No, I'm not referring to a house with plants growing on the roof like a Hobbit house (although I would love to have such a thing, I'm a hobbit at heart!).
When we chose the company that we did to build our house, it was due in large part to the fact that their standard package included a steel roof, which is something that we've always wanted. Steel isn't exactly the most "green" material in that it requires a fair amount of energy to be produced, but once it's on there, a steel roof can last for up to 100 years or more, which results in far fewer materials being used over the lifetime of the roof. It also reflects a large percentage of the sun's rays off it's surface, resulting in less heat build up in the house and lower cooling bills. The house plan that we chose has a small curved roof over the doorway which, it turns out, was going to cause some trouble with the installation of the steel, requiring the rental of a special machine to customize it to the roof ($$$), and a different kind of steel roofing that was more "bendy", but unfortunately also very industrial looking. Since the roof is such a focal point of this particular house (it comes down to within 5 feet of the ground at one point), we didn't want something that was going to end up looking ugly and out of place. However, we weren't too keen on using asphalt shingles for any reason other than price, (they would have saved us about $4000 - money we could use since we've already decided to upgrade our windows from vinyl to metal clad wood), and we especially wanted to avoid using them because they're a petroleum based product and don't have a very long life expectancy (especially with wind storms like the ones we had last year). Steel isn't cheap initially, but because you never have to replace it, it ends up costing less in the long run.
So what to do? Go with the more expensive, more durable, but unattractive steel roof, or sacrifice our principles and use the cheaper option even though we know it's an environmental disaster?
Fortunately, while mulling this over and researching our options yesterday, I came across a website for a product called Enviroshakes. They're a Canadian made composite roofing product that looks just like cedar shingles. They're made from 95% recycled materials (recycled tires, plastics, and hemp/flax), have a life expectancy as good as a steel roof, and best of all, they look fantastic! So after talking to our builder and calling for an estimate (the cost should be close to or slightly less than the steel) we decided to go with Enviroshakes for our roof. It's ridiculous how excited I am about these things, but I can't believe that we actually managed to find something so environmentally friendly, durable, and nice to look at!
To learn more about Enviroshakes click here.