared to them, they’re far more durable and even look better overall. They can also generate enough energy to provide supplementary power to your home.

On the downside, they’re costly, especially if you go for the more high-end brands. They’re also not as energy efficient as traditional solar panels.

6. Green Roofs

Red wooden buildings viewed from the gable end with green roofs.
A green roof not only helps to provide insulation to your home, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer but it also looks great and provides a habitat for local wildlife.

A green roof is a type of roofing system typically involving some form of vegetation, and is sometimes referred to as a living roof. One of the most notable benefits is their ability to improve air quality, a great benefit, particularly in urban areas.

The green roofs’ plants and vegetation help filter out harmful pollutants and dust particles, resulting in cleaner air for the building occupants. Additionally, they provide shade and control temperature.

The roof vegetation also helps deflect sunlight and heat, resulting in a cooler environment inside the building. This can be especially beneficial during the summer when temperatures can be sweltering.

Green roofs also help to absorb rainfall, between 25-40%. This can help to reduce runoff and prevent flooding during heavy rainstorms.

7. Rubberized Roofs

A rooftop with stacked rolls of rubberized membrane ready for installation.
Rubberized membranes provide a waterproof layer to protect your roof from water ingress. Made from recycled rubber, this type of roofing material is very environmentally friendly thanks to its reuse of old rubber.

Rubberized roofs are an excellent option for many homeowners and are made from a synthetic waterproof membrane.

They’re made from recycled rubber formed into a heavy-duty rubber membrane, so they’re environmentally friendly and very durable.

An EPDM rubber membrane is placed over the roof during installation. Since it’s waterproof, EPDM rubber makes for an excellent rooftop material with a lifespan of 50 years.

Rubber roofing is easy to install and can be laid over existing shingles. If you’re hoping to extend the life of your roof, recovering it with a rubberized material may be the best option.

Final Thoughts On Sustainable Roofs

Using sustainable materials to build your roof can reduce energy consumption, making your home more comfortable and increasing energy efficiency.

They can be more expensive to install and can even require additional roof framing than lighter-weight roofing materials. However, they can save money in the long term because they are more energy efficient.

If you decide to go the sustainable route, there are plenty of options open to you, from the very eco-friendly green roof, to clay tiles or slate roofing, to greenhouse gas-busting solar roofs, the roofing industry has you covered.

For more information on sustainable building materials, read our article 23 Sustainable Building Materials You Can Use Today.

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