The VI Wise Sustainable Roof Project is the brainchild of Kimberly Shumaker, who started it shortly after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated homes across the territory, leaving many without proper roofs.
Because of Shumaker’s passion for green design, the project’s mission was two-fold: to help beneficiaries by supplying them with roofs, and to draw awareness to alternative sustainable practices that can be implemented around the territory.
“There are so many different progressive ideas, but this was my way to help the roofing situation with all the FEMA tarps while showing people something really cool that is better for the environment,” Shumaker said.
The material used for the shingles is 100 percent recycled plastic that comes from the automotive industry, Shumaker said. She said that plastic parts from cars such as dashboards and bumpers can be melted down and used to make shingles.
Shumaker partnered with a manufacturer for the process. She said the plastics are melted down and put into molds which produce the unique shingles that are extremely durable and come with a 50-year transferable warranty. Each of the molded shingles bares identification marks that make them easy to position and install. The project’s website states the “exposure positioning will depend on roof pitch and local climatic conditions, as well as owner’s personal preferences,” and that the “shingles should be installed on a sloped roof structure no less than 4/12 pitch.”
The shingles are not only sustainable, but also offer unique advantages in the event of a hurricane.
“It is certifiable by Miami-Dade building code which is the most stringent building code in the country for hurricane winds. A lot of the damage that was caused in the islands was because peoples’ structures aren’t built right, like with hurricane straps and with old metal roofs. This product is a topcoat that replaces the galvanized roofing. Galvanized roofs will create a lot of extra damage because it can come through the walls and rip up peoples’ homes,” Shumaker said.
Shumaker’s grassroots project is seeking donations with an ultimate goal of $30,000, though just shy of $9,000 will allow for the manufacturing of the shingles themselves. This amount, Shumaker said, will ensure the beneficiaries will receive not just shingles and materials, but an entire roof, which she points out is more than just the top of the structure but starts from the foundation of the building.
“You don’t have to build the roof any differently than how it is normally done in the Caribbean. You will still have your rafters and then 3/4 inch plywood that is staggered, a water resistant top coat, and then you can apply the recycled shingles. But the roof laid will only ever be as strong as the walls and foundation supporting it,” Shumaker said.
Once the donation goal is met, Shumaker said she hopes the Family Resource Center will be the first roof made entirely of the recycled shingles that VI Wise is able to install. If donations exceed and continue past the goal, Shumaker said she would love to carry on the project’s intent and continue to build additional roofs on St. Thomas. Each project would need not just the shingles, Shumaker said, but also ridge caps, flashing that acts as a gutter system and labor.
“It all depends on how much money I can raise. If we had more funds then it would be amazing to see more than one project come to fruition,” Shumaker said.
Because Shumaker lived on St. Thomas for four years, she said she recognized a need to convert the plastic waste that is currently taken to the landfill and utilize it for something positive. She said plastic is a highly versatile material and one that can be used to help meet the territory’s immediate need for roofing material.
“When I was living there, I was working at the SandBar and 100 percent of the stuff I worked with was recyclable and went to the landfill. And I was always devastated because I knew we could make this into counters. Then after the hurricanes happened, I was like ‘oh my god’ here is my opportunity to show people what is possible if we rethink waste,” Shumaker said.
A popular slogan in the territory is “VI Strong,” so when naming the project Shumaker said she landed on VI Wise because not only should the islands come back stronger after the hurricanes, but wiser and with more sustainable long-term solutions.
“We just need to start reimagining all the waste that we are creating. We have other alternatives of what we can do with it instead of just sending it to the landfill,” Shumaker said.
To donate to the project visit the Go Fund Me account at www.gofundme.com/viwiseroofs. More information can be found by visiting the project’s Facebook page.