Eco-Friendly Roof Designs – Architectural Digest

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By Alex Hawkins Updated February 6, 2024
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There is an entire world of sustainable, eco-friendly homeownership right above your head. 
Many homeowners focus on refurbished furniture or switching to glass kitchenware to improve their home’s carbon footprint. However, roof options like solar, green, and cool roofs can be environmentally friendly and beautiful.
We have compiled the best eco-friendly roof designs that you might want to add to your home:
Let’s face it: You will be the talk of your street with a bright, white roof
A cool roof—often simply called a “white roof”—keeps your home cool by using reflective color in its design. Though you may not often see white roofs, they’re becoming increasingly popular as an energy-efficient alternative to dark, asphalt roof shingles
You can install a cool roof using a wide variety of materials, such as metal shingles for steep roofs or reflective dark gravel in gray slag for low-sloped roofs. The lighter colors reflect light to keep your home’s interior temperature cooler—and your summer energy bills lower. 
If you own a home in the city, a cool roof could also help reduce the effect of so-called heat islands, where buildings and other infrastructure absorb more heat and raise surrounding temperatures by 1 degree F to 7 degrees F.
A cool roof doesn’t have to be white—you can use any light-colored paint to help keep your home cool, reduce your use of air conditioning, and keep your carbon emissions in check. As long as you don’t mind the extra attention to this bold choice, a cool roof is an excellent eco-friendly choice.

✔ Reduces summer energy bills

✘ May cause higher winter energy bills in colder regions

✔ Often priced similarly to darker shingle colors

✘ Higher chance of mold growth

✔ Helps decrease the “heat island effect

Imagine a verdant oasis just upstairs. That’s just one benefit of choosing a green roof
Green roofs, or rooftop gardens, use a layer of small trees, bushes, and other plants fixed over a waterproofing system installed on a flat or slightly sloped roof with levels for drainage. Rooftop gardens are a common sight throughout Europe, including Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland, and are sprouting up throughout North America. 
Replacing black asphalt with plants provides shade, lowering the surrounding air temperature and reducing your home’s energy use. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green roof temperatures can be 30 degrees F to 40 degrees F lower than conventional roofs. A rooftop garden can also help improve air quality for you and your neighbors and help manage stormwater with your plants soaking up some of the rainwater.
Whether you’re in the city center or out in the country, a green roof is perfect for any nature lover. Depending on your local climate, you can help nurture new plant life and sustainability through a green roof. In addition, you may be able to ​​foster a healthy habitat for insects, birds, and other nearby wildlife. 
✔ Improves air quality
✘ High up-front cost
✔ Helps sustain plant and wildlife
✘ Requires ongoing maintenance
✔ Improves drainage and energy consumption
✘ Adds a heavy load to your home’s roof
Made of materials such as aluminum, copper, galvanized steel, and tin, metal roofs offer an incredibly durable, long-lasting, and fully recyclable roof design. They’re also a smart, eco-friendly roof option.
Let’s start with durability. Metal roofs can last between 40 and 80 years, and some materials, like copper, may last for more than 100 years. Once copper ages to a patina-green color, the oxide-sulfate coating makes it even more durable and resistant to corrosion. Just think of the Berlin Cathedral’s historic dome.
Also, metal roofing is often originally made from recycled metal, and it then can be recycled again when you choose to replace it, keeping your roof out of the landfill.
In addition, this roof type is naturally reflective and, like cool and green roofs, can mitigate heat island effects. But if you’ve got a color palette in mind, you can increase the eco-friendliness of a metal roof by using one that is pre-painted a lighter color.
✔ Long-lasting
✘ Can possibly be dented
✔ Reflects heat and reduces energy bills
✘ Are noisy during rain and thunderstorms
✔ Are 100% recyclable

What’s old is new again: Although building clay roofs is a practice that’s been around for centuries, clay roofs turn out to be a highly eco-friendly option.
Not only do clay tiles have an average life span of 100 years, but they are also made of all-natural materials, meaning you won’t be adding plastics or other forever chemicals to your roof choice. Opt for reclaimed clay for a layer of antique luxury.
Traditional curved red tiles reflect sunlight due to their lighter terracotta color and won’t trap hot air, making them an energy-saving choice in warmer climates. It’s no wonder they’re so frequently found in Spanish Revival homes in the hot climates of California, Florida, and the Southwest.
✔ Can last for a century
✘ Adds a lot of weight to your home
✔ Uses 100% natural materials
✘ Fragile material
✔ Adds a layer of upscale luxury to any home

Slate tiles offer a highly durable eco-friendly roofing option. These tiles offer a stunning look and last for centuries. With soft slate, you can provide a sustainable roof for up to 125 years, and hard slate roofs can last up to 200 years. In addition, slate tile roofs are entirely fire-resistant
Slate roofing creates a beautiful, natural, historic aesthetic. This roofing style works well for any homeowner looking to maximize the styles offered by brick and stone homes. However, slate tile requires an experienced professional due to how difficult it is to handle. Similarly to clay roofs, slate tile roofs are incredibly heavy and require extra structural support.
To ensure that your slate tile roof is an even more eco-friendly design, make sure you are using reclaimed and all-natural materials. In addition, you can apply a special tile coating to help make the roof more energy-efficient.
✔ Lasts for hundreds of years
✘ Requires professional installation
✔ Offers a natural, historic aesthetic
✘ Requires additional structural support
✔ Uses all-natural materials

Solar roofs are a relatively new roof design. Offered by Tesla, a solar roof is created from small, high-efficiency, monocrystalline solar panels that mimic the appearance of roof shingles. This design creates a low-key, sleek, modern aesthetic for a solar energy system that does not distract passersby with a mounting system. However, you might also work with another solar company to get similar panels laid flat against your roof if renewal energy interests you. 
With a solar roof, you can check your energy consumption and goals through active monitoring. This service is most often offered through the form of a smartphone app. Many solar roofs and solar energy systems also utilize solar batteries. These batteries are now often designed to work as an electric vehicle (EV) charger. This way, you have a fully integrated, clean, renewable energy system. 
✔ Reduces your energy bills over time
✘ High up-front capital cost
✔ Provides clean and efficient energy for your home
✘ Local climate may make a solar roof not ideal for you
✔ Increases your home’s value

There are plenty of eco-friendly roof designs, and each offers something different for various types of homeowners. We recommend looking into rooftop gardens and green roofs for the most adventurous and daring homeowners. Cool and metal roofs are excellent choices for those concerned about sustainability and functionality. 
Clay roofs are excellent for homeowners looking for a more traditional yet eye-catching, classy, and eco-friendly roof design. However, a solar roof (or just the inclusion of solar panels on any of these designs) leads to the most eco-friendly option. Solar panels are modern and durable, and they produce clean, renewable energy for your home and your community through net-metering programs.
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