Tag Archives: Cool Roofs

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.

American Institute of Architects Recognizes the Benefits of Cool Roofs

In April of this year, GCCA Board Member Greg Kats published a study of the health benefits of cool roofs on Washington DC-owned buildings. After the District retrofitted many of its buildings with white roofs, green roofs, and / or solar collectors the city started saving money. This study turns things on its head by showing that using the old technology of conventional dark roofs is a policy failure that costs cities and building owners money.

Robert Ivy, chief executive of the American Institute of Architects discusses this study, along with other cool roof benefits in this Washington Post guest column. In it, he notes that the highly reflective surfaces of white roofs cut energy bills and can help improve the health of residents and cool cities.

“We’ve known for years that smart roofs save energy, and we’ve been able to come up with methodologies to quantify those savings. However, the health benefits of such design choices have been harder to figure out. The authors of this report, Greg Kats and Keith Glassbrook, have addressed this complex question, and their findings could have an impact on improving the health of residents in urban areas across the nation.

Roofs typically make up 15 to 25 percent of most cities’ surface areas. And because roofs can typically be replaced or retrofitted more frequently than entire buildings, they represent an opportunity for developers and building owners to dramatically cut the “heat island effect” in urban environments …

Use of such techniques, in turn, can have public health benefits, particularly for low-income and elderly residents who tend to be more vulnerable to illnesses related to extreme heat and poor air quality. Moreover, heat mitigation through adoption of cool and green roofs can help ameliorate the effects of heat stress.

The report will prove to be relevant reading for designers, architects or city officials trying to battle the pernicious health effects of urban heat islands. These new methodologies suggest ways for cities to quantify the benefits of their building codes, policies and incentive programs.”

You can read the full report here:
Washington, DC Smart Roof Cost – Benefit Report

The Power of Cool Coatings!

The Northern Cape Province of South Africa is mainly semi-desert. In January, afternoon temperatures usually range from 34 to 40 degrees Celsius. In 1939, an all time high of 47.8 degrees Celsius was recorded at the Orange River.

Summer temperatures often top the 40 degree mark in this region (104 Fahrenheit).

This video explains how cool surfaces can help reduce indoor temperatures and improve the quality of life of those living in low-income housing in this scorching environment.

Reflective surfaces are cool in more ways than one, reducing energy consumption and saving lives one building at a time!

GCCA Part of Coalition to Study Benefits of Smart Roofs on Affordable Housing

n response to growing interest in understanding the health, economic, social, and energy implications of greener affordable housing, GCCA partnered with clean energy and green building research and advising firm, Capital E, and several national non-profits (including AIA and USGBC), to study the costs and benefits of smart roof technologies.  Based on a first-of-its-kind analyses of four multi-unit affordable housing properties in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, the study presents a rigorous and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of four rapidly growing roof technologies—cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV, and solar thermal—that will be invaluable for policymakers and developers alike.  The report, authored by Capital E and funded by a grant from The JPB Foundation, finds that cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV, and solar thermal provide large financial, health, and environmental benefits in most cities studied.

You can read more about it by clicking here.

A Standard is Born

GCCA Board Member Ronnen Levinson just announced the publication of ASTM D7897-15, ‘Standard Practice for Laboratory Soiling and Weathering of Roofing Materials to Simulate Effects of Natural Exposure on Solar Reflectance and Thermal Emittance’.

This practice was developed and shepherded through ASTM by the LBNL Heat Island Group and by Concordia University, with support from DOE’s Building Technologies Office, and from many industrial and academic partners. It will be used to accelerate the development and deployment of cool roofing materials, and has already been accepted for interim rating of roofing products by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) and by California’s Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards. The CRRC and LBNL will offer courses at LBNL next month to train and certify test laboratories. Research is underway to adapt the method for use in China, India, and Europe.

While they work with the Berkeley Lab News Center to prepare a release, you can read this earlier write-up describing the acceptance of the practice by CRRC and CA Title 24.  You can also learn more about the method itself in the first half of this eight-minute Science at the Theater talk, Cool Roofs Though Time and Space, and in their 2014 SOLMAT article.

Studies Draw Direct Line from Climate Change to Extreme Heat and Drought

A new report from the Climate Council of Australia confirms what many have long suspected – that human-caused climate change makes heat waves more certain and more extreme. 2013 was the hottest year on record in Australia, and as this report notes, the 2012 / 2013 heat waves would have been “virtually impossible” without the release of human-made greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.

It also found that climate change tripled the odds that the heat waves would occur as frequently as they did, and doubled the odds that they would be as intense as they were. More than 123 temperature records were broken during that summer, and the author of the report – Will Steffen – said that these temperatures will seem cool by 2090 unless we act now.

Thankfully, Australia is already using reflective technology to help bring temperatures down.  In the City of Melbourne, City administrators know that with the increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves, they need to understand the economic impacts of such events on businesses.  From the City of Melbourne

 “We’re doubling tree canopy cover for our urban forest, upgrading drainage infrastructure, funding more energy efficient buildings, implementing planning processes to minimise climate risk and installing various water-sensitive urban design initiatives.  Heatwaves don’t only impact our city economically, heat related illness also kills more Australian’s each year than any other natural disaster so City of Melbourne has identified this as a priority issue we must prepare better for,” Cr Wood said.

Meanwhile, the City of Sydney is conducting a trial to see if lighter colored pavement will help reduce the urban heat island effect and improve the comfort and health of the people who live there.

People on the west coast of the United States are also feeling the effects of climate change.  A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that greenhouse gas emissions have increased the likelihood of warm, dry conditions in California, and that by 2030, the warm weather driving the current drought could occur annually.

This problem isn’t just confined to California.  According to The National Integrated Drought Information System (Drought.gov), 32% of contiguous USA is in moderate or worse drought.

Thankfully, cities in the Golden State are already on it. A new law went into effect in the city of Los Angeles last year that requires white roofs on all new construction and major rebuilds of residential buildings. Commercial and residential buildings are now required to employ reflective roof technology to help bring city temperatures down. The cities of Pasadena and Hermosa Beach have enacted similar regulations – you can read more about it here.

The problems brought on by extreme heat and climate change are many. But many city leaders around the world are recognizing the benefits of reflective roofs and pavements, and are using this technology to conserve energy, reduce emissions, and save lives.

Climate Change and Geoengineering

There has been a lot of press coverage of the decision by the National Academy of Science to study the feasibility and safety of large-scale geoengineering as a means to address climate change. It is hard to believe that we are at a stage where we must consider such drastic strategies.

Much of the conversation has revolved around the idea of albedo modification — that is, increasing the amount of solar energy reflected into space rather than absorbed by earth. Conceptually, this is the same process that keeps light colored roofs and pavements cooler. However, the scale of the geoengineering being considered is staggering — we are talking huge swaths of the earth brightened by man-made clouds. Since only 1% of earth’s surface is urban, even a wildly successful global cool roofs and pavements campaign would be nearly 70 times smaller in scale than what is under study now. There really is no comparison.

And yet, focusing efforts of deploying more cool roofs and pavements would have a tremendously positive impact on the planet. They help cut cooling energy and peak electricity demand, improve heat resiliency of people living in unconditioned buildings, and cool down communities and help reduce air pollution; all while safely offsetting the warming effect of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The scientific debate is on about whether we have reached a point where we must consider drastic measures to combat climate change. Either way, we should be taking the simple and affordable first steps to improve our buildings, communities, and planet by installing cool roofs and pavements anywhere it makes sense to do so.

7 Actions for Cities to Seriously Address Climate Change

Cities are where more than half the world lives, and where all future population growth will occur. By many estimates, cities are already responsible for more than half of climate change. While Congress remains dysfunctional, cities are rapidly becoming the most interesting and innovative developers and adopters of programs to cut CO2 emissions. They increasingly are taking on the responsibility of achieving deep CO2 emission reductions that virtually all climate scientists tell us we must achieve.

I participated in the recent VERGE day-long City Summit, and was impressed by how much effort and innovation around climate change reduction is occurring in cities. More than 1,000 U.S. mayors, who represent some 60 million Americans, have signed on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, committing to cut city-wide CO2 emissions below 1990 levels. Houston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles recently launched the Mayors’ Nation Climate Action Agenda (PDF), a joint commitment to an inter-city cap-and-trade program to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

For the most part, however, cities have not yet gotten serious about implementing substantial policies to cut CO2 emissions. Following are seven actions cities can and should take in order to reduce emissions by more than half while saving money.

1. Adopt cool roof, green roof and solar harvesting strategies

Half of city surfaces are roads, parking lots, sidewalks or roofs. These generally absorb over 75 percent of the sun’s energy, converting it into heat that increases urban temperature and global warming, both of which increase smog formation and energy bills. The low reflectivity of these surfaces imposes huge unnecessary social and environmental costs.

It is cost-effective today to double the reflectivity of most city roofs and paved areas. Through the work that Capital E is doing with Washington, D.C., the National Housing Trust, the American Institute of Architects and others, we have found that by adopting cool roofs, green roofs and solar PV on roofs, most cities dramatically can improve comfort and health while cutting energy costs.

Cool and green roofs and solar PV should be evaluated on a full costs and benefits basis — including health — to inform policies.

2. Integrate smart-building platforms with existing systems

City agencies commonly have different building energy management systems and a range of often incompatible energy using devices, controls and systems. Buildings — even LEED buildings — can be made to operate better if they are managed through a smart building platform that integrates with all existing systems, including building energy systems, controls and sensors, and uses near real-time data from these systems to optimize energy use and comfort.

A strategy such as ESCO 2.0 features integrated, near real-time, smart energy data, and controls and optimization to actively manage a portfolio of buildings. A recent NRDC study (PDF) of three efficient commercial buildings, including a newly commissioned LEED building, that adopted a smart-building optimization platform called AtSite cut energy use by 8 to 17 percent with almost no new equipment investment.

One advantage of an ESCO 2.0 strategy is that it allows a shift from expensive scheduled maintenance to maintenance triggered by near-real time equipment performance. Another benefit is improved comfort. This kind of open platform also allows virtually unlimited flexibility in adding in new equipment or applications.

3. Enter into long-term agreements to buy new renewable energy

Today a lot of cities, among other building owners, buy short-term (typically two-year) Renewable Energy Credits. These are in essence transferrable, inexpensive accounting claims for the environmental benefits associated with renewable energy. But in reality RECs are almost entirely from projects that are already completed (often many years earlier), and the RECs have little or no impact on driving new renewable energy investments.

To drive new renewable energy investments, cities should skip RECs and instead contract to buy renewable energy on terms long enough to actually allow new project financing. To do so, cities should enter into long-term purchase power agreements with renewable energy power developers to buy clean energy at fixed rates — typically below the rate they are currently paying.

This long-term purchase commitment means revenue certainty for the project developer, enabling equity and debt financing for project construction. Smaller cities can band together to do larger, joint PPAs for renewable energy, in turn bringing down the cost of clean energy.

These PPAs can be executed by almost any city today, would achieve real CO2 reductions and generally would cut the long-term cost of electricity. City government can invite in-city groups, such as schools and hospitals, to participate in city PPAs to enable even larger cost and environmental savings.

4. Insist that cities’ energy efficiency investments be counted in cap-and-trade programs

About half the U.S. population lives in states with cap-and trade programs (including California and members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) that place a dollar value on CO2 as a way to encourage investments that cut CO2 emissions. But while large industries, corporations and utilities can participate, cities are excluded from these programs. This makes no sense.

A national initiative called CO2toEE seeks to allow energy efficiency investments by cities and other building owners to receive the value of the CO2 reductions that result from their energy efficiency investments. This initiative has broad and growing support from state and national real estate and energy organizations and NGO groups — and cities should join to push for this common-sense and important design change in carbon trading programs.

The value of the CO2 received by cities would offset a significant part of the capital cost of deeper energy efficiency investments, increasing the funding for deep energy efficiency investments.

By allowing city and building energy efficiency to participate, cap-and-trade markets also would become larger, deeper and more efficient, and would drive large additional investments into energy efficiency. This is essential if cities are to achieve deep reductions in their CO2 emissions.

5. Measure, count and reduce the CO2 embedded in cities’ buildings and roads

Most cities that count their CO2 emissions and invest in reducing CO2 still ignore the enormous volume of CO2 that results from constructing their buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

Cement production is responsible for about 6 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. A recent review of California’s 500 mile high-speed train found that it would take about a decade of CO2 emissions reductions from rail trips replacing car, truck and plane trips to offset the CO2 emissions from the production of cement required to build the train’s infrastructure. And it can take an energy-efficient building six or eight years of operations to equal the CO2 emissions from the cement used in construction. In fact, the most recent release of the national green building design standard, LEED v4, awards points for reduction of embedded CO2.

What if, instead of generating CO2 emissions, cement sequestered CO2? What if cities measured their embedded CO2, and then used their infrastructure — roads, parking lots, sidewalks and their buildings — to sequester CO2?

6. Invest in new versions of ancient building products that can reduce or sequester CO2 in buildings

Wood sequesters CO2, and the recent development of advanced structural wood products such as cross-laminated timber allow 10 or 20 story buildings to be built of wood.

A much larger CO2 sequestration opportunity is low or negative carbon cement. Cement, first used by Mesopotamians and Romans, is also being reinvented. Cement produces almost a ton of CO2 per ton of cement (cement is made by burning limestone at over 2500 degrees.) Several companies produce low or negative carbon cement.

The most interesting of these companies is Blue Planet, which sequesters flue gas from power plants in cement, sand and aggregate (cement is combined with sand and aggregate to make concrete). Blue Planet can sequester up to 1,500 pounds of CO2 per ton of cement. In its current work at the DOE National Carbon Sequestration Center and in other partnerships, Blue Planet is targeting an 80-percent CO2 reduction from fossil fuel plants, such as natural-gas fired power plants. The process also sequesters other damaging pollutants, such as PM2.5, heavy metals and NOx.

7. Incorporate best-estimate CO2 costs into design and investment decisions

Even in places such as California that have active carbon markets, the market price for carbon is far below its real cost. Because climate change already imposes large costs, cities increasingly want to account for global-warming costs in their investment decisions.

A dozen federal agencies, including the Treasury Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, developed a rigorous cost analysis called the social cost of carbon (PDF). First released in 2010 and updated in 2013, it found the real cost of CO2 to be in the $40/ton range, with additional identified costs not included. Based on a Congressional request, the report and its methodology were extensively reviewed by the General Accounting Office, which a few months ago issued a report that entirely confirmed the social cost of carbon analysis and findings.

A good strategy — recently adopted by the Federal Green Building Advisory Committee which I chair — is to include the social cost of carbon in all construction and energy-related design decisions. In effect it is revenue neutral because it is used just to make better design decisions.

While this will take years to implement in federal agencies, cities can and should move rapidly to adopt this rigorous and conservative cost of carbon in their own design and investment decisions. This would allow better, more cost-effective investment and design decisions that reflect the real cost of climate change. (British Columbia’s adoption of a substantial cost of carbon helped achieve deeper CO2 reductions, lower overall taxes and faster economic growth than other Canadian provinces that did not adopt a carbon price.)

Enabled by organizations such as the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, C40 Cities and the Global Cool City Alliance, cities have become the most promising and important forum to drive deep CO2 reductions. Cities increasingly have the political will to get serious about climate change and to lead their countries to a very low-carbon future consistent with protecting the planet and future generations from the worst of climate change. The clock is ticking.

This article is based on a presentation Nov. 10 at the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine.

Disclosure: I work with several of the above companies and organizations as a board member/adviser/investor.

Greg Kats serves on the Board of the Global Cool Cities Alliance.

This article was originally posted on November 13, 2014 at GreenBiz.com. (http://www.greenbiz.com/article/7-actions-cities-seriously-address-climate-change)

Cool Roofs in the IgCC

The final action hearings for the 2015 International Green Construction Code were held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in early October.  GCCA Executive Director, Kurt Shickman and I attended the hearings to defend GCCA’s cool roof proposals and to fight to keep some anti-cool roof proposals out of the code. For the first time since GCCA began its cool codes program, we were joined by several representatives from the cool roofs industry.  Specifically, many members of the Chemical Films and Fabrics Association made the trip to Ft. Lauderdale to testify in support of our cool roofs agenda.

GCCA was particularly focused on supporting two of its proposals: GG 166, which proposed an increase in the reflectivity levels for low sloped roofs (which was recommended for approval by the code development committee), and GG 163, which proposed expanding the cool roof requirement into climate zone 4a and 4b (which was recommended for disapproval by the code development committee). GCCA was also hoping to overturn the committee’s decision to support GG77, which proposed turning the existing cool roof requirement into a jurisdictional elective, and to keep GG 164 from passing, which moved the cool roof requirements into the energy chapter of the IgCC, therefore discounting the urban heat island benefits of cool roofs.

GCCA was very pleased to be able to negotiate a compromise with a number of its opponents at the hearing, specifically the Asphalt Roof Manufacturer’s Association and EPDM Roofing Association.  As a result of that compromise, we were able to secure increased reflectance levels (albeit lower than what we had originally proposed), avert the jurisdictional elective, and keep the urban heat island chapter of the code intact.  Our opposition secured an exemption for ballasted roofs in the cool roofs code, which we were opposed to, but were willing to compromise on to secure our other wins.

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in winning GG163, which would have expanded the cool roof requirement for low-slope roofs into climate zones 4a and 4b.  Despite having excellent testimony, evidence, and representation, the momentum from the code development hearings was too strong. While we are disappointed, the vote was closer than it has ever been before.  We are excited about working on future code development efforts along with our new industry partners.

Cool Roofs Are Cooling Homes in India

Climate change is driving up temperatures in cities around the world.  When things heat up, many of us simply reach for the thermostat and the air conditioner does its job.  In many parts of the world however, air conditioning isn’t an option and the rising temperatures mean homes become uninhabitable.   But there is a simple and affordable solution – a cool roof can bring down the temperature indoors by a few degrees, which is enough to allow people to sleep in their beds at night.

That’s where programs like the Cool Roof Project – through the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, and the Rockefeller Foundation – can help.  This program is installing cool roofs in Indore city, India, and residents are already getting relief from the urban heat.  From the Rockefeller Foundation

At Mamta Chouhan’s house, located in one of the 50 locations where cool roof technology has been implemented, a perceptible difference in indoor temperature is seen during high heat days.  The 200 families who have participated in this project have felt similar impacts as well.

Vijay Bhargava, a resident of Indore, reports that TARU came to him and others with an idea to reduce the temperature in their homes. “I didn’t believe it at first,” he admits, “but then they shared the details, including the potential benefits, and I changed my mind.  Afterwards, we felt a five or six degree change.  Incredible!”

He adds that he and his family couldn’t even sit upstairs in the summer before.  “Now, we can sit anywhere in the house, not feeling a difference whether we’re upstairs or downstairs.  It’s meant that we’ve been able to reduce our air conditioning usage substantially.”

They’re collecting data to document the many benefits of this program, and hope to convince local government, real estate developers and other interested parties to include cool roofs in future projects.   Stay tuned!