Green Roofing and Flooring Options

What are the green roofing and flooring options that you might want to consider if you are renovating your home? There are several alternatives to plain roof tiles or slates that might appeal and deliver some eco-friendly benefits, too. Floors can incorporate far more insulation than ever before and some options come from recycled or other sustainable materials.

Here's a brief look at what's out there.

Roofs can contribute to a low energy lifestyle by ensuring that energy is not lost needlessly. Many roofs in the UK and elsewhere still lack proper insulation - despite various government schemes. Insulation is essential if you want to improve the overall energy efficiency of your home. Most traditional roofs do not incorporate much by way of insulation. See my page here for insulation choices.

Occasionally the need arises to have the whole roof replaced. It might not always make sense to just replace like with like. Both roof tiles and slates are expensive and are not necessarily the best solution to your roofing problem.


Green roofing for you


The best green roofing for you will depend upon your whereabouts - in particular the climate where you live. 

You also need to consider the pitch of your roof and whether the old roof can remain in place under the new one. This can be an option with some kinds of roofing and can save time and money. It is best to check with an expert, as old materials may be rotten or harbour pests, in which case a fresh start is clearly the best choice.

Ideally you want your new roofing materials to have travelled as little as possible to reach your house. Thatched roofs made from straw or reed have this advantage in places like East Anglia in the UK. Nevertheless, few people choose them because of the relatively high maintenance costs.


Metal roofing

Metal roofs can have benefits. 

Metal can be attractive and modern metal roofs can be made to look pretty much like other roofs made from tiles or slates or even wood. A wide choice of finishes and styles ensures that whatever your style, you should find something that appeals to you.

Many different metals can be used for roofing. Metal roofs are typically made from aluminium, steel, zinc and even copper. The roofing comes in pre-formed panels and a wide variety of paints and finishes can be selected to create a unique look for your home.

Metal roofs are largely recyclable and they last for a good long time - fifty years or more. Many incorporate a good deal of recycled metal in their construction. This in no way detracts from their functionality.

Some metals are relatively immune to corrosion. Zinc, for example is naturally scratch resistant in that scratches tend to repair themselves (I can't pretend to understand the science - it is something to do with hydroxyl-carbonate in air.)

Zinc is also flexible, quite inexpensive and light-weight.

Such metal roofs also have advantages in a warm climate; they deflect the suns rays and so cut air-conditioning bills. Light colours can be chosen to enhance this quality.

With suitable insulation they can also remain warm and snug in winter.

Solar roof shingles

Solar shingles or roof tiles are another possible choice for anyone who needs to renew the roof of their home. This is perhaps one of the best ways of installing solar (PV) power; every tile is a possible source of free energy from the sun. If your country is now offering a feed in tariff, you can even make some money as your roof generates electricity for others to use.

As your roof has an integrated system, there is no need for th commoner bolt-on panels which do tend to look a bit ugly. They also may cause stress to the existing roof structure because of the additional weight and roof ties which hold them in place.

Solar shingles, by contrast, fit the roof snugly, going just on top of a waterproof membrane. They should fit any roof if installed by a professional. 

Solar energy systems are expensive but as more people access this technology the price tends to fall. As energy costs rise for those of us still stuck with fossil fuel generated energy, the value of solar shingles is likely to just go on climbing.


Living green roofs


A living green roof is a new yet old solution to roofing needs. The usual approach today is to put a waterproof membrane onto the roofing structure and then cover it with selected plants. The plants help to insulate the property and have other environmental benefits.

One disadvantage can be that such a green roof adds considerably to the weight on load bearing elements of the building. Living green roofs in damp climates need good drainage as part of the design as water is heavy and a growing roof may collect a considerable amount during wet spells. 

The upside is that such green roofs do help considerably with heat loss during warm weather. Collectively, they can even compensate for the "heat island" effect of urban housing (where dense housing traps warm air generated from urban energy use; this makes most urban areas several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.)

A green living roof can even support wildlife, creating food for bees, other insects and birds.

As living green roofs absorb CO2, they can also contribute to fighting climate change.

To learn about the many and sophisticated types of green roof now available, take a look at greenroofs.org. This probably also the best first stop if you are looking for accredited installers in the US.

www.greenroofguide.co.uk provides similar services for UK residents wanting to explore green roofing systems for their home or building project.

The new Waterfront Building for University Campus Suffolk (UCS), Ipswich, UK, has a sedum and grass roof. This is designed to help control water run-off and so limit the effect of storm waters on the drainage system of the town. It looks quite attractive and it helps with insulation of the building itself. They used a Bauder Total Roof System which has a bespoke system for fixing the sedum in place.


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Green roofing and flooring:
Green flooring choices


There are many possible choices for green flooring. 

Natural products such as wood or bamboo can provide excellent floor coverings. Sustainably sourced woods can be relatively inexpensive and can last for generations. Wood nearly always looks beautiful and teamed with decent insulation and sealants to prevent undue wear, this is a favourite eco solution to the green flooring dilemma.

If you are tempted by man-made materials do check for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which can give off toxic gases. This can be something that affects the quality and safety of the very air in your home.

Gases given off by furnishings and flooring present a low key, easily overlooked danger for occupants; everyone from infants to the elderly can be affected, pets too.

The best green flooring options are almost inevitably made from natural materials such as wood or natural fibres. Ancient techniques such as cob can also be worth checking out. Cob is hard wearing and cheap.


Carpet selection


Wool carpets are comfortable and warm and provide great insulation. The main disadvantage of using wool or other natural fibres is the expense. However, they score well on value for money as they will outlast almost any other type of carpet material if treated well.

You can buy second hand wool carpets relatively cheaply. Using off-cuts to create your flooring is another possibility.

Woolen carpets are extremely hard wearing if treated with just a small amount of respect. They can bounce back from dirt and stains and can see many years of good service.

Regular cleaning with eco-friendly non toxic cleaning materials will help prolong their life and keep them looking beautiful.


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Green Roofing and Flooring Options

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