Ralph Plotke is vice president of Roof Services, a commercial and residential roofing company on Long Island, N.Y. REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR caught up with him recently, between sales calls, to discuss the subject of green roofing.
REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Is Roof Services a green roofer?
Ralph Plotke: We are absolutely a green roofer, which means we're committed to the tenets of green roofing. Green roofing goes way beyond putting plants on a building. In commercial, it's making sure the roof is properly insulated, putting reflective membranes down, working with potential solar installers, and recycling debris as it comes off the building. So while the green movement has gone from building products to cleaning products, in roofing that's how we define it.
RC: Is the green roofing you're talking about then most applicable to commercial jobs?
RP: The applications are far fewer on a residential roofing job than on a commercial building because of the nature of the construction. On a steep-slope roof you're not putting down membrane or insulation; it's not part of the roof assembly of a residential home. We did put plants on a residential roof once. Only once. And the homeowner was the plant installer.
RC: Can a re-roof significantly reduce energy consumption in the home?
RP: On a traditional pitched roof I would say the answer is no. It can't by itself dramatically increase the energy efficiency of a home. On the other hand, properly insulating floors, rafters, and walls, and venting the attic where it's not properly vented, that's green because it causes your roof to last longer. When a roof lasts longer, that's green. There are less carbon emissions and less goes in as landfill.
Green Roofing Questions
RC: What kinds of questions do homeowners ask when it comes to a green roof?
RP: We get questions all the time, in the field and on our blog, about attic ventilation. Information about the benefits of a properly ventilated attic has been out there for a while. We explain how that benefits the roof. If your attic's not ventilated right, you're heating it. The critical green roofing component is attic ventilation — managing the temperature of that attic space so heat extremes don't have an impact on the life of the roof. New codes recognize this and require an R-38 insulation level in New York as well as in many other areas.
RC: Is green as much in the minds of homeowners as it was before the recession?
RP: It's not even close to what it was. They're worried about dollars. I've never seen more price pressure than there is today, and I've been in the roofing business for 25 years. People are afraid to spend money. They put off the purchase.
RC: Can you sell green upgrades?
RP: Some people are willing to pay for fundamental upgrades — ice and water shield and proper attic ventilation — but not for bells and whistles. Because of all the ice-damming problems, they're better educated about potential problems. Right now the common thread is: Give me a serviceable quality roof. They're interested in ventilation, but not in the longer-life shingle.