Category Archives: Uncategorized

Extreme Heat in Reconciliation Legislation


A group of organizations have sent an open letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer to highlight the opportunity ofncorporating heat resilience into the reconciliation legislation and their broader agenda.  The letter lays out 9 recommendations for tackling extreme heat:

  1. Improve warning systems. Increasing awareness of the dangers from heat is the critical first step to protecting people.  Deploy health-based warnings that clearly communicate the threat and are targeted to reach the most vulnerable populations.
  2. Adopt an all-of-government approach to addressing heat. Coordinate activities on heat across agencies to reduce risk and support local initiatives. Mandate a national comprehensive federal heat action plan that incorporates elements from all relevant departments.
  3. Support local government and community-based organizations to develop community resilience centers to build social cohesion and replace ineffective cooling centers.
  4. Establish an all-of-government procurement guideline to require consideration of impact on heat from all government purchases and contracts.
  5. Promote equity by ensuring that a minimum of 40% of resources benefit BIPOC communities and vulnerable populations. Support local tree canopy equity projects.
  6. Create jobs by prioritizing passive cooling strategies to install reflective surfaces on roofs, streets and walls, plant trees.
  7. Generate and disseminate accurate and timely data on the health impacts of heat waves.
  8. Capitalize on the power of nature and use nature-based solutions like urban tree planting and green roofs
  9. Exercise your oversight role and require regular reports on actions taken to reduce risk of extreme heat by the administration.

Announcing the Rosenfeld Urban Cooling Achievement Award

profile pictureThe Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA) has established an award to honor the legacy and impact of Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld’s advocacy for cooler buildings, cooler cities, and a cooler planet. Dr. Rosenfeld was a founder of GCCA and a tireless advocate for building materials that improve thermal comfort and make a positive impact on global climate change. The Urban Cooling Achievement Award will recognize leaders who demonstrate Art’s drive, passion, and intelligence to overcome the challenges of excess urban heat.

“Everywhere we work, we meet people inspired by Art who are trying to make their communities cooler, more prosperous, and healthier. I am excited to launch an award to honor their efforts and to highlight Art’s enduring legacy of inspiring positive global change” said Kurt Shickman, Executive Director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance.

“Art was a mentor to me and so many others. It is an honor to help in the establishment of this new award that will help develop the next generation of energy efficiency leaders” says Dian Grueneich, Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, Commissioner Emeritus, California Public Utilities Commission and GCCA Board member.

The launch of the award will be officially announced on March 15th at celebration of Art’s life organized by the California Energy Commission. Art was a Commissioner for 10 years and oversaw the inclusion of reflective roofing and other building measures that save energy and reduce urban temperatures.

“The achievements resulting from Art’s tenacity, intellect, and creativity will benefit California and the world for generations.  The California Energy Commission is pleased that GCCA has established the Art Rosenfeld Award to recognize that spirit in others working on issues that Art cared deeply about,” said California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller.

“People across the world, and certainly every American, enjoy cleaner air and a healthier economy as a result of Art’s tireless and contagious efforts on energy efficiency. I am pleased to be a part of the committee to select the winner of the Rosenfeld Urban Cooling Achievement Award, which extends his remarkable legacy,” said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, who is the Energy Commission’s lead on energy efficiency.

Those wishing to donate to support the Dr. Arthur H. Rosenfeld Urban Cooling Achievement Award may do so here!

Without Cool and Green Surfaces, Cities Leave Billions of Dollars on the Table

We have known for a long time that smarter roof choices significantly improve cities and the people who live and work in them. This new report from Washington DC’s municipal government and Capital E quantifies the benefits cool, green, and solar roofs make in efficiency, air quality, health, stormwater, urban heat reduction and shows that promoting such roof choices is an economic no-brainer. I hope more cities gain access to this type of local analysis in the future. The press release follows.

Today, Achieving Urban Resilience: Washington, D.C. a new report authored by Capital E, documents and quantifies the large-scale environmental, health and economic benefits that D.C. could gain from citywide adoption of smart surface technologies. The report documents how D.C. could save $5 billion with smart surface strategies, such as cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV and porous pavements while enhancing health and livability and cutting summer peak temperature. Partners in this work include the American Institute of Architects, the National League of Cities, DowntownDC BID, the U.S. Green Building Council, the National Housing Trust and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“This report represents a major step in understanding and quantifying the benefits of adopting cost effective strategies to manage sun and rainfall at a city level,” said Greg Kats, lead author of the report. “Increasing summer heat and smog threaten city livability and summer tourists. This report provides a powerful framework to combat climate change while improving public health and saving money.”

Rainfall and the effects of sunlight are undermanaged by cities and city planners, in turn costing cities billions of dollars from avoidable health, energy and stormwater related costs while undermining livability and resilience and contributing to climate change. D.C.’s 61 square miles of surface includes 16 percent roofs and over 24 percent paved area. As a result, D.C., like most cities, suffers from higher summer temperatures and lower air quality than surrounding suburban and rural areas.

“What this report convincingly demonstrates is that there are cost effective technologies and strategies for managing sun and water that will deliver billions of dollars in financial benefits to the city and its residents,” said Dan Tangherlini, former Washington, D.C. city administrator and former administrator of the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA). “Delaying this transition would impose large financial and social costs particularly on places of lower economic opportunity, the elderly and children. We now have the roadmap – now we must follow it.”

Implementing these smart surface solutions city-wide would cost effectively achieve a range D.C. sustainability, livability and competitiveness objectives, including:

  • Energy: Reduce electricity purchases from the grid by 8.5 percent relative to 2013 consumption levels
  • Water: Reduce stormwater runoff to protect local water bodies while reducing potable water use
  • Climate & Environment: By full implementation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by approximately 5.5 percent of 2013 emissions while enhancing resilience to climate change by reducing city temperatures
    Built Environment: Improve sustainability performance of new and existing buildings
  • Nature: Expand tree canopy and other green landscape to enhance city-wide ecosystem
  • Jobs & Economy: Create more than 2,400 well-paying green jobs in the District over 40 years
  • Equity & Diversity: Improve livability, particularly in low-income areas that tend to have less green cover and efficient buildings
  • Health & Wellness: Improve air quality and public health of District residents and visitors

Broad deployment of these smart surfaces solutions would cost-effectively reduce health and energy costs citywide while increasing employment, resilience and livability for its citizens, institutions and companies.

President’s Climate Preparedness Task Force Releases Recommondations

Yesterday, the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force On Climate Preparedness and Resilience released their recommendations to improve climate adaptation and resiliency planning for cities and states around the country.  Climate Central spells out what’s in the report, and notes the panel’s interest in collecting data to pinpoint needs and challenges:

The panel asked the government to develop new health tracking tools.  It also wants it to identify the most vulnerable communities and to consider climate change when evaluating federal programs designed to help them.

Two recent GCCA studies explain how reflective surfaces could save lives during extreme heat events in Washington, DC, and in Baltimore, New York and Los Angeles.

City governments are already taking steps to address the urban heat island effect in their communities.  A recent survey by GCCA and ACEEE, details the efforts in 26 major North American cities, involving reflective roofing and pavements.

To learn more, take a look at this White House fact sheet, which summarizes the report.

New Thinking on Cool Roofs in Cool Climates

I wrote an article for Roofing Magazine’s September/October edition that examines some of the new research that is toppling the myth that cool roofs are not suitable in cool climates.  You can check it out over at their website.  I focus on two studies in the article, but these two are only the latest analyses that indicate that cool roofing should be a considered when putting on new roofs in cold climates and further support the effort to expand cool roof requirements in building codes at least to Climate Zone 4a and 4b. (the yellow zone on the map).

There Is Evidence Cool Roofs Provide Benefits to Buildings in Climate Zones 4 through 8

Keeping Surfaces Stronger and Longer Lasting with Reflectivity


It is well-known that surfaces that stay cooler do not expand and contract as much as those that get hotter. Reduced thermal expansion can mean longer lasting roofs, solar panels, concrete, and other surfaces.

Coatings manufacturer Epox-Z’s recent press release highlights a new product that minimizes thermal cracking — a major cause of concrete failure. It shows how going with a light-colored, solar reflective outer surface can pay off.

Longer product life means less landfill waste and improved project economics. It feels good to get more bang for your buck!

Is Increasing Reflectivity Risky for Cities? Nope.

Earlier this year, Altostratus and CalEPA rolled out a UHI Index that quantifies the intensity of urban heat. For the first time, we can now measure and visualize the severity of the heat challenges facing cities. You can check out the details from CalEPA here. This really is a great new tool that we’d like to see spread across the country and beyond.

As you’d expect, most of the media coverage of the UHI Index has been positive. Several articles noted that the Index highlights the challenge of addressing UHI at a local level because heat transfers from one part of the city to areas downwind. This finding highlights the importance of a regional approach to urban heat.

A few articles (like this one) note that increasing reflectivity above some threshold can be bad for cities. This is a misreading of the Altostratus analysis. Rather than a threshold between good and bad, the analysis identifies that there are optimum amounts of reflectivity. Cities exceeding that optimum level will see diminishing, but still positive, returns.

New Infographic Explains Peak Savings from Cool Roofs

Sika USA, a roofing manufacturer, has a series of really good infographics covering a variety of cool roof topics. The latest shows how cool roofs help building owners save significantly on their energy bills by reducing peak demand charges. The graphic clarifies an important but complicated and fairly wonky issue. Check it out on their website here:


New Energy & Buildings paper highlights cool communities in CA and beyond

A new paper now in press in Energy and Buildings highlights local and state initiatives to advance cool roofs, cool pavements, and urban vegetation in California and beyond.

In particular, the paper reviews efforts that two of California’s largest school districts have undertaken to deploy cool community measures to keep schoolyards cooler and reduce energy bills. The paper also updates how cool community measures are being included as components of local climate action and adaptation plans and of California’s statewide guidelines for extreme heat adaptation.

You can download the full paper through ScienceDirect here.

In 2006, California introduced the Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill 32), which requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. “Cool community” strategies, including cool roofs, cool pavements, cool walls and urban vegetation, have been identified as voluntary measures with potential to reduce statewide emissions. In addition, cool community strategies provide co-benefits for residents of California, such as reduced utility bills, improved air quality and enhanced urban livability. To achieve these savings, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has worked with state and local officials, non-profit organizations, school districts, utilities, and manufacturers for 4 years to advance the science and implementation of cool community strategies. This paper summarizes the accomplishments of this program, as well as recent developments in cool community policy in California and other national and international efforts. We also outline lessons learned from these efforts to characterize successful programs and policies to be replicated in the future.

Chicago Marks a Deadly Anniversary

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the deadly heatwave in Chicago, IL, which killed an estimated 739 people and showed that even in northern climates, urban heat kills.  Our world was already warming in 1995, but 20 years ago this northern city wasn’t used to these extreme heat events and many Chicago residents didn’t have air conditioning units in their homes or apartments.  Most of the victims of this extreme heat were either the very young, or elderly people living in poor neighborhoods, too afraid of crime to open windows or sleep outside.

As this article containing first-hand accounts from the key players reports, the residents, city officials and first responders were ill-prepared for such a deadly natural disaster twenty years ago.  City officials were slow to respond.  First responders and hospitals were understaffed and unable to help residents survive the extreme heat.  And residents failed to listen when heat advisories were finally issued.  Heat like this wasn’t supposed to hit a northern city like Chicago after all, and hundreds of people paid the price.

City officials quickly began to look at ways to bring down city temperatures after that tragic heat wave. Chicago was one of the first cities to require the deployment of cool roofing technology.  Their 2001 Urban Heat Island Ordinance wrote cool (green, solar & white) roofs into law, and they’ve been building on that ever since.

This new ordinance is paying off.   Yale researchers reviewedthe changes between 1995 and 2009 in Chicago’s vegetated and reflective surfaces. Researchers found that where reflectivity increased, temperatures went down. Most of the reflectivity increases in Chicago that brought down temperatures were a result of the new reflective roofs that were installed because of the new energy efficiency zoning codes in this northern climate.

Over the past 20 years, deadly heatwaves have hit cities all over the world. In one major disaster, 70,000 people lost their lives in Europe’s 2003 heat wave. Each year, heat records are shattered globally. According to NOAA, 2014 was the 18th straight year where average temperatures have topped 20th century averages in the United States. It was also the hottest year on record. NOAA just released data on the first half of this year showing that 2015 is on track to blow past last year’s records.  These heat-waves are here to stay and are expected to get worse, and city officials everywhere are a beginning to understand the urgent need to adapt in order to protect their residents.

While these first-hand accounts of past heat-related disasters show us how far we’ve come in the past 20 years, it also shows us how important it is to plan for future heat events as our world grows ever-warmer. Research shows that reflective surfaces help bring down urban temperatures and save lives – even in northern cities like Chicago. That’s why city officials around the world are working with GCCA to adapt their cities to our changing climate.

GCCA has released several studies showing how reflective surfaces and cool roofs can save lives. For further information, please follow these links:

Evaluating the Health Benefits of Urban Cooling – GCCA worked with a top team of researchers to study how cool surfaces and vegetation save lives during extreme heat events in Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington.

Assessing the Health Impacts of Urban Heat Island Strategies in the District of Columbia – GCCA finds that cooler surfaces and more green space can save lives during heat waves in Washington, DC.

To learn how cities are working to bring down urban temperatures, please take a look at this report:

Urban Heat Island Policy Survey – GCCA and ACEEE survey 26 cities to learn how they are addressing excess urban heat.

For further information, please visit our Cool Roofs and Cool Pavement Toolkit knowledgebase, where we have over 600 studies, reports and surveys.