The past decade has been the hottest on record – and 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year in documented history, according to the European Union’s Earth observation service.
This was despite lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which slowed the pace of carbon being added to the atmosphere. Even with this slowdown (and uplifting stories of stars being seen in clear skies in some parts of the world for the first time in many years) the overall carbon concentration still ticked upwards with levels hitting an all-time record of 413 parts per million in May 2020.
The relentless upward trend in global temperatures is due to greenhouse gas emissions trapping heat in the atmosphere. Climate change is a reality and increasingly warm temperatures worldwide will continue to drive extreme weather events, which serve as a stark reminder of the urgency of ambitious emissions reduction targets to minimise and ultimately prevent adverse climate impacts in the future.
Taking ownership of a sustainable future starts with each of us
Despite genuine interest in sustainability, many individuals and business leaders still suffer from collective inertia – waiting or hoping for others to respond. Often, it is the inertia of not knowing where to start, or understanding how much of a difference they could make, both as individuals and collectives.
To be achieved, sustainability needs to be the driving force behind myriad initiatives and projects, starting with simple steps that can be taken at every property a person owns or sites a company operates from. Buildings are responsible for 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and the construction industry has a substantial impact on the environment.
Because of these alarming statistics, designing a green building on sustainability principles becomes very important. A green building is one which is energy-efficient, resource-efficient and environmentally responsible, and incorporates design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impact on the environment and its occupants.
At the heart of sustainable living is the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.
What you can do
A steel roof is not just a roof – it can save you money and reduce your carbon footprint in a variety of simple ways:
Photovoltaic Panels save on Energy Consumption
One of the ways you can minimise your carbon footprint is by reducing your energy usage. And this is hugely assisted by the installation of solar panels. The installation of a Photovoltaic (PV) panel system on a roof covered with coated steel (we recommend prime Colorplus® colour coated steel) minimises air pollution caused by the fossil fuels used to make electricity. With our abundant sunshine, we are a step ahead of many countries which have embraced solar panels in spite of months of snow and cloud cover. The payback period for solar panels on a residential house is between 5 and 15 years.
Installing solar panels on a steel roof offers material advantages over other roof types, notably less lifetime cost due to the lifespan of steel roofing matching and often exceeding that of the PV panels, which means no interim removal of panels for the replacement of the roof surface. Steel roofing is also easy to keep clean, minimising the lifetime maintenance costs of the roof / PV system.
Water harvesting is a responsible step
Steel roofs are the perfect means of water harvesting. Studies by various universities and water development boards have emphasised that a standing seam metal roof captures more water for reuse than any other roofing material, with a value of up to 95%.
Rainwater harvesting systems are a relatively inexpensive way to reduce long-term water costs while conserving water and reducing water that is wasted into storm water systems. With this in mind, a metal roof delivers the highest quality water for indoor domestic use. Other roofing materials can spawn bacteria and high levels of dissolved organic carbon that can be unhealthy.
Although harvested rainwater is nearly always recommended for secondary uses like toilet flushing, landscape watering and car washing, the water taken from a metal roof is nevertheless considered the safest.
Install Insulation in your roof system, reducing heating costs in winter and cooling costs in summer
Steel has a low thermal mass, which means that it requires very little energy to change its temperature, so while it may heat up quickly, it also cools down quickly. The use of insulation will dramatically improve the comfort of a steel-roofed building reducing the energy needed for cooling in summer and heating in winter.
SANS 10400XA legislation has impacted roofing design and installation in South Africa, particularly the use of insulation. The structural properties of steel roofing make it highly accommodating to insulation, and the ease of re-roofing or retrofitting of thermal insulation in steel roofing structures is an increasingly important decision driver for architects and building owners.
The ideal location for this continuous layer of insulation in the roof space is over purlin. This location creates some problems with excessive compression of the insulation, but the use of a roof spacer system (which is simply a second row of engineered purlins) creates a defined cavity or roof space above an existing surface, into which insulation can be installed. As it is not compressed, it now delivers the full design R value of the insulation, further improving the thermal performance of the complete roof system.
Also consider that, when choosing a steel roof:
• Steel roof sheeting is 100% recyclable. Steel is one of the most recycled materials on earth, dramatically minimising the negative impact of waste building materials on our environment.
• Safal Steel’s production process for our Aluminium–Zinc (AZ) Coated Steel has a low carbon footprint, with 95% of the waste generated in the production process being fully recycled. The coating plant operates at only 8% of the permissible emissions allowed for by SA legislation.
With ever-increasing carbon emissions and temperatures leading to rising sea levels and more extreme weather events, it’s important that we all take ownership of a sustainable future. Using steel roofs for your home or business premises offers an excellent way to embrace the sustainable living ethos of reduce, reuse and recycle.
The SANS 10400 energy-efficiency standards and the new SANS 204 building regulations are not only an incentive, but a requirement that drives transformation in the building industry. Carbon credits and the Green Star rating system of buildings is a market-driven initiative that inspires architects and contractors to adapt to market changes.