Is Cool Roofing the Right Choice for Toronto Commercial Property Owners?

Aerial view of a living roof in Toronto by Elite Roofing.

Have you been hearing about the benefits of cool roofing? If you are a Toronto developer planning for new construction or a building addition, you may wonder if cool roofing is a good option. If you are a property owner, should you consider converting your existing roof for financial or environmental reasons? 

As with all construction issues, there is no simple answer. This article defines what it is, its potential benefits, and factors to consider if you think it may be an option for your Toronto commercial, industrial, or institutional property. 

What is cool roofing?

The idea behind cool roofing is fairly simple. Compared to standard roofing, a cool roof uses special materials and techniques that more efficiently reflect the sun’s UV rays away from the structure, absorbs less heat, and cools the surrounding air. It is just what it says. It stays cooler than asphalt, steel, or other conventional materials and reduces how much heat is conducted throughout the building.

Aerial view of a cool roof in Toronto by Elite Roofing.

What are the installation methods?

There are two roofing methods for low-slope roofs, reflective coatings and cool roofing materials. A reflective coating covers an existing roof with elastomeric coatings that are typically white or contain reflective pigments that reflect sunlight. With new technological advancements, special materials are available for most roof assemblies, including built up roofing (BUR), metal roofs, and concrete surfaces. 

When considering these two options, cool roof materials are almost always a better alternative. These materials are highly effective and generally less expensive because they provide an all-in-one solution, rather than installing a roof plus a protective coating.  

Another eco-friendly option is a green roof, also known as a living roof, which consists of soil and vegetation overlaid on a ballasted, waterproof roof. An attractive benefit is that green roofs provide shade and opportunities for recreation. This article, however, will stick to discussing cool roofing materials and reflective coatings.

The benefits of cool roofing in Toronto

Cool roofs are gaining recognition in Toronto for their eco-friendliness, energy efficiency, and potential long-term savings. While they are more common in warmer climates, they can also make sense for Toronto property owners—especially when eco-friendliness is a consideration. 

If you’ve looked into cool roofing, you may already be aware of its many benefits:

  • Compliance with local bylaws
  • Availability of Toronto eco-friendly roof grants
  • Reduces energy  bills and prolongs the life of HVAC  systems
  • Decreases roof temperature and deterioration over time
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves air quality
  • Mitigates the urban heat island effect
  • Lowers peak electricity demand, which can help to avoid power outages
  • Reduce cooling energy demand for lower plant plant emissions, including sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, mercury, and nitrous oxides  

Converting your standard roof to a cool roof

It’s one thing to include a cool roof in new building plans or for roof replacement. It’s quite another to convert or retrofit an existing roof. The first thing to know is that a polyurethane foam roof already meets performance and standards. For other standard roofs, the first option for a low-slope roof is to paint it with a reflective coating.

Example of a cool roof in Toronto by Elite Roofing.

The first question is to determine the reason for the change to a cool roof and whether the roof needs to be replaced or not. For an existing building nearing the end of its useful life, it most likely makes more sense to install a cool roof when it’s time for a replacement. Also, designations apply only to a percentage of the roof area so this could make it easier to retrofit or re-coat a section of your existing roof area.

Another option is to specify reflective white granules on the modified bitumen cap sheet, white ballast on built-up roofs, and white single ply membranes.

Deciding whether or when to install a cool roof

Should you design a new building in Toronto with a cool roof? Should you add a reflective coating or retrofit your existing roof? The best advice is to consult with your architect, engineer, or a knowledgeable roofing contractor.

Factors to discuss include:

How much will you save?

When deciding whether to install a cool roof, you’ll need to determine whether the energy savings and other benefits will justify the material and labor cost. Cool roofing products are generally better suited for low-slope roofs, and can offer substantial energy savings —varying in scale by factors such as the materials used, geographical location and weather patterns. 

Does Toronto offer incentives?

Under Toronto’s Eco-Roof Incentive Program, Toronto property owners that upgrade their current roof or build a new roof using cool roofing materials are eligible for a grant program. The roof must meet requirements in areas including materials or coating systems, percent of roof coverage, VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions, and commitment to future eco-roof replacements.  

How much does it cost to install?

If you’re installing a new roof or replacing an existing one, a cool roof may not cost more than a standard one. For a more complete answer, according to the Global Cool Cities Alliance, “If the roof is retrofitted ahead of schedule in order to install a cool roof, there will be some incremental cost.”

How does the Toronto climate affect potential savings and energy consumption?

Heating costs may rise in the winter, but this “heat penalty” may be offset by summer savings. Factors affecting this calculation include the amount of sun exposure on the roof, the sun’s angle, the effectiveness of the insulation and air sealing, energy-efficient design, and snow coverage on the roof.

Example of a cool roof and its materials in Toronto by Elite Roofing.

Another perspective from Professional Roofing is that building owners in cooler climates typically spend five times more heating their buildings than cooling them, so a reflective roof can actually increase energy consumption and carbon emissions. It’s clear that the balance between climate and savings is a complex issue.

Does moisture affect it?

Because of Toronto’s short summers, the lower surface temperature of cool roofs may increase the risk of moisture accumulation and condensation, leading to mold, algae growth, and roof deterioration. Toronto property owners can reduce this risk with growth-resistant roof coatings, as well as smart design and construction techniques. While some experts suggest that they may be more susceptible to accumulating moisture than dark roofs, others say that a properly installed, code-compliant system should not have any issues with moisture damage.

What are the building and existing roof characteristics?

A cool roof is not appropriate for all properties. Property owners should consult with building experts about factors such as direct sun exposure, the slope of the roof, the roof’s age and condition, building usage, and the local climate.

Aerial view of a cool roof in Toronto by Elite Roofing.

Is cool roofing the right option for your Toronto property?

While we’re seeing more buildings with cool roofs, is this option right for your property? Some may question if it is appropriate in our climate, but summer savings and Toronto’s eco-friendly roof incentives may balance out the financial aspects. As they say, it all depends.

The roofing experts at Elite Roofing can help you weigh the pros and cons of cool roofing for your Toronto commercial, industrial, or institutional building. If it’s a feasible option, we’ll partner with you to discuss your options for materials, installation method, maintenance, and other considerations. Contact us today to find out about Elite Roofing’s cool roofing services.