Why Your Roof Space is a Valuable Commodity

By Jeff Brain | April 06, 2017

When considering energy efficient building design, most people tend to focus on the interior of the building. One area that does not receive enough attention is a building’s roof. This is often a versatile area with high square-footage, which can be used to great effect, particularly in dense urban areas. When looking at your roof, consider the possible uses, and how to integrate them together.

How Can You Use Your Roof Space?

it is important to remember that some elements, such as a building’s HVAC system, will already be occupying a portion of the roof, however, there are a wide array of potential uses for the remaining space.

One option which has become more popular recently, is green roofing. This biophilic design element covers roof space in foliage. Not only does this insulate buildings from solar heat gain, it also helps to beautify urban spaces. Another element that is often integrated alongside green roofs is converting part of the roof into an outdoor recreation area, giving employees access to fresh air and views of nature. Studies show that exposure to fresh air and sunlight naturally reduce stress, while working with an accessible view of nature has been proven to boost productivity.

Another possible use of this roof space is for storage and energy production. As more of the world begins to experience droughts due to climate change, some building owners are repurposing their roof for rainwater storage. On the other hand, as design continues to trend toward the creation of net-zero and energy positive buildings, some designers are working to harness other natural forces to generate electricity off-the grid. Solar panels and wind turbines are an efficient way to use this space to defray energy costs. Another method of reducing costs with this space is to incorporate efficient daylighting, which alone has the ability to reduce lighting and HVAC costs by 50-80%.

Incorporating Multiple Solutions

As is usually the case, integrating more than one of these design solutions is the best way to maximize long-term savings. This can be difficult however, when forced to budget space. While wind turbines take up less space than solar panels, they are less consistent in producing energy in all but the windiest locations. In the same way, while outdoor space can help increase productivity, it becomes a question of whether those savings can match up to other sustainable solutions.

One trick is to search for systems which maximize their potential savings per-square-foot. One field where this is particularly easy to calculate is in daylighting. Traditional skylights require approximately 10% of your roof space to provide adequate light. More advanced systems are capable of providing the same level of light while only using 1-2%.

To learn more about the range of daylighting products currently on the market, download our eBook A Comprehensive Guide to Sustainable Lighting.

(Photo: Kevin Zolkiewicz, CC.)

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