Which type of sustainable rooftop technology is best in cold climates?

April 7, 2015, Wiley

Sustainable rooftop technologies—including green roofs, white roofs, and solar photovoltaic panels—can provide great environmental benefits, but studies of these technologies often look only at their use in hot climates and do not assess their full environmental consequences.

A new study that compares the technologies in the cold Canadian climate shows that photovoltaic panels demonstrate the highest in all impact categories considered and is the preferred option from an environmental perspective. Green roofs result in fewer beneficial environmental impacts, but are the only rooftop technology that reduces both heating and cooling energy use. And although white roofs—which are made of light colored roofing materials—are an outstanding option in warmer climates, they have a net negative environmental impact in cold climates due to their high solar reflectance that reduces the amount of heat absorbed.

"Environmental performance of building technologies is very dependent on climate conditions. Therefore, conclusions from technology assessments elsewhere were not necessarily valid in such as Canada," said

Dr. Joule Bergerson, senior author of the Journal of Industrial Ecology study. "Our study builds on the existing knowledge of rooftop technologies and provides recommendations directly relevant for our context."

Explore further: New rooftops in France to go green

More information: Cubi, E., Zibin, N. F., Thompson, S. J. and Bergerson, J. (2015), Sustainability of Rooftop Technologies in Cold Climates: Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of White Roofs, Green Roofs, and Photovoltaic Panels. Journal of Industrial Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12269

Related Stories

New rooftops in France to go green

March 19, 2015

Rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, under a law approved on Thursday.

Passive cooling for buildings with green roofs

April 2, 2015

Researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Università Politecnica delle Marche have found that green roofs with high vegetation density are 60% more efficient than non-green roofs.

Recommended for you

In colliding galaxies, a pipsqueak shines bright

February 20, 2019

In the nearby Whirlpool galaxy and its companion galaxy, M51b, two supermassive black holes heat up and devour surrounding material. These two monsters should be the most luminous X-ray sources in sight, but a new study using ...

When does one of the central ideas in economics work?

February 20, 2019

The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy ...

Research reveals why the zebra got its stripes

February 20, 2019

Why do zebras have stripes? A study published in PLOS ONE today takes us another step closer to answering this puzzling question and to understanding how stripes actually work.

Correlated nucleons may solve 35-year-old mystery

February 20, 2019

A careful re-analysis of data taken at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has revealed a possible link between correlated protons and neutrons in the nucleus and a 35-year-old mystery. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2015
Even if the old fossil fuel based power stations are only mothballed for half of the year its a step in the right direction.
Distributed Solar generation plus local island storage has to be a better cost option than current nuclear. And fossil is only cheap in the short term, in a world with ever growing demand.
The cost of upgrading the grid, if we keep the centralised power distribution model, is huge.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2015
being that no-matter what roof you use in northern climates the damn thing will be covered with snow all winter.

You may have heard of this new invention that people in northern climates have: angled roofs. There are remarkably few days when the roof is actually covered in snow with such roofs.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.