Smog-gobbling roof tiles: Sci-fi fantasy or eco-friendly reality?
The next generation of roofing comes from a Southern California tile manufacturer and home-building giant KB Home.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 14:11
CLEAR THE AIR, PLEASE: Smog-eating tiles could chip away at our state's air pollution. (Photo: Al Pavangkanan/Flickr)
California is the smog capital of the United States. Air quality is a public health issue the state has had to work diligently to improve, and it is an ongoing struggle. The Air Resources Board determined in 2010 that approximately 9,000 people die annually due to the amount of fine particle pollution in the state.
Now KB Home, a builder headquartered in Los Angeles, is contributing to clearing our air with its newly available smog-eating concrete roof tiles. The company introduced the eco-friendly tiles to potential home buyers by including them on a clean energy prototype home constructed in Lancaster, Calif., last summer. KB Homes and Build Your Dreams (BYD), a "green" technology innovator, partnered to create the Lancaster dwelling, which featured solar panels, energy storage batteries, LED lights and electric vehicle outlets, in addition to the smog-neutralizing tiles.
Boral Roofing company MonierLifetile will manufacture the product, and estimates are that it will cost homeowners an average of $800 for the special tiles. How does a roof tile convert smog into clean air, you ask? John Renowden, VP of product development for Boral Roofing, says the tiles are coated with titanium dioxide, which actives with exposure to sunlight and breaks down smog-causing nitrogen oxides in the air. This chemical reaction yields oxygen atoms and nitrates.
The European Union has been testing similar technologically advanced, air-purifying roof tiles since 2002, and according to Renowden they have been used in home construction in the E.U. for about five years. KB Home is the first builder to introduce them in the U.S. The company estimates that a 2,000 square-foot residence equipped with the treated tiles can annually break down the same amount of nitrogen oxide as a car's engine typically produces during 10,800 miles of driving. Steve Ruffner, president of KB Homes' Southern California division, points out that, rolled into a 30-year mortgage, calculated at a five percent interest rate, "For about five dollars a month they [homeowners] can take a car off the road each year. It is a pretty cool thing to think about."
South Coast AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood is not entirely sold — yet. "We are aware this technology has been used in the past in various applications. We are interested to see how this works with roof tiles."
Obviously the smog-eating tiles are not the magic bullet for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution; what scientists and environmental stewards suggest is that there really is no such thing. However, in combination with other lifestyle choices the tiles could contribute to a reduction in a person's overall carbon footprint.
What do you think? Would you be interested in making an investment in cleaner air with your home's roof tiles, or would you prefer to "go greener" in other ways? Share your thoughts in a comment below.
You might also like: