GLRPPR Sector Resource: Advanced Energy Efficient Roof System
Advanced Energy Efficient Roof System
Energy consumption in buildings represents 40 percent of primary U.S. energy consumption, split almost equally between residential (22%) and commercial (18%) buildings.1 Space heating (31%) and cooling (12%) account for approximately 9 quadrillion Btu. Improvements in the building envelope can have a significant impact on reducing energy consumption. Thermal losses (or gains) from the roof make up 14 percent of the building component energy load. Infiltration through the building envelope, including the roof, accounts for an additional 28 percent of the heating loads and 16 percent of the cooling loads. These figures provide a strong incentive to develop and implement more energy efficient roof systems. The roof is perhaps the most challenging component of the building envelope to change for many reasons. The engineered roof truss, which has been around since 1956, is relatively low cost and is the industry standard. The roof has multiple functions. A typical wood frame home lasts a long time. Building codes vary across the country. Customer and trade acceptance of new building products and materials may impede market penetration. The energy savings of a new roof system must be balanced with other requirements such as first and life-cycle costs, durability, appearance, and ease of construction. Conventional residential roof construction utilizes closely spaced roof trusses supporting a layer of sheathing and roofing materials. Gypsum board is typically attached to the lower chord of the trusses forming the finished ceiling for the occupied space. Often in warmer climates, the HVAC system and ducts are placed in the unconditioned and otherwise unusable attic. High temperature differentials and leaky ducts result in thermal losses. Penetrations through the ceilings are notoriously difficult to seal and lead to moisture and air infiltration. These issues all contribute to greater energy use and have led builders to consider construction of a conditioned attic. The options considered to date are not ideal. One approach is to insulate between the trusses at the roof plane. The construction process is time consuming and costs more than conventional attic construction. Moreover, the problems of air infiltration and thermal bridges across the insulation remain. Another approach is to use structurally insulated panels (SIPs), but conventional SIPs are unlikely to be the ultimate solution because an additional underlying support structure is required except for short spans. In addition, wood spline and metal locking joints can result in thermal bridges and gaps in the foam. This study undertook a more innovative approach to roof construction. The goal was to design and evaluate a modular energy efficient panelized roof system with the following attributes: (1) a conditioned and clear attic space for HVAC equipment and additional finished area in the attic; (2) manufactured panels that provide structure, insulation, and accommodate a variety of roofing materials; (3) panels that require support only at the ends; (4) optimal energy performance by minimizing thermal bridging and air infiltration; (5) minimal risk of moisture problems; (6) minimum 50-year life; (7) applicable to a range of house styles, climates and conditions; (8) easy erection in the field; (9) the option to incorporate factory-installed solar systems into the panel; and (10) lowest possible cost. A nationwide market study shows there is a defined market opportunity for such a panelized roof system with production and semi-custom builders in the United States. Senior personnel at top builders expressed interest in the performance attributes and indicate long-term opportunity exists if the system can deliver a clear value proposition. Specifically, builders are interested in (1) reducing construction cycle time (cost) and (2) offering increased energy efficiency to the homebuyer. Additional living space under the roof panels is another low-cost asset identified as part of the study. The market potential is enhanced through construction activity levels in target markets. Southern markets, from Florida to Texas account for 50 percent of the total new construction angled-roof volume. California contributes an additional 13 percent share of market volume. These states account for 28 to 30 million squares (2.8 to 3 billion square feet) of new construction angled roof opportunity. The major risk to implementation is the uncertainty of incorporating new design and construction elements into the construction process. By coordinating efforts to enhance the drivers for adoption and minimize the barriers, the panelized roof system stands to capitalize on a growing market demand for energy efficient building alternatives and create a compelling case for market adoption.
U.S. Department of Energy
Date of Publication:
December 17, 2008
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