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Climate Change and Roofing

It never rains in Southern California.

There is a song with lyrics that include the words, “It never rains in Southern California.” Hmm, that position is being challenged right now with a second of two atmospheric rivers hitting the region causing all sorts of flooding and likely mudslides to follow.

Climate change means different things to different people. And, the impacts of climate change will cause people to make different choices on a myriad of different topics from where we build to how we build in the future.

Likely you have not thought much about it, but my father sold roofing for a few years after being injured in a railroad accident and he could not work any more as a railroad engineer. One of the things he passed on to me was, “Son, never have a flat roof.”

The type of roof you have for a home can be dictated by the climate you live in. Have you ever seen a ski chalet with a flat roof? Nope — they all have very steep roof lines so as to shed snow and not let the weight of the snow build up on the roof itself.

A flat roof is popular as a design element for modern homes. Those homes are best suited to be in Mediterranean type of climates. That means climates with much less rain than other temperate climate zones.

Which brings us to Southern California and all the rain they are getting. A future design consideration should be to ditch the flat roof and put in something with some slope that sheds the water better and avoid all the possible leaks in the future.

One last roofing tip. The steeper the slope of the roof, the longer the roof will last. I know of one church asphalt roof that lasted 40 years when a normal roof might only last 25.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.