White Roof Project: Cools NYC One Roof At A Time

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!


About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+
  • Thanks so much for the write up! We have a lot of great events coming up through July and August for those who want to come and paint with us on a rooftop. At the moment we’re spotlighting a collaboration with 4 Arts Block this August 20th and 21st in the East Village.

    • You are so welcome! You are doing some great work. Thanks for visiting EP!

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  • I do energy audits on commercial buildings and to see people volunteering to help their future and their children’s future is fantastic. What sickens me is when I see people and politicians influenced by the money and power fossil fuel companies have and them telling Americans painting roofs white is not necessary because global warming does not exist. This reminds me of how big tobacco companies for decades told the American public cigarettes do not cause cancer and some of our elected officials in Washington went along with it. How do you look at your children or grandchildren and know you are only concerned with your sick selfish short term gain to your wallet rather than their future?

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