Martin Grohman, Director of Sustainability

Hi I'm Marty Grohman,  GAF's Director of Sustainability.  I look forward to your comments and collaboration as I discuss items of interest in the sustainability field.


How roofing contractors can help address home comfort

GAF is National Sponsor of Efficiency First 

Homeowners have high expectations for comfort throughout their home.  They don’t want a drafty farmhouse anymore or a spare bedroom that isn’t the same temperature as the rest of the house.  It may come as a surprise, but a professional roofing contractor can address these concerns and more.

“The professional roofing contractor has the right combination of skills on staff and also sees a much larger number of existing homes than many other types of contractors”, says Coby Rudolph, Executive Director of Efficiency First, a national membership organization of home performance contractors.  In fact, home energy efficiency strongly relates to a properly detailed attic, and it’s remarkable how straightforward some of the improvements can be.  For example, a bathroom fan that has never worked well may simply have a kinked or disconnected exhaust line.  Air conditioning ducts in the attic might be disconnected or have large leaks.   Oftentimes these issues have existed since the construction of the home, and a savvy roofing contractor can really improve their client’s comfort (and help reduce their energy bills) with some quick work in the attic. 

To learn more about this and develop expertise in home performance work, a professional roofing contractor should consider joining Efficiency First  - something that makes even more sense now that GAF is a national sponsor. There are state and local chapters across the countr. Efficiency First supports home performance companies by providing access to educational and networking opportunities, as well as discounts on products and services.  For the professional roofing contractor, it’s a great chance to develop some new partnerships and a source of referrals. Energy auditors see hundreds of homes, some of which are bound to need roofing work.  And referring more complex energy projects (or subbing them out) to a certified energy auditor who has the credentials to qualify for energy rebates and other incentives can be a great way to build goodwill with clients as well. 

In summary, delivering meaningful energy savings to homeowners will have them thanking you every month for years to come!

Are you a professional roofing contractor who performs home energy audits?  Have you performed attic insulation checks, improved attic air barriers, or referred work to an energy auditor or home performance contractor?  If so, I’d love to hear more about it.   


The Coolest Job in Recycling

As the Director of Sustainability for North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, I like to think I have a pretty amazing job.  GAF is a Platinum Member of the USGBC, and I get to help set green building benchmarks at a national level. We’re a founding sponsor of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative and the Resilient Design Institute.  Plus, at GAF we have hugely sought-after contractor programs, and so I get to make a significant impact on reducing landfill waste with the 400-plus members of the Certified Green Roofer Program.

All this means I get to interact almost every day with people who recycle millions of pounds of post-consumer shingles; work with national programs that aim to reduce millions of pounds of CO2 emissions; and do things like participate in a Google Hangout on Zero Waste Manufacturing. To anyone with an interest in recycling, green building, resource management or environmentally-friendly business practices, you’d have to say, I have a very cool job. 

But try explaining that to an 8 year old. 

See, in the mornings when I walk my kids to their school bus stop, I usually have a few minutes to chat with the other parents and kids waiting on the corner. Of course, people ask: "What do you do for work?" And although to me, my job is very cool, I sometimes find myself at a loss for words when asked to actually explain what it is I do, especially to an 8 year old. But I try: “I work on recycling, I help set green building targets, USGBC, Washington DC, recycling, blah blah blah”. 

The parents tend to nod and smile and say things like, "Oh, that sounds so interesting."

But the kids just want to know one thing: "Do you get to ride on the recycling truck?"




Recycling Electronics

Electronic Waste, or eWaste or as it is called by those in the recycling trade, is more and more of an issue in the waste stream.  Computers, mp3 players, phones, you name it – these items are produced in larger and larger quantities, and it all has to end up somewhere.  According to Compucycle, 135 million phones and 31 million computers are disposed of annually in the US alone.  Many of these gadgets contain hazardous materials, such as lithium batteries, that can leach into groundwater or cause various other problems.  Plus, many of the materials used in electronics, such as gold and copper, are valuable and in short supply.  So you can see why it is important not to just toss old electronics in the trash; but at the same time, it can be hard to find a suitable and safe site to properly recycle old electronic items.

To help address this issue, for the second year in a row, GAF held eWaste collection events across many of our sites for Earth Day on April 22nd.  I’m pleased to report that we collected more than 16 pallets and more than 10,000 lbs of electronics for proper recycling! 

If you don’t work at GAF and need to recycle electronics, Goodwill is the best option in my experience.  You can bring almost any old electronic item there (don’t forget old extension cords, they can be recycled too, and contain valuable copper) for recycling.  In some cases you may need to pay or make a donation, particularly for hard-to-recycle items like older-style CRT monitors, which contain leaded glass.  Staples, Best Buy, and many other electronics recyclers offer programs too.  You may also check, a site maintained and supported by the Consumer Electronics Association (just like GAF supports!).

Do you have old electronics that need recycling?  Have you had challenges finding a suitable place? 


What's a Heating Degree Day?

Whenever the subject of cool roofing or energy savings comes up, the next topic is usually Heating or Cooling Degree Days, and there seems to be a lot of confusion about what these mean.  It’s tempting to think that a Heating Degree Day is a day on which you need to turn on the heat, and a Cooling Degree Day is a day on which you need to turn on the air conditioning, but that is not the case.

So let me dive right in:  a heating degree day is a way of summarizing the annual heating (or cooling, in the case of Cooling Degree Days) requirements in a particular climate.  This is a complex sounding concept that is actually quite simple.  On a heating degree day (HDD), the temperature falls below a standard “comfortable” temperature (usually 65° F) so a building or home needs to be heated to maintain the target temperature; and a cooling degree day is one where the temperature is above that target, requiring cooling.  Turning climate data into a heating degree day or cooling degree day is a matter of simple math.  If the average temperature on a given day is 80°F, the building needs to be cooled 15°F to reach the target 65°F.  That day would be counted as 15 cooling degree days (CDD). 

Another example: consider a typical New York City winter day with high of 40°F and low of 30°F, for an average temperature of 35°F.  This one day would generate 65 - 35 = 30 Heating Degree Days.  A month of similar days would accumulate 900 Heating Degree Days, which gives you an idea how HDD can be added over periods of time to provide a rough estimate of seasonal heating requirements. In the course of a heating season, for example, the number of HDD for New York City is 5,050 whereas that for Barrow, Alaska is 19,990.  Barrow doesn’t have any more days in the year, it just has lower average temperatures!

Average daily temperatures tend to vary farther to the low side, particularly overnight.  Because of this effect, it is common even for warmer climates to have more HDD than CDD.  Some would argue that in any climate where HDD exceeds CDD, a cool roof does not make sense, but that is not correct.  That’s because building occupants and services generate internal heat, and with conventional equipment, cooling is generally more expensive than heating.

There are a number of online resources where you can find heating and cooling degree data for climate stations around the country.  Or, you can just log into the free GAF Cool Roof Energy Savings Tool (“CREST”), which taps into HDD and CDD data for you automatically and helps you compare roofing assemblies to better determine what is right for your project.   

Does this topic of HDDs and CDDs generate questions in your business?  I’d love to hear – post in the comments below.

Follow us on Twitter @gafroofing or visit Green Roof Central


Is a Ventless Clothes Dryer a Reality?

Ventless Clothes Dryer?

Clothes dryers use an intense amount of energy.  In fact, dryers use about 6% of all US electricity and  that number hasn’t been improving.

Plus, living here in the cold northeast like I do, it sure seems a shame to vent all that heated air outside, as conventional dryers do.  Regular readers of my blog will remember that I made a dryer vent box which we only attach in the winter.  It captures the heat (and the moisture) and uses it to warm the house.  However, it becomes more of a lint-blowing steam engine than anything, and I am sure you will be shocked to hear that it is not very popular with my very patient wife (who gets to put up with a lot of my sustainability-related projects).

However, there is a relatively new technology called a condensing dryer (sometimes called a ventless dryer) which has become common in Europe and is becoming more available here in the States.  It is based on a traditional heat pump, and does not require an external vent – the warmed air is kept in the house, and the water is collected in a tank. 

I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive about buying this dryer, because it is not cheap, and it is kind of small - about 2/3 the external size of a regular dryer (although the capacity is the same).  However, it is more efficient than a conventional dryer, using about half the electricity to do the same amount of drying.  Plus, you get to keep the heat in the house.  My wife has sent my heat capturing contraption to the recycle bin. 

As usual with my appliance purchases, I bought mine at The Home Depot, and as usual it was a positive experience.  You pick a delivery date on the calendar when you know you can be around, and they come in with the new equipment, and take the old one away (if you like).  Here’s a picture:

So what’s the verdict?  Everyone in the family loves this thing!  It puts out a mild steady heat at floor level while it’s working, so even the dog, who has figured out it is good to lie in front of, is a fan.  It does take about twice as long as a conventional dryer to complete a cycle, but it’s also much gentler on the clothes.  About every other load of clothes you empty the water receiving tub (or you can even pipe it to your washer drain so you never have to empty it).  And at least temporarily, I’m back in the good graces of my wife!! 

Anyone else using a ventless dryer, or any other new appliance ideas we can try?