When it comes to purchasing a roofing system, there are many factors that need to be reviewed. Some building owners want a roofing system that is aesthetically pleasing; others look for durability. Some individuals want a roofing system that not only prevents leaks but also provides excellent warranty coverage. Still other building owners look further into their decision-making process to determine which roofing system will offer the most energy-efficient benefits to them and the environment around them. This is a very important attribute to review.Roofs make up a large proportion of the heat-retaining surfaces in populated areas. In some highly concentrated areas, as much as 27 percent of the land cover is roof surface. This can cause what is referred to as an “urban heat island” – a region where the temperatures can be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.Buildings with dark roof surfaces get hotter and stay hot longer. Air-conditioners must work harder and longer to maintain comfort for occupants. This places demands not only on the building owners for the cost of electricity, but also on power companies that supply the energy. A reflective roofing system can keep a building cooler and save money in air-conditioning costs.There is even a benefit for buildings that are not air-conditioned, because a reflective roof will keep a building cooler and improve comfort for occupants. Moreover, there is an environmental benefit. By reducing the surface area that creates heat islands, there can be a significant reduction in the overall heat island effect. Cities such as Sacramento, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Chicago, and Salt Lake City have already made significant strides in reducing their heat islands through the planting of trees, replacing dark pavements with lighter surfaces, and, most importantly, providing incentives for building owners to utilize cool roof technology.Studies also suggest that reflective roof surfaces reduce the damage that a roof sustains from the effects of the sun. This can also make a roof last longer.The EnergyStar® Roof Products Program provides guidance for consumers in selecting a roofing product that suits their needs, as well as a list of products that meet the qualifications established for cool roofing products. This qualifying products list identifies low-slope roof products that have an initial reflectance of at least 65 percent and a reflectance of at least 50 percent after three years of weathering. In addition, the list supplies warranty information and company contacts.There are several types of cool roofing products on the market to meet varying needs. Some will provide a short-term means to help keep a building cool, while others will keep a building cool and also provide a long-term waterproofing solution.Another important factor to review in purchasing a roofing system is prefabrication. If a roofing system is custom-prefabricated, there is very little waste involved during installation. That means less material going to landfills and congesting our environment with waste. Furthermore, some roofing manufacturers support environmentally friendly efforts by recycling scrap and trim.To determine the most cost-effective solution to your roofing problems, look at the alternatives in terms of how they will fit your building’s needs. Do you have high energy costs that you need to get under control? Do you have a roofing system that is failing and needs repair or replacement? How have previous roofing systems performed? What is the track record of the products chosen as potential roofing alternatives? When it comes to technology and experience in the cool roofing arena, has the supplier done its homework? Is the product proven? Can the supplier provide real-world examples of energy savings and performance? All of these questions need to be answered to properly identify which roofing system will work best for your building needs.Energy savings. Long-term watertight protection. Environmental responsibility. Not every roofing system will deliver all these benefits. Before you invest in a roofing solution, research every type of system – weigh the benefits and COMPARE! It will pay in the long run.Drew Ballensky is general manager at the Sigourney, IA, plant of Saginaw, MI-based Duro-Last Roofing Inc. (www.duro-last.com).