Sustainable roofing systems can both save and produce energy. As sustainability continues to be a driving force in the specification of contemporary roofing systems, it is essential to understand the different options and how they impact the environment since when it comes to being green, there is dark green, and there is light green.

Dive deeper into what a “sustainable roofing system” actually means and it becomes clear that it is more about the raw material than any other factor. Nevertheless, factors such as how the system performs over its lifetime and how it’s disposed of at the end of its shelf life cannot be ignored.

Types of materials for sustainable roofing systems

A Google search for, for example, “The most sustainable guttering” features the metal aluminium in the Top 5 organic results.

Metal, generically, was a preferred roofing system material for centuries, with lead the original flashing detail of choice and likewise, cast iron the guttering/downpipe. But in recent decades, with awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning, lead has lost favour in the roofing industry.

So too has cast iron. While it is often manufactured from a mix of recycled scrap iron, scrap steel pressings and scrap steel casting, and while the resultant cast iron products are themselves 100% recyclable, they are often ruled out by specifiers due to their weight and price. Stainless steel and galvanised steel can also be weighty and pricey.

A plethora of other “sustainable” roofing systems and materials have taken the place of these heavyweight metals, including aluminium (which is 65% lighter than cast iron), steel, copper and zinc, all of which stand out for their formability, durability and aesthetics.

Copper has been installed for centuries, with zinc a more recent option for metal roofing. Both are eminently suitable for sustainable roofing systems but due to their high price point are not as versatile, tending to be restricted to high-end, design-led applications. The other metal products such as steel and lightweight but low-maintenance aluminium have a lower cost point.

Some 80% of the aluminium rainwater systems already in use in the UK have been manufactured from recycled aluminium and aluminium is 100% infinitely recyclable at the end of its life, which is typically substantially more (sometimes double or treble) the 20 years it can be warrantied for. So that’ll be dark green!

All the metal materials are mined to some extent, which in itself could generate a red, rather than green, light for sustainability. Even plastic, which is manufactured from a mixture of coal, natural gas and crude oil, among other ingredients, is not exempt.

While plastic is at a similar price point to aluminium roofing systems, this material is fragile and climate-sensitive.

5 top tips for specifying sustainable roofing systems

  1. Recycled content: Check to see if the “sustainable” roofing system contains recycled content. Generally, the higher the percentage the better, although durability is an important factor too. Also, confirm that the material can be recycled again at the end of the its lifetime.
  2. Maintenance: Ensure the sustainable roofing system is durable and no toxic products are required to maintain it.
  3. Weight: In theory, it might seem like the heaviest roofing system might be the best, being both highly durable and resistant to weather extremes. But a lightweight and robust system like aluminium is capable of the same levels of performance, and its transportation may be less impactful on the environment.
  4. Weather: In today’s era of climatic extremes, ensure the sustainable roofing system is resistant to excessive temperature fluctuations.
  5. Warranty: Select sustainable roofing systems with the longest warranty possible. What better indication of quality and durability?

Find a sustainable roofing system that suits your needs

At Kytun, we have a wide product range that can suit a number of different needs. Get in touch with our team today to discuss how we can assist you with your project.