Energy efficiency Energy efficiency and environmental friendliness continue to play a greater role in roofing decisions. White roofing has become more popular as owners look for ways to reflect heat off rooftops, helping to reduce energy spent on air conditioning.

"Clearly the white reflective roof is becoming a topic of great interest in terms of saving air conditioning costs and being more environmentally friendly," Bailie says.

"In most geographies in the United States you benefit from white reflective roofing," agrees Sam Everett, director of corporate communications at Stevens Roofing Systems. "Not only does the owner benefit, but the community benefits because the building is not contributing to the urban heat-island effect."

The concentration of black surfaces in urban areas tends to raise temperatures and affect air quality. Studies focusing on the energy efficiency and heat absorption advantages of white vs. dark roofing have been so conclusive that the EPA and several other national organizations have implemented programs to promote the use of more energy-efficient building products and roofing materials. Tests on a white Stevens EP brand TPO membrane, for example, have shown that it reflects up to 78% of the sun's rays.

"Although the white membranes can be almost twice as expensive, the energy savings over the life cycle of the roof do produce some cost savings in the long run," Bailie says. Those savings typically depend on the location of the building. For instance, a building in Florida may end up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a building in Illinois may save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a roof.

"The other trend coming from the West Coast is to have more environmentally friendly products," Ducharme says. For example, the use of spliced tapes to join EPDM sheets together has become the method of choice because it is easier to work with and more consistent than some of the liquid glues. The tape also reduces labor and environmental effects.

"We're looking to reduce asphalt fumes and use more green or recycled products," Burdic says. "The industry as a whole is looking at ways we can recycle and be more environmentally friendly."

Life-cycle costing. It's all about the math. Historically, far too many short-sighted roofing decisions were made based on the lowest up-front cost.

There are countless numbers of buildings whose conventional roofing systems have needed replacement within a span of 10 years. On the other hand, there are proven, highly reflective roofing systems that have required a 5% to 7% premium on one day - and that have survived more than 30 years' exposure to the elements.

Under the new paradigm in roofing, which Sarnafil's Energy Star Roofing Products Program is helping to define, roof system selection will be made with greater emphasis on the roof's entire life-cycle cost, taking into account energy and environmental savings and maintenance expenses.