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Cool Roofs are...Cool!

Posted by Alana Shindler on October 22, 2010
I attended a terrific Friends of the Berkeley Lab public lecture on October 11th on “Cool Cities, Cool Planet,” presenting research on strategies to ease energy usage and costs by choosing solar reflective materials for roofing and pavement, while at the same time mitigating the effects of global warming. Speakers were Art Rosenfeld, Professor of Physics Emeritus at U.C. Berkeley, founder of the LBNL Center for Building Science, and Commissioner at the California Energy Commission until this year, among many other distinctions; Dr. Ronnen Levenson, staff scientist and acting leader of the Heat Island Group; and Dr. Mel Pomerantz, staff scientist, and liaison between the Heat Island Group and utilities, industry, and city planning departments.   

Ronnen brought in samples of roofing materials, and explained that many new choices can both sport a color and reflect sunlight in the ultra violet or near-infrared as well as the visible light spectrum. This is important because while white has been the color of choice for industrial roofing intended to offset heat costs, it is not a viable choice for residential use. The issue of cool roofs and pavements is especially germane in urban settings where heat build-up from the built environment, roads and highways, creates islands of increased heat. 

Research shows that energy usage in areas with hot summers can be reduced by as much as 40% by using cool roof strategies. A July news release from the lab with a fuller discussion of the issues, as well as further resources for money-saving cool roofs can be found here.

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