Cool roofing is not a new idea.  Much like wearing light colored clothing in hot weather, a lightly colored roof can help alleviate some of the heat captured in hot climates, and during the summer months.  There are, however many new technologies that are improving ‘cool roofs.’ There are also many benefits to having a cool roof, especially in hot climates and urban centers. Current incentives and programs are quickly increasing the number of roofs ‘going cool.’ A cool roof is one that has been designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof. Cool roofs can be made of a highly reflective type of paint, a sheet covering, or highly reflective tiles or shingles. Nearly any type of building can benefit from a cool roof, but consider the climate and other factors before deciding to install one.

The Earliest Examples of Cool Roofing

In many of the ancient and pre-modern civilizations that are located in sultry locations, the architects understood and utilized the benefits of cool roofing.  One of the earliest, and most impressive, examples of this is the hanging gardens of Babylon. The use of ‘green roofing’ helped to provide shade to the citizens, and aided in cooling the structures themselves by dissipating heat before it was allowed to enter the building.  More examples of green roofing can be found throughout history, though they are not the only types of cooling techniques our ancestors used. The light colored buildings of many tropical civilizations, a simple whitewash can greatly improve the solar reflection of any structure, can be found distributed throughout the known world and recorded history.

Building on these examples modern architects are employing many of these techniques, giving them an up to date treatment with new technologies.  Reflective paints and coverings are greatly improving the solar reflection and thermal dissipation that older cool roofs strived for. New types of shingles and tiles used for roofing has advanced the idea of cool roofing into the modern world, and can greatly improve the many benefits.

The Benefits of Having a Cool Roof

Keeps the Living Space Cooler

The obvious benefit of having a cool roof is in keeping the interior living space of the structure cooler.  While this is a major boon, and a key asset, there are some other bonuses that may be easily overlooked.

Less Maintenance

One unnoticed perk is that cool roofing often requires less maintenance, due to the lowered stresses associated with the diminished temperatures.

Saves Money

A more concrete, and immediate, perk is reduced spending for cooling.  This directly correlates to lower demands on energy supplies, leading to lessened CO2 emissions and fewer strains on the infrastructure, resulting in fewer brown and blackouts.

Widespread applications of cool roofing can also lessen the effects of what is known as ‘urban heat islands’, the heating effect of structures located in close proximity.  Studies have shown that city centers and highly populated areas can be between 3 and 5 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas. While perhaps not a massive increase, on a hot summer day any mitigation of this can be quite welcome.

Many Areas Offer Incentives for Cool Roofing

Along with the inherent benefits of installing cool roofing, there are many states (and countries) that offer incentives – starting in California in the late 90’s, there are now many initiatives worldwide.  While mainly focused in the warmer climates, Florida and Texas being not far behind, even northern cities like Toronto offer motivation for instituting cool roof technologies. Internationally, the use of cool roofing is also increasing.  India, Australia and Japan all offer relief for the construction of green and cool roofing.

Going forward, there is likely to be a continuing increase in the use of cool roofs.  As the technologies progress and become less expensive, along with the many benefits, future construction will assuredly prosper from their use.

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