With the undeniable impact of the architecture, design and construction industries on the environment and their crucial role in creating residential and commercial spaces for communities around the world, the mark of true leadership in this sector is the commitment to constant improvement. That means operating in increasingly more sustainable ways, manufacturing more environmentally friendly products, working to design better outcomes for the current and future communities - and supporting the design and construction industry at scale.

BlueScope is one of these organisations. With aspirations to support better building design at the heart of what they do, the steel industry pioneer puts significant emphasis on research, development, testing and modelling to continuously enhance the way buildings perform. BlueScope employs over 70 scientists and engineers in Australia who focus on future product and building innovation. “Anything we recommend around building design supports the communities of the future,” explains Melissa Barlow, BlueScope’s Marketing Manager for the Commercial and Industrial Segments.

Importance of cool roofing

A big part of the innovation team’s work is supporting changes to building regulation- and cool roofing is one of the key focus areas for BlueScope. “A cool roof, in its simplest form, is a roof that stays cooler than other roofs on a hot day,” says Jamie Adams, BlueScope’s Building Science Innovation Specialist. Cool roofing offers significant sustainability benefits – it can reduce cooling energy loads in buildings and help mitigate the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, potentially reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. It can also increase thermal comfort, which can have a positive impact on the occupants’ wellbeing.

BlueScope started exploring this space in mid 90s, and when cool roofing was developed overseas. In early 2000s, the company was actively promoting its benefits for inclusion in future versions of the building code. Today, they are an authority in this field, participating in multiple research hubs, such as CRC for Low Carbon Living at the University of New South Wales which is Australia's leading research and innovation hub dedicated to advancing the built environment towards a low carbon future.

COLORBOND® Steel Studio and NCC 2019 changes

One of the recent outcomes of their focus on cool roofing has been the development of COLORBOND® Steel Studio. Since its launch in November 2020, BlueScope has been able to offer over 40 colours that perform with a solar absorbance of ≤ 0.45. The availability of such a robust choice of colours of low solar absorbance holds significant practical benefits for architects and designers - particularly when it comes to the latest building code changes.

“Under the elemental provisions in 2019 - in recognition of the value of cool roofs, the National Construction Code Volume 1 prescribes a solar absorptance of ≤ 0.45 across a variety of building classes and climate zones under the Deemed to Satisfy path for compliance,” Jamie explains. The update to NCC Section J Energy Efficiency provisions now requires for the solar absorbance of the roof to be ≤ 0.45. “COLORBOND® Steel Studio gives architects access to a much broader range of colour options while still conforming with the prescriptive requirements of the building code,” adds Melissa. 

Particularly relevant in this space is BlueScope’s COLORBOND® Coolmax® steel - the coolest roofing solution the company produces. Introduced in 2010, available in the colour Whitehaven® the product has been designed with the UHIs in mind, with both the primer coat and the topcoat optimised to maximise the amount of solar reflectance. Not only does COLORBOND® Coolmax® steel help mitigate the impact of UHIs, but it can also help earn points with Green Star and may improve your NABERS rating.

Increased focus on cool roofing for NCC 2025

With the importance of cool roofing advancing, BlueScope - as part of their wider innovation efforts - is involved in a project contracted by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources with the University of New South Wales. The undertaking will look at cool roofing measures for NCC 2025.

“The building code has predominantly been interested in carbon emissions for heating and cooling a building. This project will look beyond that and start to include elements like human health and the indirect benefits that cool roofs can have when clustered together to create cool zones,” Jamie explains. “The project will also look to set up processes and programmes for what a cool roof is. For instance, this may include requirements to conduct initial measurements on cool roofing samples and put them in weathering farms to assess the changes, like in the USA” mentions Jamie.

Another crucial initiative BlueScope is involved with is the Steel Research Hub at University of Wollongong. As part of that, Jamie’s team is a project partner on the “Climate Optimised Buildings” project. It aims to understand building performance, to ensure appropriate building design for Australian buildings, for the local climate and inform building design regulation and standards.

With BlueScope’s robust experience within research and development areas, continuous focus on sustainable innovation and the innate ambition to enhance building design, it’s fair to say that big things are coming. “Often we see compromises within building code because the importance of one performance attribute outweighs the other,” says Melissa. “Whilst there is always room for improvement in best practice building design, what is exciting to see is the evolution in industry with a shift in focus on a complete system performance solution to optimise the efficiency of the building and furthermore recognition of the importance of the roofing material selection for the buildings performance. These systems should aim to perform their best for the Australian climate rather than international climates, and the material attributes selected for the design should be durable and tested to support this.”

For more information visit BlueScope here.