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Posted on Thu, Aug 13, 2009 : 10:18 a.m.

Arrowwood co-op brings energy-efficient roofing material to Michigan

By Dan Meisler

p1_arrowwood friedrichs.jpg

An energy-saving roofing product is migrating to Michigan from southern markets, promising greater efficiency in cooling attics and entire residential units.

Arrowwood Hills Cooperative housing development off Pontiac Trail in Ann Arbor is installing about 25,000-square-feet of oriented strand board with “radiant barrier sheathing” - which is essentially board lined with a thin layer of aluminum that reflects heat from the sun.

Dave Friedrichs, chief operating officer of Meadow Management and the property manager for Arrowwood, said the roofing could save residents between 10 percent and 15 percent off their cooling bills in the summer.

“We’re motivated to do it because it results in savings for coop homeowners,” Friedrichs said.

The coop is using Thermastrand, a product of Vancouver, B.C.-based Ainsworth Engineered.

Several other companies produce similar boards, including Georgia Pacific under the brand Thermostat and LP Building Products’ TechShield.

But Friedrichs and Jack Emmer, a wood product salesman with Viking Forest in Minneapolis who sold Friedrichs the Thermastrand, said radiant barrier products have not caught on in northern climates. That’s because reflecting heat from roofs saves the most energy in hot, sunny climates in which cooling living spaces is a year-round necessity.

“It’s really a southern product,” Emmer said. “It was promoted heavily in the south. Just in the last 14 to 16 months have people become more aware in the Midwest area.”

Emmer said the Arrowwood installation is the first truckload of such a product he’s sold in Michigan. And Friedrichs said he thought the project was the first one to use radiant barrier roofing board in the county, based on conversation with other contractors.

Thermastrand’s main selling point is that the aluminum is essentially manufactured into the board, so that it is virtually impossible to separate. Emmer said other products, in which the foil is affixed or laminated to the wood, run the risk of creating wrinkles and, therefore, become less efficient.

Ainsworth’s marketing material says the product can lower cooling bills by up to 25 percent, but Friedrichs predicted a lower number because of the Michigan climate. He said the radiant barrier OSB also saves heating costs in the winter because it keeps heat in.

The radiant barrier board costs about $9 per 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet, or about $2 more than regular OSB.

“That’s not too bad,” Friedrichs said. “It’s a consideration.”

The purchase was approved by the coop’s board, he added.

Juan Montalvo, board president for the past 15 years, said the decision was based on a simple equation - pay a little more now in exchange for future savings.

“The rising costs of utilities are a fear for us. We figured it was best now to maybe spend a few extra dollars and get savings in the long run,” he said. “Any way we can save money and help our members, that’s our duty and obligation as the board.”

Montalvo said the board would track members’ energy usage in the units with the new roofing material, and may install another phase next year. He also said he hopes the radiant barrier boards would also save energy costs in the winter, although he’s not sure that will happen.

“That’s why we’re tracking it very closely,” he said.

Reporter Dan Meisler can be reached at

Photo by Robert Ramey: Pedro Lopez, left, and David Friedrich install Thermastrand OSB at the Arrowwood Hills Cooperative.



Tue, Sep 29, 2009 : 5:40 p.m.

Oh, and the conservative estimate for payoff of the more expensive roofing is between 6 and 8 years; not quite a payback in 5 (unless energy costs spike again!), but not 15 either. @me--No, it's not just the select few, but if the energy savings from the two buildings that are pilot programs show promise--and if we can get a partnership with DTE or a green materials supplier that will help defray the costs, we would be more than happy to begin to "tear the roof off the sucka" and save energy, save money, save the environment. I'm pretty sure that's not a bad thing.


Tue, Sep 29, 2009 : 5:36 p.m.

sottovoce, old fridges and furnaces are continually on a replacement schedule. In 2009/2010 there are 100 refrigerators & 50 stoves slated for replacement, and the site manager Pat Dixon works with vendors & DTE to make sure the replacements are Energy Star rated. Same thing with furnaces. The last 5 year cycle on furnaces ended in 2007, so there are 11 years of anticipated life cycle left on those. A/C units are owned/maintained by individual members and are not part of the Co-ops standard equipment package. Of course, it would pay for members to be energy aware, too. So, with regard to your first question, it isn't an either/or. We are doing both. The roofing is part of an initiative for which we hope to earn ARRA or other "green energy" funding. So, at first we picked two buildings with a range of 2 and 3 bedroom townhouses and the energy savings for those buildings will be monitored to see if it will make long term sense to take this to the whole Co-op. We are also looking at energy savings by replacing all of our incandescent lighting, interior and exterior, with CFL and LED lighting. DTE is partnering with us as part of their YES-Your Energy Savings-program. The details may change, but one figure I heard was that they would provide every home with an assortment of 14 CFLs for interior lighting, and they would help defray the cost of appropriate CFL/LED lighting for the Co-op office, the lighting in common areas, and the exteriors of residences (front and back porch lights) and the lights mounted on buildings that are currently high wattage floods. Again, we are seeking partners for this, because we want to be at the forefront of Co-operatives that are demonstrating responsibility to our members with the goal of being responsible stewards of our environment as well. We are investigating wind and solar energy as additional alternatives to being completely on the grid.


Wed, Aug 26, 2009 : 3:56 p.m.

Sounds wonderful in theory, but the issue I have is... most of the roofs in Arrowwood have ALL been replaced in the last 3 years, what are they gonna do, tear the new ones back off to do this? Or, do only a select few get this???

Dan Meisler

Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 12:58 p.m.

Sotto, we did not get down to that level of detail.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 9:34 a.m.

Thanks. Are there any ranges of estimates for payback? Assuming average weather and average increase in utilities (maybe over the last 10 years), is the payback 5 years or 15? I would support 5 years, but maybe not 15.

Dan Meisler

Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 8:28 a.m.

Good question. Based on my conversation with Mr. Friedrichs and Mr. Montalvo, the payback period for the roofing depends on both the weather and the cost of utilities. Their point was that over the long term, utility prices are likely to keep rising, so the roofing is a good investment over time.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 8:25 a.m.

$2 more per 4x8 sheet. How much more for each co-op townhouse/apartment? What is payback period (assuming the 10-15% summer electricity savings)? Is it more cost effective to replace old fridges, ACs, furnaces at the co-op? I'm in favor of energy efficiency, but to get more public support, the projects should make good financial sense.