Guide for Adhering to COOL Roof Code Requirements in California

The next round of COOL roof code updates by the California Energy Commission is scheduled for this year. The requirements for roofs vary throughout the state. It’s worth checking with your local municipality before beginning any project.

That said, there are general requirements builders will likely need to meet, which are discussed below.

Solar reflectance index

The state’s requirements are based on the solar reflectance index (SRI), where materials are assigned an SRI value from 1 to 100. The lower the SRI value, the more likely it is that the material will become hot in sunlight. Materials with higher SRI values will remain cooler at night.

SRI for roofing involves a calculation that utilizes both thermal emittance and solar reflectance for asphalt shingles to produce a rating of 1 to 100. This measurement provides information on how hot the roof will become and whether it will play a role in cooling the building in the evening.

Zones for COOL roof code

There are four zones in California that have different codes. The first is the City of Los Angeles. There, asphalt shingles are required to meet an SRI value of at least 16 for all reroofing and new construction for commercial and residential buildings.

The second zone is the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, which mandate that asphalt shingles be at a minimum SRI value of 20 for all reroofing and new construction for commercial and residential buildings.

In the rest of the state, there are a total of 16 zones broken up into two groups. In Zones 1 to 9 and 16, no COOL roof code requirements exist. In Zones 10 to 15, asphalt shingles need to be an SRI of at least 16 or above for all new construction for commercial and residential buildings and reroofing when more than 50 percent of the roof is replaced.

Remember that these are only minimum state requirements. Some cities and towns have gone above these criteria with local initiatives requiring certain green-building practices.

Benefits of COOL roof code

California has made these changes to make roofs more environmentally friendly. The idea is that asphalt shingles that meet these requirements lessen the burden on air conditioners, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as air pollution.

In cities, cooler roofs help to counteract the heat island effect. This occurs when cities are built with an excess of asphalt and flat black roofs, which absorb heat and boost the temperature in the surrounding area. During the summer heat, a reflective roof is capable of staying up to 60°F cooler than traditional roofing material.

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