Wednesday, September 28, 2011

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu: Cool Roofs Like Removing All Cars for 11 Years

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced about a year ago that cool roofs (like those installed by Conklin contractors) would be mandatory on all Department of Energy (DOE) facilities. He also urged other federal agencies to follow suit. Chu, also a Nobel-prize winning scientist, stated a potential 10-15% reduction in energy use for those buildings (depending on the configuration of the building and other variables) "simply by having a white roof."

Energy savings aren't the only benefit of cool roofs. The two other reasons Chu mentioned for his advocacy of cool roofs are the role they play in helping mitigating global warming, and their ability to reduce urban heat islands.

Urban heat islands are a result of dark roofs and asphalt pavements in concentrated urban areas increasing the ambient air temperature between 6 and 8 degrees compared to suburban or rural areas. An average 50-65% of urban surfaces are covered with roofs or pavement, and Chu cited a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study that says increasing the reflectance of those surfaces would have the same effect in terms of global warming mitigation as removing every car in the world from the road for 11 years.

Further quantifying the benefits of cool roofing will be the goal of a multi-year long DOE initiative. The Cool Roofs Roadmap lays out research into the exact impact of cool roofing on three levels:
  1. Trimming building energy use
  2. Mitigating the urban heat island effect
  3. Reducing global warming
The Cool Roofs Roadmap, currently in draft version 2.0, is expected to be finalized by the end of this fiscal year according to Marc LaFrance, building envelope program manager at DOE. The roadmap builds on current and past research to provide proof, and therefore act as a basis for policy, of cool roof benefits.

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