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Cool Roofs Make Sense

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. (file)
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. (file)

The U.S. Department of Energy launches a series of initiatives to implement cool roof technologies on DOE facilities and buildings.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced a series of initiatives by the Department of Energy to more broadly implement cool roof technologies on DOE facilities and buildings.

President Barack Obama has committed the U.S. government to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2020. "Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change," said Secretary Chu. "By demonstrating the benefits of cool roofs on our facilities, the federal government can lead the nation toward more sustainable building practices, while reducing the federal carbon footprint and saving money for taxpayers."

Cool roofs are roofing systems that reflect solar energy and radiate absorbed, non-reflected solar energy better than the dark-colored roofs in most of the world, including 90 percent of roofs in the United States. Cool roofs reduce energy use, limit air pollution and lower costs associated with roof maintenance and high levels of roofing waste sent to landfill.

Roofs and road pavement cover 50 to 65 percent of urban areas. Because they absorb so much heat, dark-colored roofs and roadways create what is called the "urban heat island effect," where a city is significantly warmer than its surrounding area. Cool roofs greatly reduce the heat island effect and improve air quality by reducing emissions. A recent study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that using cool roofs and cool pavements in cities around the world can help reduce the demand for air conditioning, cool entire cities, and potentially cancel the heating effect of up to two years of worldwide carbon dioxide emission.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, has already installed more than 2 million square feet of cool and white roofs at its facilities across the United States. Overall, the NNSA has reduced building heating and cooling costs by an average of 70 percent annually on reroofed areas by installing cool roofs and increasing insulation.

The Department of Energy is also exploring opportunities to provide technical support to partnering nations. Cool roofs anywhere benefit people everywhere.