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Can Concrete Tiles Be Used as Green Roof Solutions?

With new environmental legislation being implemented in many countries, the worry about environmental sustainability, carbon footprints and environmental impact is now no longer the domain of large corporates, and many individuals are now also doing everything that they can to dramatically decrease their carbon footprint and to limit any negative environmental impact that they are responsible for. 

Homes are becoming more green – or environmentally-friendly oriented – and the choice of building materials is being influenced by the preference of products that are considered “green” or those that offer better environmental sustainability.  This also affects the choice of roofing materials and the question has to be asked whether concrete tiles are considered, in the greater scheme of things, to be green roof solutions or not.

Assessment of Environmental Impact

To assess the impact of a roof tile on the environment, the lifecycle of the tile has to be examined. Four phases make up the lifecycle of a roof tile:

  1. Raw materials
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Service lifetime on the roof
  4. End of life / disposal

In order to determine how environmentally friendly (or not) a roof tile is, all these phases have to be examined and the carbon footprint of each of these must be assessed. During the raw materials phase, we look at the raw materials that are sourced, extracted and transported to the site where the tile is manufactured. During manufacturing, we have to look at the processes involved in the creation of the tile.  This includes emissions, waste products, transportation and distribution to the end user. During the service lifetime on the roof, the product continuously interacts with its environment and any environmental impact must be determined. 

Once the lifetime service is over and the end of the life happens, the tile has to be disposed of in some way, and the question has to be asked whether the disposal will adversely affect the environment in any way.  Typically, being environmentally friendly means that the tile should be open to recycling, re-using, re-introducing it back into a manufacturing process, or being able to dispose of it in a way that does not adversely affect the environment during or after disposal.  When these four life stages are evaluated, it appears that concrete tiles are, in fact, better green roof solutions than many other roofing materials.

Lifecycle of a Roof Tile and its Environmental Footprint

Let’s look at the typical lifecycle of a concrete roof tile and analyse its environmental impact:

  • Raw materials and manufacturing:  If locally sourced materials are being used, it reduces the cost of transportation of raw materials and energy.  Concrete is very abundant and can easily be sourced locally, which reduces the carbon footprint and emissions.  Concrete is basically a mixture of sand, cement and water, and both sand and limestone (for the cement) is easily found locally.  Besides being easy to source, the main ingredients (sand and limestone) are recyclable as well, and easy and harmless to dispose of.

Manufacturing processes have also been influenced by environmental legislation to the point where these are regulated, and many manufacturers obtain the environmental ISO standards and adhere to these.  This means that recycled water is used as far as possible in manufacturing processes, that certain waste materials are used for the production of the tiles, and even recycled tiles can be used in certain processes.  With new industry developments and computer modelling, new ways are found to use less raw materials and build of stronger tiles.

  • Service time:  The lifespan of the concrete tile is very long – sometimes up to 60 years, and its interaction with the environment during its functional life is important. Heat management is important, especially in this country, and concrete tiles are very effective for this – it means that less insulation materials are used and that temperatures are kept in check.  The water run-off from rain on concrete tiles is also safe, and it is possible to collect a re-use rainwater with a concrete roof.
  • End of life: At the end of the service-cycle, the roofing materials have to be disposed of, and concrete and clay tiles are highly recyclable.  Recycled concrete is used for the creation of landscaping stone and gravel for road building, as well as setting up of retaining walls. It can also be reprocessed and new materials created. 

Taking the above into account, it is easy to see that concrete makes for an excellent choice when it comes to green roof solutions.  Contact our team at Marley Roofing to find out more!