Art Rosenfeld (Commissioner of the California Energy Commission) pioneered the study of urban heat islands — a phenomenon in which the air temperature in and around urban areas is raised by 6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit primarily as a result of the prevalence of heat-retaining surfaces like dark roofs and asphalt streets. Because of their high emissivity and their ability to maintain low surface temperature, cool roofs have a well-documented ability to combat the urban heat island effect.
Urban heat islands are associated with increased pollution and cooling costs, negative health effects, and even decreased workplace productivity because of the impact of poor air quality. “Ozone — call it smog — is extremely temperature dependent,” says Rosenfeld. “In Los Angeles, when the average daily temperature is 72 or below, there is ozone in the air but there are no smog episodes. When it goes up to 92 degrees, you have 100 percent likelihood of smog episodes. When you have an urban heat island, you are artificially increasing that temperature through manmade means, and the negative results for the environment and for public health are significant.”
While the urban heat island effect is most severe in warm climates, it is not just building owners in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Houston, and Dallas who should be concerned about it.
“Cities in the north as well as in the south of the country are affected by this phenomenon,” says Rosenfeld. “Believe it or not, the city of Toronto is an urban heat island.”
The environmental benefits of cool roofs are prompting municipal and state agencies across the nation to consider mandating their use as a matter of policy. California blazed the trail of incorporating cool roofs into building code. Following a 1999 analysis that revealed the potential energy savings afforded by cool roofs, Title 24 introduced credits for facilities that opted for cool roofs. Starting in October 2005, California began requiring the use of cool roofs in certain applications. Cities as far north as Chicago have since followed suit.
To learn more about the environmental and other benefits of cool roofing, ask a professional roofing contractor in your area who is an expert in cool roofing.
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