Cool Roofs Take on Heated Cities

The summer heat has peaked, and blistering temperatures are especially noticeable on scorching city streets. Known as the “urban heat island effect,” this phenomenon labels the way urban environments trap more heat than nearby suburban and rural areas. As a result, increased energy demands and air pollution are often anticipated, yet unavoidable.

“All the concrete and the blacktop warms up faster,” says Lauren Nash, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “So it keeps the city hotter and it stays hotter longer.”

Costly energy bills target apartment and office buildings, condos, warehouses and other storage facilities. To combat the urban heat island effect, city managers across the nation are exploring the benefits of cool roofing systems. For example, New York City’s Department of Buildings started an initiative to paint 1 million square feet of roofs white last summer as a way of cutting the city’s energy costs – roofing manufacturer GAF supplied the reflective coating for one of the many projects of the initiative, as well as materials and labor.

Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient roofing is growing and evolving with the advent of innovative technology like cool roofs and reflective shingles. For those unfamiliar with the concept, cool roofing has a reflective coating that blocks heat and emits the sun’s rays back into the sky. This reduces the levels of heat energy absorption that a roof must handle and then dissipate, not to mention keeping the building cooler inside. Years of 90-degree summers can take a serious toll on roofs with each expansion and contraction.

With cool roof technology proving effective, combining green building technologies, such as cool roofs and solar panels, is logically the next step. Although it may seem counterintuitive, solar panels actually work better when cooler. They produce less energy with higher temperatures, sometimes reducing efficiency by as much as 12 percent. One of the more effective roofing technology accompaniments to solar panels designed to increase solar panel efficiency, GAF’s EverGuard Extreme TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) membrane, has been developed with UV absorbers to achieve an unrivaled weathering performance.

“Cool roofing is widely acknowledged to reduce energy consumption, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” says Martin Grohman, GAF director of sustainability. “In fact, using published energy usage calculators, the installation of one billion square feet of reflective TPO roofing – in place of conventional dark-colored roofing in air conditioned buildings – avoids the emission of approximately 280,000 metric tons of CO2, or the annual equivalent of taking about 27,000 cars off the road.”

To find out more about green roof technologies, visit www.gaf.com/Roofing/Commercial/Green-Roof-Central/Green-Roof-Central.aspx or coolroofs.org.

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