RoofPoint Guidelines

When the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building program in 2001, one of its primary objectives was to “transform the built environment.” Now, 10 years on from the introduction of LEED, the evidence for this transformation have become obvious. Ten-thousand LEED buildings have been certified, over 100,000 LEED-AP Professionals participate in the LEED program and almost every supplier of building materials offers some type of “LEED Checklist” for its products. As a result, it is rare to find a professional roofing consultant who hasn’t been involved with a LEED project or with LEED-influenced construction practices.

Today, 10 years after the introduction of LEED, a similar transformation is occurring in the roofing industry. At the beginning of 2011, the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR) launched a sustainable guideline for roofing systems that seeks to transform roofing — both in practice and in public perception. This new guideline, called RoofPoint, is similar in function and structure to green building rating systems such as LEED, but it embraces important differences offering unique value to building owners and the green building community.

Similar to green building rating systems, RoofPoint functions as a criterion-based assessment system for sustainable roofs, featuring broad categories of environmental impact with specific strategies to reduce environmental impact within each category. These credits are assessed against specific measurable goals, and the summation of this assessment is expressed as a total point score. Roofing projects meeting a minimum score overall as well in each major category are then recognized to embody the key principles of sustainable roofing.

Although the basic structure of RoofPoint is similar to existing whole-building green rating systems, there are several important differences. Undoubtedly the most important distinction is that RoofPoint focuses exclusively on roofing systems. This approach goes a long way to address roofing industry concerns about potential misinterpretations of whole-building rating systems when applied to roofing projects. As an example, the current LEED program specifically references roofing in regard to only two characteristics: cool roof surfaces and vegetative roofs.

Although many other roofing-related characteristics are embedded within many LEED credits, they may be difficult to winnow out and apply to a roofing project. As an example, LEED contains exhaustive criteria regarding overall energy efficiency, but because these criteria depend primarily on the use of whole-building energy modeling, the criteria may be difficult and costly to apply to a typical roofing project. RoofPoint addresses this challenge by providing a series of prescriptive energy standards, including recommended minimum R-values, elimination of thermal discontinuities and installation of roof air barriers that allow roofing practitioners to effectively meet the intent of whole-building approaches without requiring complicated and expensive energy modeling.

A second and perhaps more important difference in the RoofPoint program is its emphasis on roof 
system performance through the inclusion of categories for durability and life cycle management. In addition to reducing environmental impacts, truly sustainable buildings and roofs need to provide superior service life so that the full benefit of reduced environmental impact is achieved. Perhaps nothing could be worse than a sustainably designed building to end up with a leaky roof that shortens the working life of the entire building and compromises key environmental goals. Examples of durability concepts within RoofPoint include protecting the roof from traffic, assuring positive drainage, adding critical detail enhancements and installing a vapor retarder when needed. In addition, RoofPoint credits focus on key construction processes including on-site moisture protection, project quality assurance and long-term roof maintenance.

In an effort to increase public awareness of RoofPoint and streamline the assessment process, CEIR introduced this new guideline and rating system in a pilot program at the beginning of 2011. Since the first project evaluation in the spring, over 200 RoofPoint projects have been certified in 45 U.S. states as well as Canada and Mexico. As a measure of public interest, the RoofPoint website (www.RoofPoint.org) has received over 100,000 unique visits and the RoofPoint guideline has been downloaded by over 10,000 users. In addition, articles about RoofPoint have been published in over a dozen relevant national magazines and educational sessions have been provided at many national conventions and numerous webinars.

As the RoofPoint Pilot Program has progressed this past year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with key roofing stakeholders about the value this program can bring to their businesses. For building owners and facility managers, the most important feature is that RoofPoint targets an important construction segment effectively ignored by whole-building green rating systems — the over 2.5 billion square feet of annual nonresidential reroofing activity. Not only are complex whole-building rating systems difficult to apply to reroofing, but the costs of certification are far too expensive to apply to the average reroofing project. As a result, many building owners are increasingly interested in the RoofPoint program.

Behind this interest in RoofPoint for reroofing projects lies another important feature. Almost every facility manager I have talked to this year confirms that before any reroofing contract is awarded, the facility manager is asked by upper management, “Are we doing the right thing?” in regard to sustainable construction. That’s why roofing professionals across North America are constantly being asked by facility managers, “Is this a sustainable roof?” With the RoofPoint program, you can now answer this question with a program that provides tangible evidence that the roofing system meets well-defined sustainability criteria — and you can document and recognize this achievement in much the same way that LEED and similar programs address this need for entire buildings.

In addition to targeting reroofing and validating sustainable roofing practice, RoofPoint delivers several other benefits to building owners. Because RoofPoint embraces every major type of nonresidential roofing in a non-proprietary manner, the program supports building owner demand for competition and choice in selecting roofing systems. And compared to whole-building rating systems such as LEED, RoofPoint is a simple and affordable program that can be easily integrated into almost any roofing project with minimal expense. Finally, many large building owners whose organizations have embraced Total Quality Management systems such as ISO 9000 appreciate RoofPoint’s process-based approach to roof system sustainability.

Given this strong value proposition for building owners and their representatives, the value of RoofPoint for the professional roof consultant becomes obvious. Because RoofPoint emphasizes teamwork and process management, the roof consultant becomes an increasingly valuable team member who can lend unique experience to sustainable construction decisions. RoofPoint is not merely a check-box guideline: It requires extensive professional roofing experience and judgment to apply. Because of this, the RoofPoint program helps to illustrate the value that the professional roof consultant can bring to a building owner interested in sustainability.

And it is important to point out that the RoofPoint program in no way restricts the judgment or flexibility of the roof consultant to meet unique owner needs or project conditions. Rather, the RoofPoint program helps validate the process that any dedicated roofing professional applies to a roofing project. A good example of how RoofPoint validates best roofing practice can be found in the experience of Benchmark, Inc., a prominent national roof consulting firm and a charter member of CEIR. After using the RoofPoint guideline for a project for a national manufacturing client in Arkansas, Benchmark President and RCI member Ron Harriman concludes, “There was nothing in the guideline that we don’t cover as standard practice for all our clients; but RoofPoint helped demonstrate to our client how Benchmark can be a valuable partner in achieving corporate sustainability goals as well as installing good roofs.”

RoofPoint can also be effectively integrated into consultant marketing efforts to build stronger customer relationships. Again, CEIR member Benchmark is leading the way. This fall, I had the opportunity to present the RoofPoint program at Benchmark’s annual seminar for its building owner clients across the country. Comments from the attendees included:
  • “Terrific topic of growing importance to my company.”
  • “I like knowing what is out there and how we as a company can be more sustainable.”
  • “Good review and explanation of RoofPoint and its purpose and objectives… appears to be the wave of the future in this industry.”
  • “[Good to gain] awareness of a LEED alternative.”

Finally, RoofPoint is both easy and affordable to include in roof consulting proposals. In terms of paperwork, the RoofPoint evaluation form is straightforward and simple to complete. And we expect the registration fees associated with RoofPoint to be much lower than the costs for any available green rating system.

To better understand the value this program can offer your consulting practice, please go to the RoofPoint website and visit the Project Database page. There you will see a wide variety of roofing projects installed by leading contractors across North America. I think you’ll also see that, while some of these installations are more complex than the average project, the great majority of these roofs are no different than what you provide for your clients on a daily basis — projects that save energy, conserve resources and provide long-lasting value. And as you see how your company’s projects can easily fit into the RoofPoint database, I encourage you to join the RoofPoint team and help build the professionalism of your organization and the entire roofing industry. All it takes to get started is to download the evaluation form and see how it works for outstanding roofing projects you have specified and managed in the past year. And if you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any CEIR member. 

— This article has been reprinted with 
permission from the January 2012 issue of RCI’s Interface technical journal and updated by the author on Oct. 24. RCI is an international association of building envelope consultants whose members specialize in design, investigation, repair and management of roofing, exterior wall and waterproofing systems. For more information, visit www.rci-online.org.

Dr. Jim Hoff (jhoff@roofingcenter.org) is Research director for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing and president of TEGNOS Research, Inc., a research organization dedicated to advancing understanding of the building envelope. He also serves as a board member of the RCI Foundation and the Cool Roof Rating Council.

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