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Cool-Coatings Makers Far from Content to Bask in Market’s Healthy Glow



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With the powerful Florida sun outside perhaps serving as a reminder of their important—maybe enviable—position in the built environment of the 21st century, members of the Reflective Roof Coatings Institute (RRCI) convened last week in the recreational magnet known as Orlando.

After all, solar reflectance is a key component of the technologies that are at the heart of this organization’s mission. And in Florida, there’s plenty of solar radiation to go around.

But the relatively young RRCI isn’t content to simply bask in the glow of the success and growth of the cool-roof industry and its own accomplishments. The institute is looking for ways to build on that success by pursuing an agenda of scientific advancement, market awareness, educational outreach, and government-affairs engagement.

Thus, as the program for the group’s 2012 Annual Meeting demonstrated, RRCI is pursuing this mission on several fronts.

In the scientific advancement department, for example, participants at the meeting heard reports related to the issue of solar-reflectance loss of white, reflective roof surfaces over time. Specifically, guest speakers at the meeting addressed the matter of microorganisms that take up residence on roofs, discoloring the surface and thus reducing solar reflectance (and the coveted cool-roof effect).

 Tim Leonard, Debra Gill and Dr. Susan Pfiffner
Tim Leonard, new RRCI president, with Annual Meeting speakers Debra Gill  of Dow Microbial Control (left) and Dr. Susan Pfiffner of the University of Tennessee.

The deepest science was explored by Susan Pfiffner, a research faculty member at the University of Tennessee, who offered a look a preliminary findings from a project designed to catalog the microbial communities that can inhabit roofs in various parts of North America. The work, being carried out in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is ongoing, with one stated objective being the development of a standard, industry-accepted accelerated test method for reflective roof surfaces.

They’ll want to make sure they get the “bugs” out of that before it finds use in the marketplace, and the challenges and complexities are certain to be significant.

Offering insights on antimicrobial technologies as they currently exist—with an eye  to future developments—were representatives of two makers of biocidal agents—Debra Gill of Dow Microbial Control and Craig Waldron of Lonza Building Products-Microbial Control. Lonza recently expanded its biocidal-products portfolio considerably with the acquisition of Arch Chemicals.

In the area of technology and the dissemination of information to end-use markets, new RRCI President Tim Leonard informed meeting participants that the institute is planning to embark on a second phase of an extensive field study, completed in 2011, that examined changes in roof-coatings reflectance with aging.

The field study’s initial phase was the subject of the Durability + Design feature article, Roof-Coatings Study Builds Knowledge Base on Performance Questions, and the news story Roof-Coatings Study: Substrate, Chemistry Not Significant for Reflectance.

 Matthew Lendzinski and Penny Gift
Matthew Lendzinski, The Dow Chemical Company, received an award recognizing his long-term service as a member of the RRCI board of directors. At right is Penny Gift, Republic Powdered Metals Inc., RRCI president in 2010 and 2011. Also presented awards for service to the institute were Past President Bob Brenk, Aldo Products Company Inc., and former board member Mitch Clifton, NCFI Polyurethanes.

Leonard said a key focus of the next phase of the research will be to measure the impact the use of solar-reflective roof coatings can have on lifecyle of roofing materials. Field-applied reflective roof coatings are used primarily to restore and extend the life of aged low-slope roofs while providing a “cool-roof” effect.

RRCI Annual Meeting participants were also given an illuminating look inside the “cool-roof” rebate program operated by Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state’s largest single electric utility.

Dan Haywood of the utility’s Demand-Side Management (DSM) group urged solar-reflective roof-product manufacturers to take an active role in maximizing the effectiveness of such rebate programs. He reviewed how FPL’s rebate program operates, including details on criteria such as reflectivity level and structure and roof type.

Haywood emphasized that eligibility for rebates also is tied to certification of coatings applicators by coatings manufacturers. Projects must also be pre-qualified by the utility, he said.

Important keys to market “transformation” and growth, Haywood said, include initiatives that will boost awareness of the benefits of solar-reflective roof materials; availability of products; contractor education; affordability; durability and installation quality; and customer satisfaction.

Manufacturers can greatly help the cause of market expansion by assisting utility representatives with product knowledge; helping the utilities provide advice on products to customers requiring roof repairs or maintenance; developing contractor training and certification program; and offering material and labor warranties, with field inspections conducted by manufacturer representatives.

Stepping outside the meeting hotel in Orlando, a reminder of the value of “cool roofs” hit home in a powerful way. It was still late February, but the subtropical sun and humidity were already making their presence felt.

Cool pavement—another emerging market in sustainable design and construction—would come in handy in places like this. Is there a Cool Pavement Institute and if so, can we go someplace warm and sunny for their meeting next winter?


Comment from Arnie Knipp, (2/27/2012, 3:32 PM)

Kelly-Moore's EnviroCoat Reflective for outside walls is worth mentioning. One of the few companies to offer reflective pigment technology.

Comment from Rod Fickel, (3/5/2012, 5:50 PM)

You are right Arnie. Another one is TRESCO COATINGS. They have a full line of IR reflective products for commercial roofs, tile roofs, walls, decks, walkways and parking lots.

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