Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Concordia University professor advocates cool roofing to fight climate change

Hashem Akbari, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec (Canada) believes a significant part of the of global-warming solution has to do with roofing. Something as simple as the color of roofs in a urban area can contribute significantly to combating global warming, saving homeowners and building owners energy costs in the process. Akbari says that installing a white, or "cool" roof would not absorb as much heat as a standard dark roof is a key element to fighting global warming.

"Cool roofs save you energy if your building is air-conditioned. If the building needs air conditioning, installing a cool roof may actually solve your problem and you may not need it," he said. "This all would be done at zero cost because you basically do that at the time you are changing your roof. At that time... you just select a white roof or light roof. If you do that then you also improve the ambient air quality within the city and you cool the globe."

Scientists sketched a vision of converting the world's cities into giant sunlight reflectors to help fight global warming. Gradually replacing traditional urban roofs and roads with white or lighter-coloured materials would yield a cooling benefit that, over 50 years, would be the equivalent of a reduction of between 25-150 billion tons of carbon dioxide. At the top end of the scale, this equals the emissions of all the world's cars over the same period, their study published in Britain's Institute of Physics' journal Environmental Research Letters stated.

Light-colored materials like those manufactured by Conklin Roofing Systems help reflect the sun's rays rather than absorb and convert them into heat (a phenomenon known as albedo).

Pavements and roofs make up more than 60% of urban surfaces. By trapping solar energy, they are largely to blame for heat islands, where cities or metropolitan areas become local hot spots. Urban heat islands consume massive energy in air conditioning and inflict significant health costs through smog.

Akbari - also founder and executive vice-chair of the Global Cool Cities Alliance - said in cooler places that require more heat in the winter, but also require air conditioning in the summer the net savings will still benefit the consumer. He said the savings a light roof would achieve in the summer months by keeping the home cool would more than offset the additional need for heat in the winter. "This is a measure that saves everybody throughout the world, uniformly, in terms of energy saving," noting that the idea is not a fix-all for climate issues. "It improves the ambient comfort and it cools the globe. There is absolutely no negative impact for this."

Mr. Akbari also states "There's not going to be a silver bullet or one single technology that solves the global warming problem. If there was, we would have already done it."

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  1. Great post Randy! This actually makes a lot of sense after I read it. I have been looking at commercial roofing companies to redo my roof and I think I'm going to talk to my wife about this. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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