LA City has just ambushed its property owners and the roofing industry with a new re-roofing ordinance (#183149) mandating that ALL property owners must install ultra-reflective roofing when re-roofing more than 50% of their building, or for any new construction (whereas previously this was limited to very specific circumstances which made a lot more sense). This applies now to all roofs; shingle, tile, flat, slopes, slate, etc. It happened overnight, with no real warning to anyone. In essence, everyone must now install special, expensive, ugly and difficult to purchase roofing which reflects the sun.
Ordinance 183149 will cost property owners, on average, an additional $2000 for a (typical home). I have considerable experience with roofing, ultra-reflective roofs, ventilation, insulation and so on. I’ve always advocated ultra-reflective roofing but only for flat roofs or for very particular circumstances – never as an all-encompassing solution applicable to every scenario. It is well known that one can achieve fantastic energy efficiency through proper ventilation, radiant barriers and insulation (which helps you during the winter, and not just during the summer). But that is not what this ordinance is about. This is solely about the urban heat island (UHI) effect.
In the EPAs own website on page one they list 4 ways to combat the urban heat island (UHI). The first two are listed here:
- increasing tree and vegetative cover
- creating green roofs (also called “rooftop gardens” or “eco-roofs”)
You can guess what the other two are, but can you imagine what a fiasco we’d have on our hands, in the incredible drought we are facing, if we’d all planted gardens on our roofs that we have to water every day? If the EPAs theory on garden roofs being an effective UHI reducer is so clearly wrongheaded or at least narrow-minded, then perhaps all their theories should be questioned. I love trees and grass as much or even more than anyone, but this would create one problem to solve another (I am in favor of planting trees as they are far more efficient but that’s another topic).
Bottom line, this ordinance will make property owners foot the bill to specifically “lower the urban heat island effect” and rather than spreading that cost out evenly to all taxpayers, it is targeted at those few who own property and can “afford” a new roof. And it is going to decimate the roofing industry which has never recovered from 2007 because frankly, it hasn’t rained since 2007! No rain, no leaks. No leaks, no roofing.
Why did LA City do this if no one wants this? My guess is shear ignorance. To highlight this ignorance, here is an excerpt from one of, if not the principle study the EPA uses to outline UHI reduction, done by the Heat Island Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:
“In most applications, cool roofs incur no additional cost if color changes are incorporated into routine re-roofing and resurfacing schedules (Bretz et al. 1997 and Rosenfeld et al. 1992).
And what is this other study being referenced? A study done in Greece in the 90s which, near as I can tell, mostly concerns color changing paints (which I’ve never even heard of being employed anywhere) and painting buildings and roofs white. We have all seen pictures of Greece, and one thing you do not see are a bunch of composition shingles roofs! But more importantly, what they claim is in most applications no additional costs will be incurred. Well that is just wrong, as you now know. Call any roof supplier and ask the price difference between ordinary roof products and ultra-reflective ones.
Worse than that, the EPA’s estimate of energy savings once all their UHI goals are met (everyone has a cool roof, cool pavement everywhere, massive amounts of additional trees and vegetation, and so forth) is targeted at $100 per household annually. So if you’re lucky, and your new roof only costs you an additional $2000, it will take 20 years for you to see that money returned. And in about another 10 years, you’ll be obliged to install yet another costly roof. In other words, you’re probably never going to see the upside of this, particular in LA which is a very transient society (we move around a lot, you know this).
If you disagree with this New Re-Roof Mandate in the City of Los Angeles ordinance, let your city councilman know!