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Hot City, Cool Roofs

Climate Resolve has been working to help improve the climate resilience of Los Angeles by promoting policies to build more “Cool Roofs” throughout the city.  A cool roof uses material that naturally reflects sunlight as opposed to absorbing the sun’s radiant energy. The result can be more than 50°F cooler on the surface of the roof during a hot summer day and can cool the interiors of buildings by several degrees Fahrenheit, reducing chances of heat-related injuries or deaths.

To promote these easy, common-sense policies, we brought together dozens of experts, scientists, and leaders from across the country who are making great strides towards creating affordable climate solutions for all. Our March, 2013 “Hot City, Cool Roofs” Conference included a keynote from then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who laid out next steps for how Cool Roofs can improve Los Angeles today, tomorrow, and over the next century.

Climate Resolve and the participants of the conference identified a key takeaway from the conference: passing a law that required all new and refurbished homes to have a “cool roof.” On December 17th, 2013, Los Angeles became the first large city to pass such a law, which was unanimously approved by LA City Council thanks to the work of Climate Resolve. You can read more about the law on our blog.


What We’re Doing

jennifer_430pxClimate Resolve is currently spearheading a project that will outfit existing low-income apartment buildings in Los Angeles with cool roofs.

We can feel the difference in temperature between a tree-lined street and a barren stretch of wide sidewalk. Concrete and asphalt– and in fact, most roofs too–capture the sun’s energy, holding it and slowly radiating heat back out. These kinds of surfaces contribute to the Urban Heat Island Effect. These surfaces retain heat into the night and its what keeps your energy bills high. According to a recently published UCLA report, Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region, all areas of our region are projected to get warmer while the number of “extreme heat days” is expected to increase substantially. In addition to the human health consequences of extreme heat, residents will soon be finding that they’re paying more just to keep themselves cool and comfortable.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep yourself and your home cool even as temperatures rise. One option is upgrading your standard roof to a cool roof. Cool roofs, which can be applied straight on existing roofs, are roofs that reflect solar waves back into the atmosphere rather than letting these waves be transferred as heat into the building. Made from a variety of materials, cool roofs can be applied on top of nearly any traditional roof surface, including houses, garages, or commercial buildings.

Often found in white, cool roofs are versatile and can be altered according to your needs. Though lighter colors are generally more reflective, cool roofs come in a variety of colors. Even dark colors, like deep blues and blacks, can be reflective when made from appropriate materials.

What are the benefits of a cool roof?

There are many reasons for homeowners, renters, and businesses to consider a cool roof.
  • Cool roofs help save you money – once installed, homes will gain less heat and will request less electricity to cool.
  • Homes and buildings will have an increase in comfort and air quality, as rooms will be naturally cooler and air-conditioning will be turned on less.
  • Incidents of heat-related health injuries and deaths will decrease, as homes without air-conditioning will stay cooler even on the hotter days and air pollutants will be decreased overall.
  • Saving money over the long-term is easier than ever as cool surfaces can extend the life of the roof, substantially reducing costs over the life of the property. By using less energy, you are reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere.


What You Can Do

Cool roofs are compatible with other innovative, money-saving technologies, including solar panels and water catchment systems. Additionally, planting trees adjacent to buildings can also provide added cooling, indoors and outdoors, by providing necessary shade. Organizations such as TreePeople and Million Trees LA are leading projects and initiatives here in Los Angeles that you can take part in.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offers up to a $.30 per sq. ft. rebate for residential roofs. This rebate was recently expanded to include more roofs types and applicable products in the City of Los Angeles. For additional information, visit the “Building Products” section of LADWP’s Consumer Rebate Program page.

As of early 2014, all new residential construction (and many major renovations) will be required to install a cool roof.  Find out more about the law on our blog.

To find more incentive programs to save money and reduce your energy use, watch C-CHANGE.LA for updates. For more about cool roofs, check out these leading organizations: