White Roof Project: Cools NYC One Roof At A Time

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Urban cities are hot. They are full of heat-trapping tar, pavements and dark surfaces that absorb heat and increase ambient temperatures. This is called the Heat Island Effect and is responsible for increased urban temperatures compared to adjoining suburban areas. According to the EPA- black surfaces in the sun can become up to 70°F hotter than the most reflective white surfaces. The effects of the Urban Heat Island are obvious- higher energy use to cool this excess heat that leads to higher stress on the power grid and increased pollution.

Image Credit: White Roof Project

One initiative in New York City is helping cool it down- by painting roofs white!

On a clear night, the temperature in a city with 1 million people or more can be up to 22°F hotter than nearby suburbs (Source: White Roof Project).

Clearly, this a problem. The White Roof Project with the help of the community identifies buildings that might be eligible for white roof coating.

A number of benefits of white roofs are listed on their website:

“White roofs can reduce summer energy use by 10–30%, saving money and preventing pollution. They can reduce the Urban Heat Island effect by 1° to 2° F – enough to lower peak energy demand, reducing the risk of brownouts and blackouts.”

Further a white roof saves money on roof repairs, as black roofs are prone to warping and cracking.  A white roof can also extend the life of a buildings cooling equipment by decreasing use.  Check this cool infographic on how white roofs can help!

The White Roof Project was conceived by a group of motivated individuals at the Manhattan Young Democrats along with their partners- the Sierra Club, 350.org, NYC° CoolRoofs and White Tops, who want to foster community change and help stop climate change. Not only are they helping bring ambient temperatures down, but their projects help increase climate change awareness and give city habitants a common sense of purpose. Community members are encouraged to help identify roofs and donate crucial “paint and materials”. Once the required permissions are obtained, volunteers are invited to help paint roofs. Then after the job is done, they celebrate. Drinks on the roof!