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GSEP Is Spreading the Word on Cool Roofs and Pavements

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

By Kurt Shickman, Executive Director of Global Cool Cities Alliance, a Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) partner

On a scorching summer day, you can see shimmers of heat rising above city buildings and roads. When you consider that about 60% of urban surfaces are covered by roofing and pavements, you realize what a tremendous, largely untapped opportunity they present.


We could use those surfaces to reflect solar energy, sending it back out of the atmosphere rather than absorbing it as heat. That’s what cool roofs and pavements do. They are a simple but often overlooked set of technologies that can boost energy efficiency, reduce peak electricity demand, make buildings more comfortable, and improve public health, all while helping to cool our sizzling planet.

Fortunately, there are success stories from around the world that demonstrate how to effectively and efficiently accelerate the adoption of cool surfaces. For example, as of 2012, New York City’s efforts to promote cool roofs, topped off by the passage of its 2010 cool roof ordinance, has led to more than 2.6 million square feet of roof space being converted to white roofs! One of the keys to accelerating this kind of progress is promoting widespread adoption of cool roofs and other reflective surfaces by sharing these success stories and providing examples of best practices to governments, industry, and other stakeholders around the world.

The Cool Roofs and Pavements Working Group was established in 2011 within the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) initiative to promote knowledge sharing, market growth, and program and policy development. Participants include representatives from national governments, industry, and the expert communities from GSEP member countries India, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States.  

One of the working group’s major projects has been the establishment of a multimedia knowledge base for cool surface and urban heat island research, policy documents, case studies, presentations, and more. The knowledge base is housed online on the Cool Roofs and Pavements Toolkit website, It is also linked with the knowledge resources of the Clean Energy Solutions Center.  

The cool roofs and pavements knowledge base is more than just a repository of information—it is designed and operated to support the specific needs of policy- and market-makers. The site provides actual program and policy documents and materials used by leading cities and national governments around the world to promote cool surfaces. For example, the knowledge base contains links to the New York City cool roof ordinance, information about India’s energy conservation building code requirements for cool roofs, and results from cool pavement demonstrations undertaken in Japan. The knowledge base includes existing code and ordinance language, requests for proposals used by cities looking for program partners, and roof safety checklists used for volunteer programs. They’re all available at no cost for anyone to download and can be used as models for a particular location and situation.  

The knowledge base has also helped link the global expert community, raise awareness of new research, and foster cross-discipline partnerships. For instance, local researchers assessing the climate change mitigation potential of cool roofs in South Africa used the knowledge base’s resources to compare their research methods with those of counterparts around the world. In addition, sustainability directors in Phoenix, Arizona were able to find the details of New York’s volunteer programs and launch one of their own earlier this year.  

Since its launch in April 2012, the knowledge base has had over 6,100 unique visitors from 126 countries. GSEP and the Cool Roofs and Pavements Working Group will continue to expand the resources in the knowledge base, which currently has over 500 entries, to better support the efforts of those promoting the adoption of these energy- and climate-saving technologies.

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