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Urban Environmental Studies

Library White Roof



Sometimes simple strategies can be very effective. Remember in grade school when we learned how white surfaces reflect light and stay cool, while black surfaces absorb light and trap heat? Not until recently did engineers apply this concept to building roofs. Cooling our buildings is very energy-demanding - especially during the long Alabama summers. Yet, most roofs on big buildings are sealed with a mix of tar and pebbles – a combination that absorbs and stores heat. In 2011 when the BSC library needed a new roof, we installed a "white roof" instead. Now, instead of absorbing the heat from the sun, we reflect it back into space. It's impossible to see from below, but it glows brightly when viewed with GoogleEarth. This has not only reduced our energy use in the building by up to 20%, but we contribute less to the urban heat island effect that plagues cities in the Sunbelt. What's more, the new roof cost 42% less than a conventional roof!


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