The Architect’s Guide to Specifying Sustainable Single-Ply Roofing Membranes: NSF/ANSI 347

The first sustainable certification for single-ply roofing membrane materials includes points for design, recycling, durability, and more
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Sponsored by Duro-Last®, Inc.
Kathy Price-Robinson

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain the evolution of standards and rating systems from single-attribute to multi-attribute certifications.
  2. Describe NSF/ANSI 347: Sustainability Assessment for Single-Ply Roofing Membranes.
  3. Define the key areas measured by the NSF/ANSI 347 standard.
  4. Discuss how architects and specifiers can use NSF/ANSI 347 to achieve sustainability goals.

Credits:

1 AIA LU/HSW
1 GBCI CE Hour
0.1 IACET CEU*

Until recently, specifying a sustainable roofing membrane was a tricky business. Lacking a comprehensive, multi-attribute and certifiable assessment of the product, architects and specifiers had to decide which single attribute fit into their sustainability goals: Was it the roofing membrane's durability that mattered most? Or its potential to handle long-term heat exposure? Or its long-term maintenance and repairability? Or its lack of VOCs? Or did the packaging matter most?

Today, all those attributes are contained in one internationally recognized certification: NSF/ANSI 347: Sustainability Assessment for Single-Ply Roofing Membranes.1

The purpose of this article is to explain the significance of the first sustainable certification assessment for single-ply roofing membrane materials, and discuss how a manufacturer earns a certification for a Compliant, Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating. This understanding will give architects and specifiers more options to reach their sustainability goals.

How We Got Here

The evolution of the green building movement in the United States in some ways mirrors the maturing of a human being. We begin our lives quite innocent and unaware (infant), eventually gain some awareness and perhaps wild ambitions (youth and teenage), face realities of life (young adult), and eventually settle in for what is hopefully a long period of productivity (adulthood).

Likewise, unaware could have described the collective U.S. mindset before the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 (which spawned the first Earth Day), and the oil embargo of 1973. As abrupt as puberty, a vigorous green building movement arose in the country, with a back-to-the-earth mentality of yurts and berm homes and organic farming.

From its warm and fuzzy, idealistic beginnings, the green building movement has shifted from unproven claims to verifiable single-attribute qualities to robust and far-reaching multi-attribute standards.

Photo courtesy of Duro-Last

From its warm and fuzzy, idealistic beginnings, the green building movement has shifted from unproven claims to verifiable single-attribute qualities to robust and far-reaching multi-attribute standards.

In the built environment, some good ideas born in that period persisted, such as tight houses and energy-efficient light bulbs and windows. A plethora of “green” products emerged, but the green claim became notoriously watered down and unreliable. According to The Dictionary of American Slang (Harper Collins Publishers),2 greenwash is “the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization's environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities.”

In the 1990s and 2000s, interest grew in verifiable sustainable building practices, thanks in part to green building rating programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED®, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, helped along by the American Institute of Architects' vigorous promotion of sustainability. Later, the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes® program and others offered alternatives.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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